Friday, February 16, 2024

Reflecting on Life and Business lessons from Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel. When letting go of a grudge is not easy, but one must #bookreview #lifelessons

 During a recent break, I decided to revisit Jeffery Archer’s old masterpiece years after I had read it, and was struck how the life-experiences hits home. 

This bestseller is a story spanning the lifetimes of two strong willed men whose life couldn’t have been more different, but whose lives are intertwined by fate. Jeffery Archer weaves a tapestry of life in America spanning the first and second world war seen through the eyes of two protagonists William Kane and Abel Rosnovski.   

Abel Rosnovski is an adopted son of a Romanian Baron who finds himself in a Siberian Gulag after Russians plunder the Baron’s castle raping the women and killing most men. Exhibiting a fighting spirit, young Abel manages to escape from the Gulag into Turkey, eventually seeking asylum in America where he begins to carve out his American Dream. 

William Kane is a young, upstart but smart banker who grew into his family empire after graduating from Harvard. While he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, as a son of a banker who owns one of the largest banks in America, he was predestined to take on this mantle. 

During the early days of his empire building, Abel faces a big financial setback, and seeks a loan from a bank and meets William Kane. Kane tells Abel that the board of his bank found the request unviable and had to deny it due to the financial crisis. Kane tries explaining that he is just a messenger, though he personally thinks Abel’s venture should be funded. Abel Rosnovski feels let down and is unconvinced by the explanation and begins to harbor strong feelings against Kane. He was hoping for this lifeline to rescue the large financial bet he had made, a bet that would implode without an immediate cash infusion. 

While Abel is in a quandary, a mysterious benefactor steps in to give him a ‘loan’ with a stipulation that Abel was never to be told about who funded that grant. Abel assumes it is one of the other competitors in hotel business who had taken a fondness for him. 

Kane and Abel’s saga continues with a few twists and turns, all the while each trying to backstab the other till the end of their lives, even at which point neither is willing or able to reconcile; at least not verbally. Grudge and Revenge are significant themes in the novel, and it explores how seeking vengeance can have lasting consequences. 

A story that plays out in real life all around us

While fictionalized masterfully by Jeffery Archer’s, we see such deep-rooted grudges play out even between family and friends. 

Take the example of a close friend of mine who was telling me about a grudge his brother has been harboring for more than a decade. His father had mortgaged their family home to draw out some money for an investment that went sour. Having lost his life’s savings, the bank had offered to ‘reverse mortgage’ the property to let their parents live there.

On discovering this huge burden, my friend wanted to step in to clear the debt before their parents passed away. His brother wasn’t inclined to join hands and invest, especially since he had migrated to England with his family. He didn’t want to let that loan taken by their father run its course; After all he was living thousands of miles away. My friend drew up a legal contract and paid up the mortgage with his funds. While taking over the title of the property, he paid his brother “a fair share” based on the market value of the building at the time. My friend then moved into the house to be around for his aging parents. 

His brother visited India for their father’s funeral and discovered that the value of the property had doubled in the decade since their contract had been drawn. He gave an ultimatum to his brother – re-settle his share of the property based on the “current market value” – and if the request wasn’t headed, he would “sever all ties” with his brother and never return to “that house.” 

Life lessons from the novel

In a story reminiscent of Jeffery Archer’s Kane and Abel, or the biblical version, years have gone by, but the brothers haven’t reconciled. This story seems to play out in millions of families among siblings, relatives, and friends with estranged members unable or unwilling to reconcile long forgotten differences. Years go by while the memory of the transgression is replayed with embellishments over and over again kindling the old flame.

The story of Kane and Abel also plays out in the business world and professional life as much as in personal lives. Business backstabbing is par for the course in many cultures, and the rivalries continue for years or decades. Even in the office, some folks who are slighted for a raise or promotion may carry a ‘personal’ grudge against colleagues or bosses. 

In Jeffrey Archer's bestseller, the characters are unable to reconcile, even towards the end of their eventful lives, leaving the readers wishing they had. The characters' decisions to settle scores lead to unexpected outcomes, underscoring the importance of forgiveness and understanding. Reflecting on lessons from there, one has an opportunity to bury the hatchet and let go of grudges in one’s life as it progresses. 

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