Friday, February 17, 2017

The magnificent Sahara

‘Now that the torrid heat of summer has suddenly come again, now that Algiers lies in a glaring daze once more by day, the notion that I am back in Africa is slowly sinking in. Soon I will feel completely at home, especially if my plan to go to Bou Saada comes off. . . Oh, that journey! It will mean a brief return, not to the magnificent Sahara itself, but to a place nearby that has all the palm trees and sunshine one could want!’ This is from the diary of Isabelle Eberhardt, born in Switzerland 140 years ago today, but who only found peace when living in North Africa, wearing men’s clothes, and having converted to Islam.

Eberhardt was born on 17 February 1877 in Geneva, Switzerland, to an odd couple: her father, Alexandre Trophimowsky, was an atheist, anarchist and former Orthodox priest who had been hired as a tutor for the children of the widower General Pavel de Moerder. His aristocratic mother, Nathalie Moerder (née Eberhardt) was Moerder’s wife, some 40 years his junior. Eventually, Nathalie and Trophimowsky, who was also married, left their families, and had two children, one, Augustin, was accepted by de Moerder as his own, but, a few years later, Isabelle was registered as Nathalie’s illegitimate daughter. She grew up well tutored by Trophimowsky, and speaking several languages, including Arabic. Biographers say she disguised herself as a boy from an early age so as to enjoy more freedom, a trait not discouraged by her father.

From around 1895, Eberhardt began publishing short stories, some inspired by the letters from Augustin who had joined the French Foreign Legion and from Eugène Letord, a French officer stationed in the Sahara, who had advertised for a pen pal. Aged but 20, she traveled to North Africa with her mother, where they both converted to Islam. Soon after, her mother died, her father died also, and then a half-brother committed suicide. With family ties severed, Eberhardt called herself Si Mahmoud Saadi, began to wear Arab male attire all the time, and assumed a male personality. Residing in Paris, trying to pursue a writing career, she was offered money to return to the Sahara region and investigate the death of a friend’s husband.

By mid-1900, Eberhardt had settled in the oasis town of El Oued, some 650 miles southeast of Algiers, close to the border with Tunisia, but she made little headway with the investigation. However, she fell in love with an Algerian soldier, Slimène Ehnni, and they were soon living together openly. The French authorities began to suspect Eberhardt of being a spy or an agitator, and Ehnni was posted away, some 300km north. Eberhardt also became involved with a Sufi order, the Qadiriyya, and, in early 1901, at one of its meetings was attacked by a man with a sabre. She suspected her attacker had been hired by the French authorities, who, eventually expelled her from North Africa. In June the same year, she was allowed to return to Algeria briefly to give evidence against her attacker, who, she said, she forgave.

Back in France, Eberhardt lived with her brother Augustin and his wife, worked alongside him as a dock labourer, and continued writing. Ehnni, meanwhile, was reposted, this time to near Marseilles, where he was free to marry Eberhart (earlier, in Algeria, they had been denied permission to marry). In early 1902, Ehnni completed his military service, and the couple returned to Bône, Algeria, to live with Ehnni’s family, at first, and then in Algiers. There Eberhardt worked for the newspaper Al-Akhbar, publishing stories, including serialised chapters of her novel Trimardeur. In mid-1903, she was sent to report on the aftermath of the Battle of El-Moungar, and became friendly with a French officer, for whom she may have engaged in some kind of spying activity. She fell ill with fever, and travelled to Aïn Sefra to recuperate. Ehnni joined her there, and they rented a mud hut. When a flash flood struck, 
Ehnni escaped, but Eberhardt was killed - only 27 years old. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Pathos, Rejected Princesses, Atlas Obscura or from a biography review at The New York Times.

Eberhardt’s diaries - three cardboard notebooks and a small linen volume - were first translated by Nina de Voogd and published in English by Virago in 1987 as The Passionate Nomad: The Diary of Isabelle Eberhardt. More recently, in 2002, Summersdale has reissued the translation, as edited by Elizabeth Kershaw, under the title The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt. The book’s introduction can be read online here; and for a short review see The Guardian. According to Kershaw, Eberhardt used her diaries ‘for observation and introspection; to record literary ideas; as a ledger and as a portable library of copied material from her favourite writers’. Here are several extracts.

27 May 1900
‘Geneva. Back to this gloomy diary of mine in this evil city in which I have suffered so much. I have hardly been here a week and once again I feel as morbid and oppressed as I used to in the old days. All I want to do is get out for good.

