Saturday, November 21, 2020

Exhibition of intolerance

‘A Menshevik deputy ascended the rostrum and attempted to refute the charges brought against his party, but the other Soviet members interrupted and hissed so violently he could not proceed. Communist speakers followed, in essence repeating the words of Kamenev. The exhibition of intolerance, so unworthy of a revolutionary assembly, depressed me.’ This is from a memoir by Alexander Berkman, a Russian anarchist born 150 years ago today. After living in America for 20 years, more than half of which were spent in prison, he returned to his home country - only to be severely disappointed in the revolutionary government of Lenin and Trotsky. His memoir was published as a ‘diary’, but at least one expert believes he rewrote parts of the diary for publication.    

Berkman was born on 21 November 1870, the son of a Jewish businessman, in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. The family was prosperous enough to be allowed to move, despite the usual restrictions for Jewish people, to St. Petersburg where young Berkman received a privileged education reserved for the city’s elite. However, growing radicalism among the workers led to a wave of violence and the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881. Soon after, his father died, the business had to be sold, and the family lost their right to live in the capital. The family moved to Kovno, but there Berkman increasingly turned to revolutionary literature (though it was banned by the new Tsar). After his mother died in 1887, he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City.

Berkman quickly involved himself in radical political communities, joining a fight to free the men convicted of the Haymarket Bombing. He came under the influence of Johann Most, the best known anarchist in the US, and became a type setter for Most’s newspaper. He met Emma Goldman, a young Russian immigrant, on her first day in New York City; the two formed a relationship and lived together - indeed they remained close friends for the rest of Berkman’s life. In 1892, Berkman and Goldman relocated to to Worcester, Massachusetts, where they made a living providing lunches for local workers. Later the same year, Berkman attempted to kill Henry Clay Frick, a steel industry executive who had ordered an attack on striking workers, some of whom died. Berkman was convicted of murder, and served 14 years at the Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania in Allegheny City.

In 1906, Berkman was released. By the following year, he had become editor of Goldman’s magazine Mother Earth, which would soon grow into the country’s leading anarchist publication. Together, Berkman and Goldman set up the Ferrer Centre in 1910, a free school and community centre for adults. In 1912, Berkman published his Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist. With the outbreak of WWI, Berkman and Goldman focused their activities first on keeping the US out of the war, and then on opposing conscription. They soon contravened the newly minted Espionage Act, and were both sent to prison for two years. When released, in 1919, they were deported to the Soviet Union (along with many others). On arrival, they toured Russia collecting material for the Museum of the Revolution in Petrograd.

However Berkman and Goldman found Lenin and Trotsky were strongly opposed to anarchism. When they ordered a military response to a worker uprising in the port of Kronstadt - again, as with the steel workers in the US - there were many fatalities. Severely disappointed with Russia, Berkman left, settling first in Berlin where he wrote The Bolshevik Myth and helped with the publishing of Goldman’s My Two Years in Russia. Subsequently, Berkman moved to France, eking out a living as a translator and editor. He also wrote his last book Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism. In the 1930s, Berkman’s health began to deteriorate. After two unsuccessful operations, he decided to end his life. He died in June 1936 as a consequence of a botched attempt to shoot himself. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Spartacus Educational, PBS or the Anarchy Archives.

Two of Berkman’s three books were sourced from, or written like, diaries. Wikipedia says of Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist (Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1912) that ‘it reads like a diary’ though, in fact, it was written after Berkman’s release from prison, and contains no dated extracts. The Bolshevik Myth (Diary 1920-1922) was published by Boni and Liveright in 1925 - freely available at Internet Archive and The Anarchist Library. Although some parts, especially at the beginning during Berkman’s sea voyage back to Europe, read like a diary and have dated entries, the bulk of the narrative does not, and flows more like a memoir. Moreover, it appears that in preparing the book Berkman re-wrote his own diary entries. (Wikipedia refers to Nicolas Walter who researched Berkman’s papers at the International Institute of Social History and found that the diary format was, basically, a literary device.)

Here is part of Berkman’s preface to The Bolshevik Myth: ‘The present work is compiled from the Diary which I kept during my two years’ stay in Russia. It is the chronicle of an intense experience, of impressions and observations noted down day by day, in different parts of the country, among various walks of life. Most of the names are deleted, for the obvious reason of protecting the persons in question.

So far as I know it is the only journal kept in Russia during those momentous years (1920-1922). It was a rather difficult task, as those familiar with Russian conditions will understand. But long practice in such matters - keeping memoranda even in prison - enabled me to preserve my Diary through many vicissitudes and searches, and get it safely out of the country. Its Odyssey was adventurous and eventful. After having journeyed through Russia for two years, the Diary succeeded in crossing the border, only to be lost before it could join me. There followed an anxious hunt through several European lands, and when hope of locating my notebooks was almost given up, they were discovered in the attic of a very much frightened old lady in Germany. But that is another story.

Sufficient that the manuscript was finally found and can now be presented to the public in the present volume. If it will aid in visualizing the inner life of the Revolution during the period described, if it will bring the reader closer to the Russian people and their great martyrdom, the mission of my Diary will be accomplished and my efforts well repaid.’

Here are several dated extracts from the book.

17 January 1920
‘Landed, 2 P. M. Sent radios to Tchicherin (Moscow) and Shatov (Petrograd) notifying them of the arrival of the first group of political deportees from America.

We are to travel in sealed cars through Finland to the Russian border. The Captain of the Buford allowed us three days’ rations for the journey.

The leave-taking of the crew and soldiers touched me deeply. Many of them have become attached to us, and they have “treated us white,” to use their own expression. They made us promise to write them from Russia.’

18 January 1920
‘Crossing snow-clad country. Cars cold, unheated. The compartments are locked, with Finnish guards on every platform. Even within are the White soldiers, at every door. Silent, forbidding looking. They refuse to enter into conversation.

2 P. M. - In Viborg. We are practically without food. The Finnish soldiers have stolen most of the products given us by the Buford.

Through our car windows we noticed a Finnish worker standing on the platform and surreptitiously signaling us with a miniature red flag. We waved recognition. Half an hour later the doors of our car were unlocked, and the workman entered to “fix the lights,” as he announced. “Fearful reaction here,” he whispered; “White terror against the workers. We need the help of revolutionary Russia.”

Wired again today to Tchicherin and Shatov, urging haste in sending a committee to meet the deportees on the Russian border.’

6 March 1920
‘At the first session of the newly elected Moscow Soviet, Kamenev was in the chair. He reported on the critical food and fuel situation, denounced the Mensheviki and Social Revolutionists as the counter-revolutionary aids of the Allies, and closed by voicing his conviction about the near outbreak of the social revolution abroad.

A Menshevik deputy ascended the rostrum and attempted to refute the charges brought against his party, but the other Soviet members interrupted and hissed so violently he could not proceed. Communist speakers followed, in essence repeating the words of Kamenev. The exhibition of intolerance, so unworthy of a revolutionary assembly, depressed me. I felt that it grossly offended against the spirit and purpose of the august body, the Moscow Soviet, whose work should express the best thought and ideas of its members and crystallize them in effective and wise action.

After the close of the Soviet session began the first anniversary meeting of the Third International, in the Bolshoi Theater. It was attended by practically the same audience, and Kamenev was again Chairman. It was a most significant event to me, this gathering of the proletariat of all countries, in the persons of its delegates, in the capital of the great Revolution. I saw in it the symbol of the coming daybreak. But the entire absence of enthusiasm saddened me. The audience was official and stiff, as if on parade; the proceedings mechanical, lacking all spontaneity. Kamenev, Radek, and other Communists spoke. Radek thundered against the scoundrelism of the world bourgeoisie, vilified the social patriots of all countries, and enlarged upon the coming revolutions. His long and tedious speech tired me.’

21 October 1920
‘A clear, cold day. The first snow of the season on the ground, Moscow presents a familiar sight, and I feel at home after our long absence.

Eagerly I absorb the news at the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. The Twelfth Army has precipitately retreated from Warsaw, but the Poles are not pursuing. It is officially realized now what a serious and costly mistake the campaign was, and how baseless the expectations of a revolution in Poland. It is hoped that a quick peace may be patched up without too great sacrifices on the part of Russia.

Happier is the news from other fronts. Eastern Siberia has been cleared of the last remnants of Kolchak’s army under Ataman Semyonov. In the Crimea Wrangel is almost entirely crushed, not the least share of credit admittedly belonging to Makhno. Far from aiding the counter-revolutionary forces, as had been reported, the povstantsi joined the fight against the White general. This development was the result of a politico-military agreement between the Bolsheviki and Makhno, the main condition of the latter being the immediate liberation of the imprisoned Anarchists and Makhnovtsi, and a guarantee of free speech and press for them in the Ukraina. The telegram sent at the time by Makhno requesting the presence of Emma Goldman and myself at the conferences did not reach us. It was not forwarded by the Foreign Office.

Our anxiety about Henry Alsberg is, relieved: he is now safely in Riga, having been permitted to leave Russia after his forced return from the south. Albert Boni and Pat Quinlan are in the Tcheka, no definite reason for their detention being assigned. Mrs. Harrison, my erstwhile neighbor in the Kharitonensky, is held as a British spy. Nuorteva, Soviet representative in New York, was deported from the States and is now at the head of the British-American bureau in the Foreign Office. Rosenberg, the bad-tempered and ill-mannered confidential secretary of Tchicherin, all-powerful and cordially disliked, is about to leave for the Far East, “on an important mission,” as he informs me. Incidentally, as if by afterthought, he refers to the “funeral tomorrow,” and with a shock I learn of the death of John Reed. The Expedition is to leave this evening for Petrograd, but we decide to postpone our departure in order to pay the last tribute to our dead friend.

