This is another book that I got from my mother for the International Children Day. As I was in the mood for Polish books and this sounded like a nice and easy read I got on with it pretty quickly. I had no idea who Fogelman is, but the title sounded appealing (rough translation would go something like this: ‘Life is worth living’).
Lejb Fogelman is a lawyer, specializing in international business transactions including private equity, privatization, corporate reorganizations, joint ventures, financings, public offerings, and mergers and acquisitions. The book is an interview with Fogelman, and I know this does not sound very appealing – an over 200 pages long interview with a lawyer. What very quickly transpires is that Fogelman is a great story-teller, he obviously loves talking, and if he can talk about himself, all the better. Fogelman left Poland as a teenager in 1968, landing in New York with a document that confirmed only that he is not a Polish citizen (one of dark pages of Polish history). Initially he stayed with his family, learning English by compulsively watching TV, making his aunt sick with worry that she took on another mouth to feed, with no hope of Lejb ever getting a job. As his language improved, he quickly found friends and his first job, it is very clear from the get go that Fogelman is a social animal. He started discovering all the party and cultural treasures of New York, fell in love with the theatre, that was to remain his life long passion, as he now produces plays in Poland. He was almost drafted for Vietnam, but managed to start studies in the nick of time, he proceeded to study in the Harvard Law School. Spent some time in Paris and in Moscow, but came back to US to start his career as a lawyer. The first case he was assigned was a certain defeat, but he managed to argue it in the way that convinced the judge, when he explains his argument one must admit that it was eccentric in the least.
Fogelman is the opposite of a sociopath, he loves surrounding himself with people and clearly easily makes connections and builds relationships. His story is peppered with anecdotes of the famous and powerful people he interacted with, most of them really funny. He also seems to be set on enjoying his life to the fullest, whether it is partying, working, travelling or discovering the world, he does all those things with passion. He is of course a bit of an egocentric, and the word humble would probably not describe him well either, but his gift for story telling saves the book. He manages to find the good balance between the serious and hilarious, trying to learn a lesson from his adventures but also not preaching. It was a very entertaining read and one that reminded me how important it is to enjoy our life.