I went to have a look at our poor house, with the sky low and sunless; the place was boarded up, mute and lost amongst the weeds. I saw the road, white as ever, white like a silvery river, straight as an arrow, heading between those tall, velvet trees for the Jura’s great mountaintops.

I saw the two graves in that faithless cemetery, set in a land of exile, so very far away from that sacred place devoted to eternal repose and everlasting silence . . . I feel that I have now become a total stranger in this land, and tonight I feel an unfathomable and indescribable sadness, and increasingly resigned before my fate . . . What dreams, what enchantments and what raptures does the future still hold in store for me? What dubious satisfactions, and what sorrows?

And when will the clock strike the hour of deliverance at long last, the hour of eternal rest?’

8 June 1900
‘Over there in Africa, above the great blue gulf of unforgettable Annaba, the graveyard on the hill is asleep under the blazing sky of a summer day’s sunset. The white marble tombs and those made of glazed and multicoloured tiles must look like bright flowers among the tall, black cypresses, creepers and geraniums the colour of blood or pale flesh, and fig trees from the Barbary Coast. . .

At that same moment, I was sitting in the low grass of another graveyard. As I sat facing the two grey tombs set among the spring weeds, I thought of that other grave, the White Spirit’s resting place . . . And in the midst of all that indestructible nature, my thoughts turned once again to the mystery of the end of people’s lives.

Birds sang their innocent, peaceful song above the untold amount of human dust accumulated there . .

So far, this diary can be summed up as follows: an endless record of the unfathomable sadness there is at the bottom of my life, it consists of increasingly vague allusions, not to people I have met or to facts that I have observed, but to the invariably melancholy effect these facts and people have upon me.

How useless and funereal are these notes of mine, and how despairingly monotonous, without even the slightest hint of lightness or of hope. The only consolation they contain is their increasing Islamic resignation.

At long last I do find that my soul is beginning to show signs of indifference to pedestrian things and people, which means that my strength is on the increase. I find it contemptible and unworthy of myself that for so long I have put so much store by pitiful things and by futile, meaningless encounters. At long last, the realisation that I am utterly incapable of joining any coterie whatsoever, and of feeling at ease with people whose only reason for being together is no mere happenstance but rather the fact that they share their lives.

For the time being at least I know what I want: I would like it if Archivir understood the things I said and wrote to him. I would like him to smile at me as only he can, to hear him tell me in that tone of voice of his, the way he did the day I came so close to baring my soul: “Go Mahmoud, and do great, magnificent deeds . . . Be a hero . . .”

It is true that of all the men I have come across, this one, whose beloved picture I have in front of me, is the most bewitching of all, and that his charm is of the most elevated and noble sort: he speaks to the spirit rather than to the senses, he exalts whatever is sublime and stifles the base and lowly. No one has ever had such a truly beneficial effect upon my soul. No one has ever understood and bolstered those blessed manifestations that, since the White Spirit’s death, have slowly but surely begun to take root in my heart: faith, repentance, the desire for moral perfection, the longing for a reputation based on noble merit, a sensuality that makes a mockery of my suffering and abnegation, a thirst for great and magnificent deeds. I judge and love him for what I have seen of him so far.

Time will tell whether I have been perceptive, whether I have seen him as he really is, or whether I have made another mistake. I will not swear to anything, but nothing has so far given me reason for suspicion, even though I have become terribly, incurably wary. If he is but another dissembler and a sham . . . that will be the end of it once and for all, for if what I hold to be pure turns out to have a hidden blemish, if what looks to me like true beauty masks the usual horror, if the light I take to be a beneficial star showing me the way or a beacon in life’s black maze is but a trick meant to lead wayfarers astray - if so, what can I expect after that? Yet, once again, nothing, absolutely nothing has so far suggested there might be anything to such unthinkable conjecture ... if he is the way I think he is, he may well put me through terrible but magnificent paces . . . he may well turn out to be responsible for sending me off to die, but spare me the worst of fates, namely disillusionment.’

1 December 1900
‘El Oued, at the house of Salah ben Taliba. The beginning of this month of December is curiously reminiscent of the same time in that deadly year of 1897. Same weather, same violent wind lashing against my face. In those days, though, I had the vast, grey Mediterranean for a horizon, breaking furiously against the black rocks with a deafening, cataclysmic sound. I was still so young, and even though recently bereaved, I still had a full measure of joie de vivre.