A fresh grave along the Kremlin wall, opposite the Red Square, the honored resting place of the revolutionary martyrs. I stand at the brink, supporting Louise Bryant who has entirely abandoned herself to her grief. She had hastened from America to meet Jack after a long separation. Missing him in Petrograd, she proceeded to Moscow only to learn that Reed had been ordered to Baku to the Congress of Eastern Peoples. He had not quite recovered from the effects of his imprisonment in Finland and he was unwilling to undertake the arduous journey. But Zinoviev insisted; it was imperative, he said, to have America represented, and like a good Party soldier Jack obeyed. But his weakened constitution could not withstand the hardships of Russian travel and its fatal infections. Reed was brought back to Moscow critically ill. In spite of the efforts of the best physicians he died on October 16.
The sky is wrapped in gray. Rain and sleet are in the air. Between the speakers’ words the rain strikes Jack’s coffin, punctuating the sentences as if driving nails into the casket. Clear and rounded like the water drops are the official eulogies falling upon the hearing with dull meaninglessness. Louise cowers on the wet ground. With difficulty I persuade her to rise, almost forcing her to her feet. She seems in a daze, oblivious to the tribute of the Party mourners. Bukharin, Reinstein, and representatives of Communist sections of Europe and America praise the advance guard of world revolution, while Louise is desperately clutching at the wooden coffin. Only young Feodosov, who had known and loved Jack and shared quarters with him, sheds a ray of warmth through the icy sleet. Kollontay speaks of the fine manhood and generous soul that was Jack. With painful sincerity she questions herself - did not John Reed succumb to the neglect of true comradeship . . .’

 1 March 1921
‘Many arrests are taking place. Groups of strikers surrounded by Tchekists, on their way to prison, are a common sight. Much indignation in the city. I hear that several unions have been liquidated and their active members turned over to the Tcheka. But proclamations continue to appear. The arbitrary stand of the authorities is having the effect of rousing reactionary tendencies. The situation is growing tense. Calls for the Utchredilka (Constituent Assembly) are being heard. A manifesto is circulating, signed by the “Socialist Workers of the Nevsky District,” openly attacking the Communist régime. “We know who is afraid of the Constituent Assembly,” it declares. “It is they who will no longer be able to rob us. Instead they will have to answer before the representatives of the people for their deceit, their thefts, and all their crimes.”

Zinoviev is alarmed; he has wired to Moscow for troops. The local garrison is said to be in sympathy with the strikers. Military from the provinces has been ordered to the city: special Communist regiments have already arrived. Extraordinary martial law has been declared today.’

2 March 1921
‘Most disquieting reports. Large strikes have broken out in Moscow. In the Astoria I heard today that armed conflicts have taken place near the Kremlin and blood has been shed. The Bolsheviki claim the coincidence of events in the two capitals as proof of a counter-revolutionary conspiracy.

It is said that Kronstadt sailors have come to the city to look into the cause of trouble. Impossible to tell fact from fiction. The absence of a public press encourages the wildest rumors. The official papers are discredited.’

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Copland watches Shostie

‘I watched Shostie while Lukas and Kabalevsky played a Haydn Symphony 4 hands. He loves music with a kind of innocent joy I have rarely seen in a famous composer. Music must have been a great solace to him in the tough days.’ This is the famous American composer Aaron Copland, born 120 years ago today, writing in a diary he kept while visiting the Soviet Union. Although there are ‘diaries’ mentioned in the inventory of Copland’s archive at the Library of Congress, it is only this diary that has ever been published.

Copland was born on 14 November 1900 in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of five children in a Jewish family with a Lithuanian background. His father owned and ran a department store on Washington Avenue, with all the family working for it when they could. Copland attended attended Boys High School in Brooklyn, and developed an early interest in piano, being guided by an older sister. Throughout his teens he took piano lessons with Leopold Wolfsohn, deciding at the age of 15 to become a composer. He regularly attended music performances, and undertook formal lessons in various aspects of music, not least with Rubin Goldmark. His graduation piece was a three-movement piano sonata in a Romantic style. His interest in European music led him to study at Fontainebleau, where the French had set up a music school for Americans. There he came under the influence of the, by then, famous Nadia Boulanger.

After having studyied a variety of European composers while abroad, Copland made his way back to the US in the mid-1920s. He debuted Symphony for Organ and Orchestra in early 1925 with the New York Symphony Society under Walter Damrosch. Many works followed which would bring Copland national and international fame. He focused on music that could be identified as “American” in its scope, incorporating a range of styles, including jazz, folk and Latin American. Piano Variations (1930), The Dance Symphony (1930), El Salon Mexico (1935), A Lincoln Portrait (1942) and Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) are among his most well known compositions. He never married; biographers suggest he was gay and had love affairs with several men including Victor Kraft, artist Alvin Ross, pianist Paul Moor, and dancer Erik Johns.

In 1944, Copland composed the music for Martha Graham’s 1944 dance Appalachian Spring. The following year it won him the Pulitzer Prize. In 1949, he returned to Europe, where he met the new wave of avant-garde composers, like Pierre Boulez and Arnold Schoenberg. Adopting Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method of composition, he wrote Old American Songs, a first set of which which was premiered by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten. In 1950, Copland received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Rome. During the 1951-1952 academic year, he gave a series of lectures at Harvard University, which he published soon after as Music and Imagination. During the first half of the 1950s, Copland was investigated by the FBI, and interviewed by Joseph McCarthy. However, the musical community promoted the patriotism of Copland’s music, and the investigations ceased in 1955.

Notable among Copland’s later works are the Piano Fantasy (1957), Connotations (1962), commissioned for the opening of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, and Inscape (1967). But, in general, his more avant-garde works were less well received, and after the 1970s he stopped composing, though he continued to lecture and to conduct through to the mid-1980s. Encyclopaedia Britannica has this assessment: ‘For the better part of four decades, as composer (of operas, ballets, orchestral music, band music, chamber music, choral music, and film scores), teacher, writer of books and articles on music, organizer of musical events, and a much sought after conductor, Copland expressed “the deepest reactions of the American consciousness to the American scene.” ’. He received more than 30 honorary degrees and many other awards. He died in 1990. Further information can also be found online at the official Aaron Copland website, Wikipedia,, and Library of Congress.

The Copland archive, at the Library of Congress, contains approximately 400,000 items, dating from 1910 to 1990. It includes his ‘music manuscripts, printed music, personal and business correspondence, diaries and writings, photographic materials, awards, honorary degrees, programmes, and other biographical materials’. Unfortunately, no further detail on the diaries is given (how many there are, from what periods of his life etc.). And though biographies of Copland mention his diaries very occasionally, it is only the brief day-to-day diary he kept during a four-week journey to the Soviet Union in early 1960 that has been published: in the Music Library Association’s journal, Notes  (vol. 70, no. 4, 2014) described and annotated by Kevin Bartig (available online at JSTOR).

According to Bartig, Copland was accompanied by Lucas Foss and visited the Soviet Union as a representative of the US State Department. He conducted and performed his own music, met with fellow composers and students, and distributed material on American music. The diary he kept is a considered by Bartig to be a rare day-to-day account of Cold War diplomatic work, and reveals how Cold War geopolitics mediated Copland’s musical evaluations.

Bartig, in his introduction, provides details of the trip and the diary: ‘In his initial entries, Copland, unlike most first-time visitors to the Soviet Union, barely mentions housing, transportation, or food. Although never loquacious as a diarist, he declared that “it would be easy to make hasty judgements” concerning Soviet life, presumably a reason to limit himself to musical observations. Copland summarized his experiences at the end of each day, usually relying on notes scribbled on scraps of paper during meetings and listening sessions. (Wherever possible, material from these notes has been included both in brief, explanatory passages between entries, and in the notes.)

The itinerary and concert programs were sketched out only after arrival, on the first full day of the tour. Both were subject to last-minute changes. For example, an article in the Moscow newspaper Izvestiia reported that Moscow audiences would hear Copland’s Third Symphony and suites from Appalachian Spring and The Tender Land, but only the symphony eventually appeared on a program. Likewise, Copland and Foss were to visit Kiev, but Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, was substituted at the last moment for unclear reasons. Copland and Foss likely spent their first days at the imposing Leningrad Hotel, where the 1958 delegation had lodged, eventually moving to the more centrally located Métropole Hotel. Throughout the tour, a translator accompanied the Americans; Foss dubbed her their “spy secretary,” a rather accurate description of such functionaries, who were to document their guests’ movements and reactions.’

Here are several excerpts.

24 March 1960
‘I have a cold. Damn! Lunch given for us at the Embassy by the Counsellor Minister, Mr. Freers. Present Khrenikoff, Kabalevsky, Shostie (with 2 wives). It transpired that Leeds [Music Corp.) pays publication rights for Soviet music and them nothing (so reports Khrennikov). They looked hopeless at the prospect of paying American publishers’ fees for performance. This spoils my idea of a depot for Amer[ican] music in Moscow, tho’ they claim the Union will collect a library of foreign music on their own. I stayed home in the evening and nursed my cold.’