Since then, however, everything has changed, everything; I have aged and matured thanks to this strange destiny of mine.

Yes, everything has changed indeed. Augustin has found his haven at long last, and it does look as if he is meant never to leave it again. After all those ups and downs and twists of fate have settled down at last, however oddly.

I could never be content with the genteel pleasures of city life in Europe. My idea of heading for the desert to satisfy my need for both adventure and peace required courage, but was inspired. I’ve found domestic happiness, and far from diminishing, it seems to grow stronger every day.

Only politics threatens it . . . But alas! Allah alone knows what is hidden in the sky and the earth! and no one can predict the future.

Barely two weeks ago I went to meet my beloved in the night, as far as the area south of Kouïnine. I rode Souf in a darkness so dense it made my head spin.

Lost my way several times. Had strange impressions down in those plains, where the horizon seems to rise in the shape of dunes, and villages look like hedges made of djerid.

I was thinking about the passage in Aziyade about Istanbul graves lit by dim and solitary lights, when I suddenly spotted the gate to the Teksebet cemetery’s dome.

Every afternoon for several days in a row I have been along the road to Debila, either with Khalifa Taher or by myself. One day, as I was on a solitary outing, I had a strange feeling of familiarity [i], of a return to a past that was dead and buried. Going through the shott I stopped my horse beneath the palm trees. I closed my eyes, and listening to the sound of the wind rustling in the foliage, I was off in a dream. I felt as if I were back in the big woods along the Rhone and in the Parc Sarrazin on a mellow summer evening. The illusion was almost perfect. It was not long before a sudden movement of Souf’s brought me back to reality, though. I opened my eyes . . . an endless succession of grey dunes rolled out before me, and above my head the foliage rustled on the tough djerids.

At the foot of the dune behind our house, next to an enclosure containing three low palm trees, stands a small African-looking mosque built of ochre-coloured plaster that looks like mud. It only has a tiny, fortified dome, a koubba, ovoid in shape. Behind it stands a splendid date palm which, seen from our rooftop, seems to grow out of the koubba itself.

Yesterday, I went up there at maghreb time. In the blaze of the setting sun I could see grey silhouettes drenched in scarlet light move by the post office in the distance. While the little dome seemed to be on fire and the muezzin’s slow and languorous voice recited the evening prayer in the direction of every corner in the sky, men came down the dune on my right-hand side in the splendour of that melancholy hour.

Poignant memories of the end of the White Spirit’s life have come to haunt me these last few days.’

9 February 1901
‘Around five o’clock this afternoon, Abdallah ben Mohammed [her attacker] was put in a prison cell. I saw him arrive and studied him while he was being searched by soldiers . . . I had a profound feeling of pity for this man, the blind instrument of a destiny whose meaning he does not understand. And seeing that grey silhouette, standing with his head bowed, flanked by the two blue uniforms, I had perhaps the strangest and deepest impression I have ever experienced of mystery.

Much as I search my heart for hatred towards this man, I cannot find any. Even less contempt. What I do feel for him is curious: it seems to me that I am close to an abyss, in the presence of a mystery whose last word - or rather whose first word - hasn’t yet been spoken, and which would contain the whole meaning of my life. As long as I do not know the key to this enigma - and shall I ever know it! God alone knows - I shall not know who I am, or what is the reason or explanation of my destiny, one of the most incredible there has been. Yet, it seems to me that I am not meant to disappear without having plumbed the depths of this enigma, from its strange beginnings to the present.

“Madness,” sceptics will say, who like easy solutions and have no patience with mystery. They are wrong, because to see the chasms that life conceals and that three-quarters of the population don’t even suspect exist cannot be treated as folly, in the same way that an artist’s descriptions of sunset or of a stormy night would seem ridiculous to a man born blind.

If the strangeness of my life were the result of snobbery of a pose, yes, then people could say, “She brought those events on herself”, but no! No one has ever lived more from day to day and by chance as I have, and it is very much the events themselves, inexorably linked to one another, which have brought me to where I am and absolutely not me who has created them. Perhaps the strange side of my nature can be summed up in a single trait: the need to keep searching, come what may, for new events, and flee inertia and stagnation.’

8 June 1902
‘Life goes on, monotonous as ever, yet there is the hint of some future direction in the midst of all this dreadful emotional turmoil. I am going through another slow period of gestation, which can be quite painful at times. I am beginning to understand the character of the two people, Barrucand and Mme ben Aben, who have helped us here, both of them good people and very tactful. Barrucand, a dilettante in matters of thought and in particular of sensations, and a moral nihilist, is, however, a man who is very positive, and knows how to live. Mme ben Aben is the second woman I have known after my mother who is good to the core, and enamoured with ideals. Yet in real life, how ignorant the two women are! Even I, as someone intimately convinced that I do not know how to live, even I know more than they do.

Augustin is now gone from my life. As far as I am concerned the brother I used to love so much is dead. That shadow of him in Marseilles who is married to ‘Jenny the work-horse’ does not exist for me, and I very rarely think of him.

Now that the torrid heat of summer has suddenly come again, now that Algiers lies in a glaring daze once more by day, the notion that I am back in Africa is slowly sinking in. Soon I will feel completely at home, especially if my plan to go to Bou Saada comes off. . . Oh, that journey! It will mean a brief return, not to the magnificent Sahara itself, but to a place nearby that has all the palm trees and sunshine one could want!’

31 January 1903 [the last entry]
‘Bou Saada. We arrived here from El Hamel yesterday at three in the afternoon.

Every time I see Lella Zeyneb I feel rejuvenated, happy for no tangible reason and reassured. I saw her twice yesterday in the course of the morning. She was very good and very kind to me, and was happy to see me again.

Visited the tomb of Sidi Muhammad Belkassem, small and simple in that large mosque, and which will be very beautiful by the time it is finished. I then went on to pray on the hillside facing the grave of El Hamel’s pilgrim founders.

I did some galloping along the road, together with Si bel Abbes, under the paternal gaze of Si Ahmed Mokrani. Some women from the brothel were on their way back from El Hamel. Painted and bedecked, they were rather pretty, and came to have a cigarette with us. Did fantasias in their honour all along the way. Laughed a lot. . .

The legend of El Hamel’s pilgrims appeals to my imagination. It must be one of Algeria’s most biblical stories . . .

I began this diary over in that hated land of exile, during one of the blackest and most painfully uncertain periods in my life, a time fraught with suffering of every sort. Today it is coming to an end.

Everything is radically different now, myself included.

For a year now I have been on the blessed soil of Africa, which I never want to leave again. In spite of my poverty, I have still been able to travel and explore unknown regions of my adoptive country. My Ouïha is alive and we are relatively happy materially.

This diary, begun a year and a half ago in horrible Marseilles, comes to an end today, while the weather is grey and transparent, soft and almost dream-like here in Bou Saada, another Southern spot I used to yearn for over there!

I am getting used to this tiny room of mine at the Moorish bath; it is so much like me and the way I live. I will be staying here for a few more days before setting off on my journey to Boghar, through areas I have never seen; living in this poorly whitewashed rectangle, a tiny window giving out on the mountains and the street, two mats on the floor, a line on which to hang my laundry, and the small torn mattress I am sitting on as I write. In one corner lie straw baskets; in the opposite one is the fireplace; my papers lie scattered about . . . And that is all. For me that will do.

There is no more than a vague echo in these pages of all that has happened these last eighteen months; I have filled them at random, whenever I have felt the need to articulate. . . For the uninitiated reader, these pages would hardly make much sense. For myself they are a vestige of my earlier cult of the past. The day may come, perhaps, when I will no longer record the odd thought and impression in order to make them last a while. For the moment, I sometimes find great solace in rereading these words about days gone by.

I shall start another diary. What shall I record there, and where shall I be, the day in the distant future when I close it, the way I am closing this one today?

Allah knows what is hidden and the measure of people’s sincerity!” ’

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A great day!

“A great day! How I wish Aunt Susan had been here and yet she must know. Heaven could not be heaven if such a thing could happen and she not know it.” This is from the diary of Anna Howard Shaw, born 170 years ago today, who was one of the leaders in the US women’s suffrage movement. In the entry, she’s referring to the fact that House of Representatives had finally passed the so-called Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which, once ratified, would prohibit any US citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex - Anthony, a pioneer women’s right activist, had been Shaw’s mentor but had died more than a decade earlier.