25 March 1960
‘Dress rehearsal in the morning. Concert at night. Felt strange conducting the Soviet anthem and Star Spangled Banner side by side, TV camera glaring at me. Third Symphony went pretty well, with a fair reception. L.F. big hit as pianist. Shostie’s Ninth completed the program. At the end I presented him with honorary membership in the Nat[ional] Inst[itute] of Arts and Letters. Post-concert party at the Tuchs - no Russians accepted invitations, so we were consoled with foreign press people and Amb[assador] and Mrs. Lewellyn Thompson.’

26 March 1960
‘Visits from Soviet literature paper, Gregory Schneerson, and Mr. Leonidoff of N.Y.C. ballet. Lunch at the residence of the Indian Ambassador Mr. [K.P.S.] Menon. Visit to the Conservatory. Instead of students we were met by a group of professors, including Shaporin. We heard a talented oratorio by a young man called Albert [sic] Schnittke entitled Nagasaki. This allowed him a few grave dissonances (like the Hollywood writers might allow themselves with similar material). Also heard part of a ballet The Hunchback by S[h]chedrin and a Sinfoniett by Karamanov, neither of which were in any way interesting. A short discussion followed in which I suggested that Russian composers knew too well what style to work in. Disturbed reaction on the part of our listeners. I told them that listening to typical Russian music exclusively it would be hard for me to imagine all the other existing styles of contemporary music. In the evening a service intim[é] chez Shostakovitch. His wife and son Maxime, Kabalevsky and Khrennikov and their wives were there. (When I told Mrs. Khren[nikov] that she looked Scotch she replied: oh no, I’m Jewish.) Purely social evening - few toasts and Shostie in a relaxed and charming mood. Big and generous spread of food (all familiar items at our hotel) with shouts of Maxime (who looks at 20 like a young French intellectual) down the length of the table. I watched Shostie while Lukas and Kabalevsky played a Haydn Symphony 4 hands. He loves music with a kind of innocent joy I have rarely seen in a famous composer. Music must have been a great solace to him in the tough days. Much excitement about a chess tournament whose results were announced over the air. I was persuaded to play my Piano Sonata. At the end they all 3 said “Spasibo” (“thank you”) with no comment of any kind.’

30 March 1960
‘Rehearsal in the morning. Presented discs to the radio station, scores to a choral conductor, clar[inet] concerto to a clarinetist, etc. ’Tis thus we propagandize. Meeting at 5 with Composers’ Union of Latvia. Very well organized presentation of their music on tape with short fragments of works by younger men, Edmund Goldstein (1927) and [Romuald Grinblat] (1930) and older men Jacov Medina (18[90]) and Adolf [Skulte] (1909) teacher of most of the young composers. Top man seems to be Janis Ivanovs, composer of many works, including 9 symphonies. Saw little merit in his stuff, myself. They seemed genuinely interested in hearing some of our stuff. I gave them a taste of App[alachian] Spring and Lukas his Symphony of Chorales (2 mvts.) and Song of Songs (someone mentioned Hindemith, and unearthed his [Lukas’s] Berlin birth, with the usual innuendoes). Dashed off to hear two acts of Prokofieff’s The Duenna at the Riga Opera. One of his least inspired pieces in a creditable production.’

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Nazis are the misfortune

‘To keep the people from directing their rage at their actual oppressor, rulers in every age have used diversionary tactics to shield their own guilt. The entire action against the Jews was no different from throwing down a piece of meat for the beasts. “The Jews are our misfortune,” cry out the Nazis. The correct answer of the people would have been, “No, not the Jews, but the Nazis are the misfortune for the German people.” This is from a remarkable diary kept in secret by a middle-ranking German civil servant, Friedrich Kellner, during the Second World War. Kellner, who died 50 years ago today, left his diary to his grandson, but it was only published for the first time in German in 2011, and in English in 2018.

Kellner was born in Vaihingen an der Enz (then in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire, now in southern Germany), the only child of a baker and his wife, both evangelical Lutherans. When he was four, the family moved to Mainz so his father could take up an appointment as a master baker at a confectionary company. In 1902, on finishing school, he became a trainee in courthouse administration. The following year, he was employed as a junior clerk in the Mainz courthouse. In 1907-1908, he undertook military service. He married Pauline Preuss in 1913, and they had one son. With the onset of war in 1914, he was called up again, as a sergeant and deputy-officer, and saw active service. However, before long he was wounded and sent back to Mainz to recover. He spent the remainder of the war as a quartermaster secretary in Frankfurt am Main.

After the war, Kellner remained working for the courthouse, rising to justice inspector in 1920. He was also active as a political organiser for the local branch of the Social Democratic Party, often speaking out against the dangers of Communist and Nazi extremists. In the early 1930s, Kellner and his family moved to the village of Laubach in Hesse, where he worked as the chief justice inspector in the district court. In 1935 his son emigrated to the US to avoid military service; and in 1938, after Kellner had tried to bring charges against the leaders of a riot, his religious heritage was thoroughly investigated - the district judge, though, found it to be solidly Christian. Nevertheless, Kellner’s outspoken views kept him in the sights of the authorities who considered him a ‘bad influence’, and threatened him with being sent to a concentration camp.

After the war, Kellner was appointed deputy mayor of Laubach, and assisted with the task of removing former Nazis from positions of power in the area. He helped to resurrect the Social Democratic Party, and became the regional party chairman. He served as chief justice inspector and administrator of the Laubach courthouse until 1948, and was district auditor in the regional court in Giessen until his retirement in 1950. He continued to provide legal advisor in Laubach, and returned to local politics becoming deputy mayor until 1960. Thereafter, he continued as a volunteer legal advisor. His wife died in February 1970, and he died later the same year, on 4 November. Further information is available from Wikipedia.

Kellner is remembered today thanks to an extraordinary diary he kept from September 1939, when Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland, to May 1945. According to Wikipedia, he considered his diary a response to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, so he named his diary Mein Widerstand, meaning My Opposition. It comprises ten notebooks totaling 861 pages with some 676 dated entries. The handwriting is in the Sütterlin script, a style of German lettering no longer in use. It was first published - thanks to Kellner’s American grandson, Robert Scott Kellner - in Germany in 2011 as two volumes Vernebelt, verdunkelt sind alle Hirne, Tagebücher 1939-1945. This was translated by Robert Kellner, and published in English in 2018 by Cambridge University Press (single volume): My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner - A German against the Third Reich. This can be previewed at Googlebooks, and further information can be read at History Extra, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and The Guardian. Some extracts can be read (in English and German) on these dedicated Kellner web pages.

Here are several extracts.

4 October 1939
‘We have been ordered to fly flags on the building for one week to mark the occasion of German troops entering Warsaw. Such gestures, I have to say, make no impression on the population. The people feel nothing now from all these “victories.” The breadbasket will be hung higher and out of reach, the portions will become smaller, and the struggle to obtain a ration card for doing an essential laundry - or purchasing a piece of clothing - is what really will stir up their blood. The situation is that these small things of daily life generally exert a substantial influence on the people’s mood. The artifice of “culture” cannot stand disturbances because people feel it immediately; the smallest change makes them think their way of life has been impaired. The higher the culture, the further away must be war.’

10 October 1939
‘To keep the people from directing their rage at their actual oppressor, rulers in every age have used diversionary tactics to shield their own guilt. The entire action against the Jews was no different from throwing down a piece of meat for the beasts. “The Jews are our misfortune,” cry out the Nazis. The correct answer of the people would have been, “No, not the Jews, but the Nazis are the misfortune for the German people.”

It is exactly the same today, except the drums now beat against the English. Every reasonable person knows that if we had behaved in a decent manner we could have achieved a satisfactory relationship with England, at least to some extent. Everything with us is weapons and shouts of war and continuous threats - with no suitable middle ground. The purpose is to intimidate the alleged or real opponent to want to be on good terms with us. But eternal saber rattling leads to one thing, and that is war.

The lack of good will on our side is clear to see from all of our propaganda. We take a spiteful swipe at the English at every single opportunity. I need only think of Palestine. At the same time we were throwing Jews out of Germany, we roused up the Arabs through radio and press to resist Jewish settlement. Is this a coherent foreign policy? This mania to make things more difficult for the English everywhere, and then to exult over it, makes us look ridiculous. [...]’

9 November 1939
‘At the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall in Munich yesterday, Hitler gave a speech to his Party members - the usual glorification of members of the “Movement” who were killed. The German government of 1923 failed to act decisively against this political movement, and so it must be said the 1923 government bears a huge responsibility for the graves in Germany. The NSDAP clearly showed at the beginning it intended to create a tremendous general disturbance. Every fanatic and every brutal egoist was accepted into its ranks with open arms: charmers, con men, convicted criminals, and murderers. Everyone against the government then, whether in words or with deeds, was called a revolutionary and held up as a “hero.” The worst sort of criminals, fools, and position seekers became known in time as the “Old Fighters,” whose self-glorification brought them into the highest government positions - or into important Party positions - with a virtuoso’s ease. Here they could be let loose on the unfortunate people. Today we are seized by a distinct sadness over the development of this terrible Party - today, when thinking itself has become dangerous [...].’ 

11 November 1939
‘The way the newspapers are howling furiously against England, blaming it for the explosion in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller, it is evident this incident will be fully used to stir up the flagging war mood. Without batting an eye and without the slightest proof, they make England the suspect in the attempted assassination of the Führer.

This affair will not be solved with presumptions and conjectures. One day the truth will become known, we hope.’

21 July 1940
‘Bad Salzhausen. As Pauline and I sat in front of the spa building, the Hellwig family greeted us. Herr Hellwig, a senior inspector in Mainz, believes the English will be totally beaten quickly, and after the war we will be in a very good position for natural resources because we occupy every country with raw materials. The worst sort of business-oriented politician, he sees his wheat in bloom. In former times he was a Social Democrat. Today, 250 percent Nazi.’

25 July 1941
‘The widow Frau Emmelius received news that her son August was killed. He is the first casualty from Laubach on the Eastern Front. Reports came today of other casualties: Philippi, Kammer, and von Eiff.

What I hear is August Emmelius was no Nazi. Naturally the respectable always have to die. The “most valuable” elements of the populace - Haas, Naumann, Haack, and other Party members - are still among the living.’

Sunday, October 25, 2020

A jewel beyond price

‘I availed myself of a regular rainy day to stay at home and prepare books for binding and file my letters. Such a day once in a while is a jewel beyond price.’ This is from the esteemed diaries of Philip Hone, born 240 years ago today, who did much for the economic and cultural life of New York City in the first half of the 19th century.

Hone was born in New York City, the son of a relatively poor German immigrant, on 25 October 1780. He received a local education until, aged 17, he went to work for his elder brother’s business, auctioning newly arrived cargos at the city’s port. He soon proved his worth, and was taken on as a partner. In 1801, he married Catherine Dunscomb, with whom he had six children. The business prospered so well that Hone was able to retire young. In 1821, he took his wife to Europe, attending the coronation of George IV, and subsequently enjoying a grand tour of the Continent. Back in New York City, he founded the Mercantile Library Association and was the first president of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company in the mid 1820s.

At his elegant home, on Broadway, Hone entertained many politicians and celebrities, counting Daniel Webster, Washington Irving, and John Jacob Astor among his friends. In 1826, he was elected mayor, and served one term, later becoming active in the Whig Party. However, he was also very active (often philanthropically) in many different institutions and organisations, across different areas of the city’s economic and cultural life. ’Mostly,’ says The Bowery Boys website, ‘he’s remembered as a cultural ambassador, even commissioning artwork for City Hall, approving of a developing theater district in the not-yet-seedy Bowery and encouraging the city’s growth as an American capitol of arts and sciences.’ In 1849, he was appointed Naval Officer of the Port of New York by President Taylor, a position he held until his death in 1851. A little further information is also available from Wikipedia and American Heritage.

Hone is mostly remembered for the extensive and detailed diary he left behind - some 28 volumes - which is now owned by the New-York Historical Society. The Diary of Philip Hone 1828-1851 was edited by Bayard Tuckerman, and published in two volumes in 1889 by Dodd, Mean and Company. Both volumes (one and two) are freely available at Internet Archive. Ephemeral New York has an illustrated article about the diaries, and there is one long extract about photography available here. Wikipedia notes that Hone’s diaries are said to be the most extensive and detailed of the first half of 19th-century America.

Tuckerman’s introduction provides some background. ‘On the termination of his mayoralty, in 1827, Mr. Hone began to keep a record of various events, chiefly of a business and personal description, for convenience of reference, rather than as a literary occupation. But his interest in the life of his day, combined with a natural gift for expression which demanded gratification, caused this record gradually to assume a more elaborate character. In May, 1828, he found that he had only to go a step further to convert his common-place book into a diary, and this step he determined to take. During the rest of his life the Diary became his favourite exercise and relaxation. He devoted an hour or more daily to chronicling events of interest, to comments on politics, literature, art, the drama, or industrial subjects. He wrote without any view to publication. His thoughts were put down as they occurred to him, without previous preparation or subsequent correction. Their expression was the pleasurable one of an active mind which is relieved by giving form to ideas. The keeping of the Diary became a rooted habit; so that, when infirmity had curtailed other occupations, he adhered to this one almost to the day of his death.’

17 February 1829
‘Died this morning, Simon, the celebrated cook. He was a respectable man, who has for many years been the fashionable cook in New York, and his loss will be felt on all occasions of large dinner and evening parties, unless it should be found that some suitable shoulders should be ready to receive the mantle of this distinguished cuisinier.’

20 April 1829
‘I saw this day two celebrated personages, the Indian chief, Red-Jacket, and the original of the Harvey Birch of Cooper’s “Spy.” The former is a venerable-looking old man, with gray hair, and less of the Indian in his looks and countenance than I would have expected; and the latter is a tall old man, who looks in all respects the character which he has been made to assume.’

25 March 1834
‘I availed myself of a regular rainy day to stay at home and prepare books for binding and file my letters. Such a day once in a while is a jewel beyond price.’

14 January 1837
‘The ship “Wellington,” of 740 tons burden, was launched this day from Bergh’s ship-yards. She is intended for Grinnell, Minturn, & Co.’s London line of packets. The great duke (as the Spaniards used to call him) ought to be highly gratified at this compliment from republican America. How things are changed! A supposed predilection for Old England, charged upon the Federal party thirty years ago, lost them their political ascendency. At that time men were afraid to wear a red watch-ribbon, lest it might be taken for a symbol of Toryism and bring the wearer a broken head; but now the two old women who govern England and America are great cronies, and their subjects better friends than they were before the battle of Concord; and the name of the Prince of Conservatives, the greatest aristocrat in Europe, graces the bows of one of the most noble ships of which America has reason to be proud.’
17 November 1837
‘The terrible abolition question is fated, I fear, to destroy the union of the States, and to endanger the peace and happiness of our western world. Both parties are getting more and more confirmed in their obstinacy, and more intolerant in their prejudices. A recent disgraceful affair has occurred in the town of Alton, State of Illinois, which is calculated to excite the most painful feelings in all those who respect the laws and desire the continuance of national peace and union. Alton is situated on the left bank of the Mississippi, and opposite the slave-holding State of Missouri. An abolition paper was established there, called the “Alton Observer,” which, becoming obnoxious to the slaveholders, was assailed and the establishment destroyed, some time since, by an ungovernable mob; an attempt was recently made to reestablish the paper, which caused another most disgraceful outrage, in which two persons were killed and several wounded.’

20 February 1838
‘I called upon the President this morning, who received me with his usual urbanity. He inquired about my family and other persons of his acquaintance, talked about the weather, his habits and mode of living, but asked no questions about the state of things in New York, and, of course, did not touch upon politics.’

6 March 1838
‘A committee of the House of Representatives has been appointed to investigate the circumstances attending the late duel between Messrs. Graves and Cilley, with power to send for persons and papers. In the Senate, Mr. Prentiss, of Vermont, has introduced a bill to prevent duelling in the District of Columbia, making it death for the survivor, and imposing ten years’ imprisonment upon all persons concerned in sending a challenge.’

25 March 1842
‘We left Philadelphia at nine o’clock this morning, and got home at three. Washington Irving joined us on starting, and made a very pleasant addition to our little party. He is more gay and cheerful than he is wont to be, and talks a great deal, enlivening his conversation with stories of old times, literary reminiscences, and pretty fair jokes. He is evidently much gratified with his unexpected elevation to diplomatic dignity, and is making his preparations to sail for England on his way to Spain, in the packet of the 7th of April.’

1 October 1849
‘Mr. Alexander Duncan, who arrived this morning from Liverpool, is one of the most extraordinary instances of good fortune, so far as money is concerned, that has occurred in this country. In the winter of 1821-22 he was a fellow-passenger of mine on a voyage from Liverpool, in the ship “Amity,” Captain Maxwell. He was then seventeen years of age; a rough, awkward, shaggy-headed Scotch boy, on a voyage to see his relation, the respected John Grieg, of Canandaigua, and to try his fortune in the new “land of cakes.” There were only three of us in the cabin, Mrs. Pritchard, an English lady, being the third. We had a long, stormy passage, and I, of course, became intimate with the young Scotchman; and, unpolished as he was, I took a great liking to him. He was bright, intelligent, and of good principles, and a friendship was formed which continues until the present time.

Young Duncan, after a few weeks with his uncle at Canandaigua, went to Providence, Rhode Island, to finish his education; entered as a sophomore in the college, and improved his time so well, that by the time he graduated he had engaged the affections of a young lady, whom he married, relinquishing one baccalaureate as he assumed another. Mrs. Duncan had two rich uncles, named Butler, immensely rich, and increasing in wealth every day; for they laid up prodigiously and spent nothing, - a method which, they say, accumulates amazingly. One of these worthies died a few years after the niece’s marriage, and made her heiress to all his property. This induced Duncan and his wife to remove to Providence, where they have resided ever since. My fellow-passenger in the “Amity” bids fair to become one of the richest men in tangible productive property in the United States. And the best of all is, that he is a liberal, generous man, who will make a good use of his money; unless, like many others, his immense riches shall make him penurious, as was the case with the person from whom he inherits this mountain of wealth.’