Shaw was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK on 14 February 1847, but, when she was four, her family emigrated to the US. They settled, first, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and then, when she was 12, in the frontier territory of northern Michigan. By the age of 15, she had become a teacher and was helping to support her family - her father and brothers were fighting in the civil war, and one of her sisters had died in childbirth. After the war, she lived with a married sister, studied further, and became active in the Methodist church.

By her mid-20s, Shaw had been licensed as a preacher, and was paying for an education at Albion College by preaching and giving lectures on temperance. From 1876 to 1878, she studied at Boston Theological Seminary, the only woman in her class, and then took charge of a church in East Dennis, Massachusetts. However, she found herself in a dispute with the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church which refused her application for ordination, and even tried to revoke her preaching license. By 1880, though, she had been ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church and was able to maintain her ministry in East Dennis. At the same time she continued studying for a medical degree at Boston University.

By the mid-1880s, Shaw had finished her studies but had also given up on pursuing her ministry or medicine as a career, preferring, at first, to focus on the temperance movement, and then on women’s suffrage, lecturing for the Massachusetts Suffrage Association. Later, she was encouraged by the women’s rights campaigner, Susan B. Anthony, to work for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Around the same time, she became involved with Anthony’s niece, Lucy E. Anthony, who would become her secretary and lifetime companion. In 1904, Shaw became president of NAWSA, remaining so for more than a decade.

Increasingly at odds with a membership that saw militancy - following the UK example - as the way forward, she resigned in 1915. During World War I, she was head of the Women’s Committee of the US Council of National Defense, for which she became the first woman to earn the Distinguished Service Medal. For the rest of her life, though, she continued to lobby for the suffrage cause. She died in 1919. Further information is available from Wikipedia,, American National Biography Online, a New York Times obituary, and National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Shaw kept diaries for much of her life, and these are now held at the Harvard University Library part of the Mary Earhart Dillon Collection. They are described in Subseries B as follows: ‘Diaries and appointment books [. . .], contains books of both Shaw and Lucy Elmina Anthony. Most of Shaw’s diary entries (1898-1919) are brief, though some are full pages. Many pages are blank; these have not been [micro]filmed. Diary entries for November 1901 to February 1902 describe Shaw’s travels to various countries in and around the Caribbean, especially Cuba, Jamaica, and Venezuela. A few “diaries” are essentially appointment books, but the processor has not changed Lucy Elmina Anthony’s original designations. While some appointment books (1889-1911) are inscribed “Anna Howard Shaw” and others “Lucy E. Anthony,” Lucy Elmina Anthony’s writing appears in both; the engagements are apparently those of Shaw. The 1900 diary and 1904 appointment book originally received with the collection are currently missing; there were no diaries for 1907 or 1909, and no 1908 appointment book.’

I can find no sign of Shaw’s diaries having been published, but Trisha Franzen quotes from them occasionally in her biography - Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage (University of Illinois Press, 2014). According to Franzen: ‘The diaries and appointment books not only trace Shaw’s travels for thirty years, but they also contain records of the lectures she gave, the people she met, and, in some cases, the money she earned.’ Here are several extracts from the diaries embedded in Franzen’s text.

‘From March 8th until Anthony’s death on March 13th, Shaw kept a vigil. She recorded the days in her diary. “Another day full of loving little visits with precious Aunt Susan. Oh, how can we let her go?” Anthony was intermittently conscious, and when she was, Anna sat at her bedside. “This is more than I deserve and the sorrow of it is so hard to bear. It will inspire my life with a longing for the cause I have never known before.” It was during one of these deathbed exchanges that Anthony demanded from Shaw that she stay at the head of the struggle as long as she was physically able. “She asked me if I could promise to never give it up and I gladly made the promise. . . In the night she pressed my hand and laid hers in blessing on my head kissing me three times. It was my work’s benediction and charge.” [9 March 1906] On March 13th, the end came. Shaw wrote, “Early this morning, in the darkness, the spirit of the greatest woman and most noble patriot flickered like a fading light. Slowly her life ebbed away and dark as the night darker still is the night of our sorrow. What shall we do without her?” [Though Anthony died on 13 March, Shaw wrote this entry beginning on the page printed “March 12, 1906”]’

‘Shaw started her campaigning this year in South Dakota. This state was always hard to face after the first horrendous campaign there with Anthony and Catt in 1890. On September 7th, one of her last days in this state, Shaw rode six hours on a freight train to a town only to arrive and find no one to meet her. The next day she finally reached the end of her usually amazing patience with the rigors and problems of such campaigning. In the semi-shorthand she used in her diary, Shaw wrote, “The meeting here was the limit. I do not think So Dak women have improved one inch since 1890. They don’t know how to get up a meeting anymore than their grandmothers did. . . Farewell Redfield forever with joy.” 
[8 September 1914] Yet the sixty-seven-year-old activist still had fifty-six days on the road until she was home.’