The Diary Junction

Thursday, October 22, 2020

At dinner with Stalin

‘Marshal Stalin stressed in his remarks his feeling that the three Great Powers which had borne the burden of the war should be the ones to preserve the peace. He said it was ridiculous to think that a country like Albania should or could have an equal voice with the United Kingdom, the United States, or the USSR. It was they who had won the war.’ This is from the diaries of Edward Reilly Stettinius Jr. written while he was attending the Yalta Conference. Born 120 years ago today, he was Secretary of State under Roosevelt in the latter part of the Second World War,  and went on to become - albeit briefly - the US’s first ambassador to the United Nations.

Stettinius was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 22 October 1900, to a mother of colonial English ancestry and a father of German descent. He grew up in a mansion on the family’s estate on Staten Island and graduated from the Pomfret School in 1920. Although he attended the University of Virginia until 1924, he spent much of his time helping poor Appalachian hill families and working with employment agencies trying to assist poor students at the university. By 1926 he had opted out of college, and taken a job at General Motors working as a stock clerk. That same year, he married Virginia Gordon Wallace, daughter of a prominent family from Richmond, Virginia, and they had three sons. 

Stettinius rose rapidly at General Motors becoming, in 1931, vice president in charge of public and industrial relations. He worked to improve unemployment relief programs, and served on the Industrial Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration. By 1934, though, he had joined U.S. Steel, the country’s large corporation, and he became its chairman in 1938. From 1939, he served on the National Defense Advisory Commission, as chairman of the War Resources Board, and later was administrator of the Lend-Lease Program. In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt appointed him to the role of Under Secretary of State, with promotion to Secretary of State in late 1944.

The following year, Stettinius was a member of the US delegation to the 1945 Yalta Conference, and he chaired the US delegation to the San Francisco conference which brought together delegates from 50 Allied nations to create the United Nations. Thereafter, he was appointed the first US Ambassador to the newly created United Nations. However, he was only in the post a few months before resigning in protest at President Truman’s refusal to use the UN as a forum to resolve growing Soviet-American tensions. Subsequently, he headed the Liberia Company, which encouraged US firms to invest in the development of the African country. He became rector of the University of Virginia until his death in 1949. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, Office of the Historian, American National Biography (log-in required), and

In 1975, New Viewpoints published The Diaries of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., 1943-1946 as edited by Thomas M. Campbell and George C. Herring. In their introduction the editors state: 

‘A diary naturally reflects the personality and needs of the man who compiles it. Stettinius intended his diary primarily as a record of his official activities, not as a source of intellectual satisfaction or emotional release. Hence it is confined largely to public matters and tells little about his private life. The diary sometimes offers sensitive and perceptive comments on public affairs in World War II, but in general it takes a cautious, even uncritical approach, reflecting the cautiousness of Stettinius’s personality and his concern for the reputations of the men around him. A sometimes insecure man who stood in awe of many of his associates, Stettinius liked people and desperately wanted to be liked, and his diary lacks the candid, frequently acerbic appraisals of men which typify the diaries of John Quincy Adams and Henry Stimson. He deals only sparingly with the power struggles that were going on around him, and indeed plays down his own conflicts with his associates.

Nevertheless, the Stettinius diary forms an important and revealing record of American diplomacy during and immediately after World War II. The summaries of conversations with U.S. officials and foreign diplomats nicely supplement the official documents published by the Department of State. The transcripts of phone conversations are a particularly valuable source, and frequently catch prominent officials in candid, unguarded moments. The diary provides significant information which cannot be found elsewhere, and it reveals much about the manner in which decisions were made in the State Department and the government as a whole.’

Here are several extracts from the diary.

9 June 1944
‘The president [Franklin D. Roosevelt] has made up his mind that it would be a mistake for him to “mix in” with the question of the Polish primer minister going to Moscow. He has come to the conclusion that Stalin would misunderstand this in view of the president’s statement to Stalin at Tehran that this was a political year. The president has authorized me to tell the Polish prime minister that he cannot send the message to Stalin but for me to make the suggestion that the Polish prime minister make arrangements to go to Moscow through President Beneš of Czechoslovakia. 

The prime minister thought that perhaps an approach might be made at this level, but he wondered whether, if the approach was made at the military level, the Soviet authorities might accept with alacrity military collaboration, but as their armies advanced, they would go ahead independently on the political level and organize the administration in Poland along their own lines without consultation with the Polish government-in-exile. No final decision was made as to the advisability of making this second approach.’

28 July 1944
‘Mr. Metcalf of Time came in and said he wanted to discuss the Argentine situation and asked whether or not we were prepared to go all out [on] economic sanctions. I told him that that was an unfair question and that he was just trying to get a scoop. I told him with a smile, “No comment. I’m a diplomat.”

He then asked several questions about the postwar discussions. I told him there was nothing to be said other than we were going to have the discussions and that I was going to head up the American group.

Mr. James Reston came in for general background discussion. He asked if we had made up our minds as to the partitioning of Germany. I said that that was something under discussion and study and I could see nothing gained by discussing this matter in the American press.

He then asked about the new ambassadors to be sent to exiled governments. I told him that matter was “moving along” but that there was nothing I could say on the subject at this time.

Mr. Reston then said that lately he seemed to be getting very little satisfaction from me, or any help or guidance.’

10 November 1944
‘I . . . finished up some work in the car on the way to the Union Station to meet the president [Franklin D. Roosevelt] who was coming in at 8:30 from Hyde Park in his special train.

The sky was overcast and it was raining fairly hard when we got there. I went into the train to greet the president. All members of the cabinet were there, together with the heads of many of the agencies.

The car was surrounded by radiomen, MP guards, and a host of Secret Service agents.

After greeting the president, I got back into my car and waited for the procession to begin. . . .

At exactly 9:00 the first car left the station loaded with Secret Service agents in their armoured car. The second car contained the president, and seated with him in the back of the car were Vice-President Elect Harry S. Truman, and Vice-President Henry A. Wallace. The only other occupant of the car, beside the driver, was Johnny Boettiger, the president’s grandson. The next five or six cars contained newsmen, and following them were the greeting committee of cabinet members and so on. We were about the tenth car. 

The procession stopped at Columbus Memorial fountain  where commissioner John Russell Young extends to the president Washington’s official homecoming welcome. The president responded with a few minute’s talk [sic] on how glad he was to be back, but he didn’t hope to make Washington his permanent home.’

The president entered the room at 2:10 pm, and the entire cabinet rose and clapped. The president was very cheerful and looked well. The president said he was like the old man Dante wrote about, who had gone to Hell four times. 

The president said the past campaign had been the dirtiest one in his entire political career.

The president turned to me and said he had been out of touch with foreign relations and was there anything new. I told the president there was much I would have to report to him and hoped to have a private talk promptly; stating to him that we had me with the Latin American ambassadors yesterday and that we had made good progress and I was sure we would get their full support on the world organization. I told the president that we had taken them to the Blair House afterward. The president asked whether we served liquor, and I said, yes, but always after five o’clock. He then said, “You must invite me over some time!” ’

14 November 1944
‘I met with Nelson Rockefeller [coordinator of Inter-American Affairs] and a group of his chairmen from various Latin American countries. The meeting was brief, and in the main we discussed Argentina. It was their general feeling that if the British supported us, we could force out the present Argentine regime in a matter of weeks. However, they did point out that it would be necessary for the British to cooperate with us honestly and not say to the Argentine people, “We are awfully sorry we have to do this, but the United States is forcing us to take this position.” These men pointed out that in this way, the United States would be further criticized and be considered a brute, and Great Britain, the poor innocent party to the deal. I assured Mr. Rockefeller and his chairmen of the State Department’s whole-hearted support.’

4 February 1945
‘I attended a dinner which the president gave for Mr. Churchill and Marshal Stalin at Livadia Palace [Yalta]. During the greater part of the dinner the conversation was general and personal in character. But during the last half hour the subject of the responsibilities and rights of the big powers as against those of the small powers came up. Marshal Stalin stressed in his remarks his feeling that the three Great Powers which had borne the burden of the war should be the ones to preserve the peace. He said it was ridiculous to think that a country like Albania should or could have an equal voice with the United Kingdom, the United States, or the USSR. It was they who had won the war. He said he was prepared to join with the United States and Great Britain to protect the small powers but that he could never agree to having any action of any of Great Powers submitted to the judgment of the small powers. The president and prime minister said that they agreed that the Great Powers would necessarily bear the major responsibility for the peace but that it was essential that they exercise their power with moderation and with respect for the rights of the smaller nations.

After Marshal Stalin and the president had left, I talked with the prime minister and Mr. Eden briefly on the voting question. The prime minister reiterated that he had been inclined to the Russian view on voting procedure because he felt everything depended on maintaining the unity of the three Great Powers. Without that the world would be doomed to inevitable catastrophe and anything that preserved that unity would have his vote. Mr. Eden took vigorous exception to the prime minister’s statement on voting procedure and said he believed the United States formula was the minimum essential to attract the support of the small nations to the organization, nor did he feel that the British people themselves would accept a ruling of unqualified unanimity.’

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

King of the Castle

The Daily Express has an incredible feature article: “Why Barbara is King of the Castle.” As I thought, the press is crediting me with having fought and won triumphantly a battle with my colleagues over the Transport Bill. Dick is a bit fed up about all this having loyally supported me all the way through and not relishing his role as the ogre of the piece.’ This is from the diaries of Barbara Castle, born 110 years ago today, a key figure in the Harold Wilson’s Labour governments in the 1960s and 1970s.

Barbara Anne Betts was born on 6 October 1910 in Chesterfield, though was brought up in Pontefract and Bradford, as her father, a tax inspector, moved to different positions. In Bradford, the family became involved with the Independent Labour Party. There, Barbara attended the local grammar school where she excelled academically, and enjoyed acting. At St Hugh’s College, Oxford, she joined the university Labour Club, and became its treasurer. She moved to London to take up journalism, and became more involved in politics. She began an affair with the much older William Mellor, helping him in the 1935 election campaign. She, herself, was elected to St Pancras Metropolitan Borough Council in 1937. Through the Second World War she worked at the Ministry of Food and was an Air Raid Precautions warden during the Blitz. She worked as a journalist on the left-wing weekly Tribune and for the Daily Mirror, whose night editor, Ted Castle, she married in 1944. The following year she was elected Member of Parliament for Blackburn - a seat she would hold for 34 years - quickly making a name for herself as the Red Queen (for her fiery speeches and red hair).

Castles first appointment in government was as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, and then she continued in the same role for Harold Wilson. During the 1950s, she emerged as a high-profile Bevanite, and a vocal advocate of decolonisation and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Under Prime Minister Wilson, she served, initially, as Minister for Overseas Development (a newly created position) from 1964 to 1965. Subsequently, she was appointed Minister of Transport (1965-1968) and then First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment (1968-1970). 

In opposition, while Ted Heath was Prime Minister, Castle continued to be the spokesperson on employment although she fell out with Wilson. When Labour was returned to power in 1974, Wilson appointed her Secretary of State for Health and Social Services. When James Callaghan took over the Labour leadership, in 1976, she was dismissed from the cabinet. Three years later, despite having opposed Britain’s entry into the Common Market, Castle was elected to the European Parliament, where she remained a leading socialist until her retirement in 1989. She was created a Life Peer in 1990. She died in 2002. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Cotton Town, The University of Bradford, Spartacus Educational, or The Guardian.

While still an active politician, in the 1980s, Castle published two volumes of diaries, chronicling her time in office from 1964-1976 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980 and 1984). They were widely praised, as Wikipedia notes: the London Review of Books said that they show ‘more about the nature of cabinet government - even though it deals with only one Cabinet - than any previous publication, academic, political or biographical.’ Michael Foot in The Listener claimed that the diary, ‘whatever else it is or not, is a human document, hopelessly absorbing’. Paul Johnson in the Sunday Telegraph wrote that it was ‘a contribution of first rate importance to our knowledge of modern politics’.

In her preface, Castle states: ‘Whatever else may be said about political diaries they are at least an instantaneous account and therefore more accurate than a retrospective one. And it takes courage to publish them. I would like to think that, say, Roy Jenkins or Tony Benn had kept a record of what they thought, said and did at every stage in their progress in government and then were ready to publish it later without any expurgations designed to polish up their image or distort the facts retrospectively. Such pieces of self-exposure can only strengthen the democratic process by enabling people outside government to follow the evolution of those inside and judge for themselves why politicians think and act as they do and how far any adaptations of policy they may make are due to honourable realism and how far to political cowardice.’

Here are two extracts.

23-26 December 1965
‘Papers full of pictures of me. My appointment the sensation. The fact that I couldn’t drive had almost, as Harold predicted when I tried to use this as an argument against appointing me, turned out to be an asset. Ted and I drove back to London so that I could kiss hands. Then into the Ministry with Tony to introduce him and say last farewells. I could hardly tear myself away from my beloved desk. (Andrew later sent me a letter I shall treasure all my life.)

So home at last to Christmas, punctured by various phone calls which I refused to take. Stephen Swingler nobly took over the ministerial comments on the road accident figures; also stood by for twenty-four hours for a meeting with George Brown about the railways’ ‘early warning’ of their intended fares increase due to expire on 28 December. On Christmas Eve Stephen phoned to say all attempts to locate George had failed. He had been doing a tour of office parties and just wouldn’t reply to messages. That morning he was still hors de combat and the meeting clearly could not be held. Apparently this sort of thing has happened before.’

11 March 1968
‘The Daily Express has an incredible feature article: “Why Barbara is King of the Castle.” As I thought, the press is crediting me with having fought and won triumphantly a battle with my colleagues over the Transport Bill. Dick is a bit fed up about all this having loyally supported me all the way through and not relishing his role as the ogre of the piece. Frank Allaun popped up to me in the dining room in the House to tell me at more than one meeting recently - some with trade unionists and some with university people - my name has seriously been canvassed for PM. It is a flattering thought, but I don’t take it seriously.

In the meantime I am mopping up a series of office meetings. One concerned Clause 45 of the Transport Bill in which we really are taking a fantastically wide extension of the manufacturing powers of nationalized industries. Having won Cabinet approval for the general principle of extension in the Bill, I have sent my officials away to work on it and they have come back with the Bill drafted to give me practically limitless powers. It is amusing to hear them explaining solemnly that any attempt to define the powers in a Bill in order to limit them would merely lead to unwarrantable restrictions. Once again I marvel at the civil servants: these chaps really hate the whole idea of these manufacturing powers but, the policy having been adopted, they are taking the job of implementing it au sérieux. Hankey, Deputy Treasury Solicitor, assured me that the only way to control the use of the powers was by the provision officials had made for the Minister to approve all proposals for their use, to have the right to modify or withdraw proposals and the duty to publish them. The control in other words would be through the Minister. The CBI has been pressing for inclusion of a phrase to the effect that, in using the powers, nationalized industries must behave in all ways like ‘a company engaged in private enterprise’. Hankey is against my accepting this on the grounds that it doesn’t make any sense, but the others think it might have some advantages presentationally. The real safeguard is that I have got Bill Johnson to agree reluctantly to set up a separate subsidiary company to run the railway workshops. This of course would have to conform to the Companies Acts. But, having gone into all the pros and cons very carefully for an hour this morning, I have decided that an amendment to include the desired words would not do any harm and might do some good. I have asked them to consult the Scottish Office urgently and table a Government amendment on these lines.

Went along to Dick’s room at 7.45 to discuss the Transport Bill guillotine to find no John Silkin there. Dick was in a sour and desperate mood. He had been dining with Aubrey Jones, who complained he had never been consulted on the new proposals for P and I policy. Dick wasn’t too optimistic either about the Budget being radical. “The trouble is”, he says, “Harold and Roy will just think it is radical.” We sat there drinking and gossiping for nearly an hour waiting for John Silkin to turn up.

His failure to do so only heightened Dick’s irritation. That was his trouble, he said, he had to deal with a Chief Whip who was irresponsible. He himself was still seriously thinking of throwing in his hand: why didn’t he just retire and write books and see more of his family? In these moods Dick is not a very reliable witness to anything. But I am really worried by his state of mind.’

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The last manuscript

‘There it was - a bound ledger of the kind used in simple bookkeeping; it was in just such ledgers as this that Wolfe had written his first longhand drafts of everything. The ledger was full to the last page of his almost illegible penciled scrawl, with the title, “A Western Journey,” at the beginning. [ . . .] It was the last manuscript which that large hand of the artist would ever write.’ Thomas Wolfe, one of America’s 20th century literary heroes, was born 120 years ago today. On his early death (he was not yet 40) he left behind a number of manuscripts, including a diary of his very last trip - as described above by the editor of later works, Edward Aswell.

Wolfe was born on 3 October 1900 in Asheville, North Carolina, the youngest of eight children. His father was a stone carver and ran a gravestone business, while his wife ran a boarding house. He studied, from the age of 15, at University of North Carolina, where he become a member of the Dialectic Society and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He ran the student newspaper for a while, took a course in playwriting, and won the Worth Prize for Philosophy. In mid-1920, he entered Harvard University, where he studied playwriting with George Pierce Baker - Baker’s 47 Workshop produced several of his plays.

In 1923, Wolfe moved to New York City, teaching at Washington Square University, but still intending to become a playwright. In 1924-1925, he travelled through Europe, and on the way back met Aline Bernstein, a set designer. Although she was married and some 20 years older than him, they embarked on a five year affair. Biographers say she exerted a powerful influence over Wolfe, encouraging and funding his writing efforts, now focused on fiction rather than drama.

In 1929, Scribner published Wolfe’s first novel Look Homeward, Angel, a fictionalised account of his own early experiences of family, friends, and the boarders at his mother’s establishment. It received mixed critical reviews in the US, but became a bestseller in the UK. Some members of his family and the Asheville community, however, were upset with their portrayals in the book. Wolfe then traveled to Europe for a year on a Guggenheim Fellowship. His second novel, Of Time and the River, was published in 1935. As with the first novel, Wolfe’s lengthy manuscript had been cut and shaped significantly by the Scribner’s most prominent book editor, Maxwell Perkins. It was more of a commercial success than the first, but Wolfe himself was displeased with the way it had been edited. Subsequently, Wolfe left Scribner’s and joined Harper & Brothers. Although he quickly published a memoir entitled The Story of a Novel (in which he wrote at length about his relationship with Perkins) he never published another novel in his lifetime. He returned to spend time in Germany (where his books were popular) but found he did not like the political developments and returned to the US. 

In 1938, after submitting over one million words in manuscript form to his new editor, Edward Aswell of Harper & Brothers, Wolfe left New York for a tour of the Western United States. In July, he fell ill with pneumonia, and in September he died from tuberculosis. Two long novels were edited posthumously by Aswell - The Web and the Rock and You Can’t Go Home Again - as well as other short stories and plays. Encyclopaedia Britannica has this assessment: ‘Wolfe was gifted with the faculty of almost total recall, and his fiction is characterized by an intense consciousness of scene and place, together with what is often an extraordinary lyric power. In Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River, Wolfe was able to imbue his life story and the figures of his parents with a lofty romantic quality that has epic and mythopoeic overtones. Powerful emotional evocation and literal reporting are combined in his fiction, and he often alternates between dramatically effective episodes of recollection and highly charged passages of rhetoric.’ Further information is also available at Wikipedia, US National Library of Medicine, or North Carolina Historic Sites.

One of the manuscripts Wolfe left behind after his tragic early death was a diary he had kept during his last trip. It was edited by Aswell and published as A Western Journal - A Daily Log of The Great Parks Trip by University of Pittsburgh Press in 1951. The full text can be read freely online at Internet Archive. The short book starts with a ‘Note’ written by Aswell. In it, Aswell describes how Wolfe, having finished his trip, wrote him a letter in which he mentioned ‘A Western Journey’. Aswell concludes the note as follows: 

‘. . . on that sad September fifteenth, a few hours after Wolfe had died, I sat in the hospital talking with the members of his family. The question of his unpublished manuscripts came up. I asked if they knew anything about “A Western Journey.” His mother undertook to look through his bags. And there it was - a bound ledger of the kind used in simple bookkeeping; it was in just such ledgers as this that Wolfe had written his first longhand drafts of everything. The ledger was full to the last page of his almost illegible penciled scrawl, with the title, “A Western Journey,” at the beginning. There were not fifty thousand words, nothing like it. Wolfe always used round numbers loosely. When he said, “I have written a million words,” he meant: “I have written a lot.” When he said, “I have written fifty thousand words,” he meant: “I have written only a little; in fact, I have just started.” It was the last manuscript which that large hand of the artist would ever write.’ 

Here are two extracts from the diary.

20 June 1938 
‘Left Portland, University Club, 8:15 sharp - Fair day, bright sunlight, no cloud in sky - Went South by East through farmlands of upper Willamette and around base of Mount Hood which was glowing in brilliant sun - Then climbed and crossed Cascades, and came down with suddenness of knife into the dry lands of the Eastern slope - Then over high plateau and through bare hills and canyons and irrigated farmlands here and there, low valley, etc., and into Bent at 12:45 - 200 miles in 4 1/2 hours - 

Then lunch at hotel and view of the 3 Sisters and the Cascade range - then up to the Pilot Butte above the town - the great plain stretching infinite away - and unapproachable the great line of the Cascades with their snowspired sentinels Hood, Adams, Jefferson, 3 sisters, etc, and out of Bend at 3 and then through the vast and level pinelands - somewhat reminiscent of the South for 100 miles then down through the noble pines to the vast plainlike valley of the Klamath? - the virgin land of Canaan all again - the far-off ranges - infinite - Oregon and the Promised Land - then through the valley floor - past Indian reservation - Capt Jack - the Modocs - the great trees open approaching vicinity of the Park - the entrance and the reservation - the forester - the houses - the great snow patches underneath the trees - then the great climb upwards - the foresting, administration - up and up again - through the passes the great plain behind and at length the incredible crater of the lake - the hotel and a certain cheerlessness in spite of cordialness - dry tongues vain-licking for a feast - the return, the cottages, the college boys and girls who serve and wait - the cafeteria and the souvenirs - the great crater fading coldly in incredible cold light - at length departure - and the forest rangers down below - long, long talks - too long with them about “our wonders”, etc - then by darkness the sixty or seventy miles down the great dim expanse of Klamath Lake, the decision to stay here for the night - 3 beers, a shower, and this, reveille at 5:30 in the morning - and so to bed!

First day: 404 miles 

The gigantic unconscious humor of the situation - C “making every national park” without seeing any of them - the main thing is to “make them” - and so on and on tomorrow’

23 June 1938

‘Up at 7 o'clock in hotel at Mohave - and already the room hot and stuffy and the wind that had promised a desert storm the night before was still and the sun already hot and mucoid on the incredibly dirty and besplattered window panes - and a moments look of hot tarred roof and a dirty ventilator in the restaurant below and no moving life but the freight cars of S.P. rr - and a slow freight climbing fast and weariness - so up and shaved and dressed and gripped the zipper and downstairs and the white-cream Ford waiting and the two others - in the car - and to the cafe for breakfast - eggs and pancakes, sausages most hearty - and a company of r.r. men - So out of town at 8:10 and headed straight into the desert - and so straight across the Mohave at high speed for four hours - to Barstow - so in full flight now - the desert yet more desert - blazing heat - 102 inside the filling station - the dejected old man and his wife - and so the desert mountains, crateric, lavic and volcanic, and so more fiendish the fiend desert of the lavoid earth like an immense plain of Librea tar - and very occasionally a tiny blistered little house - and once or twice the paradise of water and the magic greenery of desert trees - and yet hotter and more fiendish - through fried hills - cupreous, ferrous, and denuded as slag heaps - and so the filling station and the furnace air fanned by a hot dry strangely invigorating breeze and the filling station man who couldn’t sign “I'm only up an hour and my hands shake so with the heat” - and Needles at last in blazing heat and the restaurant station and hotel and Fred Harvey all aircooled, and a good luncheon, and an hour here -  

so out again in blazing heat - 106° within the strolling of the station awning - 116 or 120 out of it - and so out of Needles - and through heat blasted air along the Colorado 15 miles or so and then across the river into Arizona - pause for inspection, all friendly and immediate - then into the desert world of Arizona - the heat blasted air - the desert mountain slopes clear in view and more devilish - the crateric and volcanic slopes down in and up and up among them, now and then a blistered little town - a few blazing houses and the fronts of stores - up and up now and fried desert slopes prodigiously - and into Oatman and the gold mining pits, the craterholes, the mine shafts and the signs of new gold digging - Mexicans half naked before a pit - and up and up and only up and up to Goldcrest? 

Across the Mohave the S.P. fringed with black against the blazing crater of the desert sky snakes on, snakes on its monotone of forever and of now - moveless Immediate and at last the rim and down and down through blasted slopes, volcanic “pipes" and ancient sea erosions, mesa table heads, columnar swathes, stratifications, and the fiendish wind, and below the vast pale, lemon-mystic plain - and far away immeasurably far the almost moveless plume of black of engine smoke and the double header freight advancing - advanceless moveless - moving through timeless time and on and on across the immense plain backed by more immensities of fiendish mountain slopes to meet it and so almost meeting moveless-moving never meeting up and up and round and through a pass and down to Kingman and a halt for water and on and on and up and down into another mighty plain, desert growing grey-green greener - and some cattle now and always up and up and through fried blasted slopes and the enormous lemon-magic of the desert plains, fiend mountain slopes pure lemon heat mist as from magic seas arising - and a halt for gas at a filling station with a water fountain “Please be careful with the water we have to haul it 60 miles” - 5280 feet above - and 4800 feet we've climbed since Needles and on and on and up and the country greening now and 

steers in fields wrenching grey-green grass among the sage brush clumps and trees beginning now - the National Forest beginning - and new greenery - and trees and pines and grass again - a world of desert greenness still not Oregon - but a different world entirely from the desert world and hill slopes no longer fiend troubled but now friendly, forested familiar, and around and down and in a pleasant valley Williams - and for a beer here where I thought I was 3 years ago - bartender a Mexican or an Indian or both and out and on our way again only the great road leading across the continent and 6 or 7 miles out an of turn to the left for the Grand Canyon - and not much climbing now, but up and down again the great plateau 7000 feet on top - and green fields now and grass and steers and hills forested and cooler and trees and on and on toward (levelly) the distant twin rims - blue-vague defined - of the terrific canyon - the great sun sinking now below our 7000 feet - we racing on to catch him at the canyon ere he sinks entirely - but too late, too late - at last the rangers little house, the permit and the sticker, the inevitable conversations, the polite goodbyes - and (almost dark now) at 8:35 to the edges of the canyon - to Bright Angel Lodge - and before we enter between the cabins of the Big Gorgooby - and the Big Gorgooby there immensely, darkly, almost weirdly there - a fathomless darkness peered at from the very edge of hell with abysmal starlight - almost unseen - just fathomlessly there - So to our cabin - and delightful service - and so to dinner in the Lodge - and our rudeeleven in jodphurs, pajamas, shirts, and country suits, and Fred Harvey’s ornate wigwam - and to dinner here - and then to walk along the rim of Big Gorgooby and inspect the big hotel - and at the stars innumerable and immense above the Big Gorgooby just a look - a big look - so goodnight and 500 miles today -’

Saturday, September 26, 2020

A short, passionate infatuation

’That morning I bought my first lacquer box (on Petrovka). It had been several days now that, as often happens with me, I had been concentrating exclusively on one thing as I made my way through the streets: it was lacquer boxes in this particular case. A short, passionate infatuation. I would like to buy three of them - but am not entirely sure how to allot the two acquired in the meantime. That day I bought the box with the two girls sitting by a samovar. It is quite beautiful - even though it has none of that pure black which is often the most beautiful thing about such lacquerwork.’ This is from a short diary kept by Walter Benjamin, considered one of the most important cultural philosophers of the 20th century, during a visit to Moscow in the mid-1920s. He committed suicide 80 years ago today while trying to flees the Nazi, and it’s only since his death that many of his works have been published to much acclaim.

Benjamin was born in Berlin in 1892 into a wealthy family of assimilated Ashkenazi Jews. He was educated at Kaiser Friedrich School in Charlottenburg, though he spent a couple of years, because of ill-health, at a boarding school in the Thuringian countryside. He studied philosophy at the universities of Berlin, Freiburg, Munich (where he met Rainer Maria Rilke and Gershom Scholem), and then Bern where he met Ernst Bloch. He also met and married Dora Sophie Pollak (née Kellner) with whom he had one son. 

In 1919, Benjamin was awarded his Ph.D. (translated title: The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism). Subsequently, he was unable to support himself and family so he returned to Berlin to live with his parents. Here he became socially acquainted with Leo Strauss, a figure he would admire for the rest of his life. In 1921 he published the essay Kritik der Gewalt (Critique of Violence). His attempts to submit another professional dissertation to the University of Frankfurt were not successful, but he published it in 1928 under the title Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (The Origin of the German Tragic Drama).

During the 1920s, Benjamin worked as a literary critic, essayist, and translator. In the mid-1920s, he journeyed to Moscow, to visit Asja Lascis (a Latvian Bolshevik whom he had first met in Capri in 1924), with whom he had fallen in love. Following the rise of Nazism, he relocated to Paris in 1933, where he continued to write for literary journals. When Paris succumbed to Nazi occupation, he fled toward Spain hoping to make onward passage to America. Having reached the border town of Portbou he was mistakenly advised that he would be turned over to the Gestapo. In despair, he took his own life, on 26 September 1940. The posthumous publication of his prolific output significantly increased his reputation in the later 20th century. Das Passagenwerk (The Arcades Project), for example, helped set the foundations of what became known as critical and cultural theory; and Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) is considered to have been an incisive analysis of the social importance of photography. Further information is available at Wikipedia, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

During his winter trip to Moscow in 1926-1927, Benjamin kept a detailed daily diary. This was not published in English until 1986, first by MIT Press in Issue 35 of October, and then, under the title Moscow Diary, by Harvard University Press (edited by Gary Smith and translated by Richard Sieburth). Some pages can be previewed at Googlebooks. The publisher states: ‘Benjamin’s diary is, on one level, the account of his masochistic love affair with this elusive - and rather unsympathetic - object of desire. On another level, it is the story of a failed romance with the Russian Revolution; for Benjamin had journeyed to Russia not only to inform himself firsthand about Soviet society, but also to arrive at an eventual decision about joining the Communist Party. Benjamin’s diary paints the dilemma of a writer seduced by the promises of the Revolution yet unwilling to blinker himself to its human and institutional failings.’

Here are three extracts from Benjamin’s Moscow Diary.

10 January 1927
‘An extremely disagreeable argument with Reich took place this morning. He had decided to take me up on my proposal to read him my report on the debate at Meyerhold’s. I no longer had any desire to do so, but went ahead anyway with an instinctive reluctance. Given the previous conversations about my contributions to the Literarische Welt, nothing good could certainly come of it. So I read the thing quickly. But I was positioned so poorly on my chair, looking straight into the light, that this alone would have been enough for me to predict his reaction. Reich listened with a tense impassiveness, and when I had finished, limited himself to a few words. The tone in which he said them immediately touched off a quarrel that was all the more irresoluble because its actual grounds could no longer be mentioned. In the middle of the exchange there was a knock at the door - Asja appeared. She left again soon thereafter. While she was present I said very little: I worked at my translation. In a terrible frame of mind I went over to Basseches’s to dictate some letters and an article. I find the secretary most agreeable, if somewhat ladylike. When I learned that she wanted to go back to Berlin, I gave her my card. I was not keen about running into Reich at lunch, so I bought myself some food and ate in my room. On my way over to Asja’s I stopped for some coffee, and later, going back home after the visit, I had some more. Asja was feeling quite ill, got tired right away; I left her alone so she could get some sleep. But there were a few minutes during which we were alone in the room (or during which she acted as though we were). It was at that point that she said that when I again came to Moscow and she was well, I wouldn’t have to wander around on my own so much. But if she didn’t get well here, then she would come to Berlin; I would have to give her a corner of my room with a folding screen, and she would follow treatment with German doctors. I spent the evening alone at home. Reich arrived late and had a number of things to recount. But following the morning’s incident, at least this much was clear to me: I could no longer count on Reich for whatever concerned my stay here, and if it could not be profitably organized without him, then the only reasonable thing to do would be to leave.’

11 January 1927
‘Asja again needs to get some injections. She wanted to go to the clinic today and it had been earlier arranged that she would stop by and fetch me so I could accompany her there by sleigh. But she didn’t come by until around noon. They had already given her the injection at the sanatorium. She was as a result in a somewhat agitated state and when we were alone in the corridor (both she and I had telephone calls to make), she clung to my arm in a momentary access of her former boldness. Reich had taken up his position in the room and was making no signs of leaving. So that even though Asja had finally come to my room in the morning once again, it was totally pointless. I put off leaving for a number of minutes, but to no avail. She announced that she didn’t want to accompany me. I therefore left her alone with Reich, went to Petrovka (but still was unable to obtain my passport) and then to the Museum of Painting. After this little episode, my mind was finally made up to fix the date of my departure, which in any case was rapidly approaching. There was not much to see in the museum. I learned later that Larionov and Goncharova were big names. Their stuff is worthless. Just like most of the things hanging in the three rooms, they seem to be massively influenced by Parisian and Berlin painting of the same period, which they copy without skill. Around noon I spent hours in the Office of Culture waiting to get tickets for the Maly Theater for Basseches, his woman friend, and myself. But since they were unable to inform the theater by telephone at the same time, our passes were not accepted that evening. Basseches had come without his friend. I would have liked to have gone to the cinema with him, but he wanted to eat and so I accompanied him to the Savoy. It is a far more modest establishment than the Bolshaia Moskovskaia. I was also fairly bored with him. He is incapable of talking about anything other than his most private affairs; and when he does, it is with a visible awareness of how well-informed he is and how superbly capable he is of imparting this information to others. He continued to leaf through and read around in the Rote Fahne. I accompanied him in the car for a stretch and then went straight home, where I did some more translating. That morning I bought my first lacquer box (on Petrovka). It had been several days now that, as often happens with me, I had been concentrating exclusively on one thing as I made my way through the streets: it was lacquer boxes in this particular case. A short, passionate infatuation. I would like to buy three of them - but am not entirely sure how to allot the two acquired in the meantime. That day I bought the box with the two girls sitting by a samovar. It is quite beautiful - even though it has none of that pure black which is often the most beautiful thing about such lacquerwork.’

22 January 1927
‘I had not yet washed but was sitting at my table writing when Reich arrived. It was a morning on which I was even less inclined to be sociable than usual. I barely allowed myself to be distracted from my work. But when I was about to leave around twelve-thirty and Reich asked me where I was off to, I discovered that he too was going to the children’s theater to which Asja had invited me. The sum total of my preferential treatment thus turned out to be a futile half hour wait at the entrance that previous day. Nonetheless I went on ahead to get something warm to drink in my usual cafe. But the cafes were also dosed that day, and this, too, is part of the remont policy. So I slowly made my way down Tverskaia to the theater. Reich arrived later, and then Asja with Manya. Since we had now become a foursome, I lost interest in the thing. I couldn’t stay to the end anyway because I had to meet Schick at three-thirty. Nor did I make any effort to take a seat beside Asja; instead I sat between Reich and Manya. Asja asked Reich to translate the dialogue for me. The play seemed to be about the creation of a cannery and appeared to have a strong chauvinistic bias against England. I left during the intermission. At which point Asja even offered me the seat next to hers as an inducement to stay, but I didn’t want to arrive late or, even more important, turn up exhausted for my appointment with Schick. He himself was not quite ready. In the bus he spoke of his Paris days, how Gide had once visited him, etc. The visit with Muskin was well worth it. Although I only saw one truly important children’s book, a Swiss children’s calendar of 1837, a thin little volume with three very beautiful color plates, I nevertheless looked through so many Russian children’s books that I was able to get an idea of what their illustrations were like. The great majority of them are copies of German models. The illustrations in many of the books were printed by German lithography shops. Many German books were imitated. The Russian editions of Struwwelpeter that I saw there were quite coarse and ugly. Muskin placed slips of paper in various books on which he noted down my comments. He directs the children’s book division of the state publishing house. He showed me some samples of his work. They included books for which he himself had written the text. I explained to him the broad outlines of my documentary project on “Fantasy.” He didn’t seem to understand much of what I was saying and on the whole made a rather mediocre impression on me. His library was in lamentable shape. There was not enough room to set up the books properly, so they were strewn every which way on shelves in the hallway. There was a fairly rich assortment of food on the tea table and without any prodding I ate a great deal, since I had eaten neither lunch nor dinner that day. We stayed for about two and a half hours. Before I left he presented me with two books he had published and which I silently promised to give to Daga. Spent the evening back home working on the Rilke and the diary. But - as is the case at this very moment - with such poor writing materials that nothing comes to mind.’