‘Yet January 1, 1915, brought little relief for Shaw. It was in her words, “a day of joy and grief.” Shaw had received the news that her brother James was ill several days earlier. She had gone to New York in case “he wanted her.” James was the oldest of her remaining siblings, the one who had believed in her when she had first chosen her nontraditional path, but also the brother Shaw recalled as always youthful and full of the enthusiasm of a curious child. On New Year’s Day, Shaw first received word that her brother was holding his own. Then by noon came the call that he had passed peacefully at the age of seventy-six. Shaw boarded the train in New York and journeyed to Boston to attend his funeral. Shaw wrote, “It is the break in our last group, soon we will all be gone. I wonder why we ever came. It has not been easy for any of us. Life is such a mystery and yet across the sea men are slaughtering each other like sheep.” [3 January 1915] Several days later Anna was startled to find out that her brother had left a will in which she was coheir with his second wife.’

‘On January 10, 1918, Shaw, now a Washington political insider, had lunch with Speaker of the House Champ Clark and his wife before proceeding with them to the Capitol. It was from her place in the speaker’s box that she listened to the members of the House of Representatives debate the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. On this day in January, seventy years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the House of Representatives voted 274 to 136 for the Susan B. Anthony Amendment [prohibiting any US citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex]. They just made the two-thirds needed to pass the legislation for which so many women - and men - had fought for so many years. This was the first of the final three steps by which women would achieve equal citizenship. “A great day! How I wish Aunt Susan had been here and yet she must know. Heaven could not be heaven if such a thing could happen and she not know it.” 
[10 January 1918] Next would have to come the Senate vote and states’ ratification. ’

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A sort of Christmas present

‘When Freud said laughingly “I really think you look on analysis as a sort of Christmas present,” I could only agree.’ This is from the diary of Lou Andreas-Salomé, a Russian born writer, psychoanalyst and lover, who died 80 years ago today. She had very significant relationships/associations with several of the most important turn-of-the-century figures in Continental Europe - not least Nietzsche, Freud, and Rilke - and wrote about them in her autobiographical works. Diaries from only two short periods have been published, one concerning a journey with Rilke, and the other about her association with Freud.

Louise von Salomé was born in St Petersburg in 1861, the sixth child and only daughter of a former general in the Imperial Russian army. She grew up speaking French and German as well as Russian, and as a teenager found her first mentor, a Dutch-born minister named Hendrik Gillot. He taught her philosophy, theology and world religions. He confirmed her in the German Lutheran church, gave her the nickname of Lou, and nurtured in her a spirit of independence and self-regard. However, when the relationship broke down, her mother went with her to Zurich first, and then Rome. There she met two young philosophers, Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche, both of whom fell in love with her. The three of them and Salomé’s mother travelled through Italy with the idea of finding a place to launch a commune, but they never did.

After a time, Salomé and Rée separated from Nietzsche and moved to Berlin to live together. Nietzsche’s work Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) was written soon after the break-up, and was inspired by 
Salomé: According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography, he wrote, ‘My disciple became my teacher - the god of irony achieved a perfect triumph! . . . She inspired me with the thought of Zarathustra: my greatest poem celebrates our union, and our tragic separation.’ In 1885 she published, under a pseudonym, her first book, an autobiographical novel (Im Kampf um Gott). That same year, the relationship with Rée came to end. Two years later, she married linguistics scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas. She remained married to him until his death his 1930, though the marriage was never consummated, and the two separated in the late 1890s.

Andreas-Salomé continued to publish books, a study of Nietzsche in 1894, another novel in 1895, and collections of stories, often erotic. She had an affair with the Viennese doctor, Friedrich Pineles, and another, famously, with the much younger poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. In 1911, she met Sigmund Freud, with whom she studied and collaborated, writing essays on psychoanalytic theory. In 1913, she began to practice psychoanalysis, and by the early 1920s was widely recognised as an analyst. Partly as a result of an ongoing friendship with Rilke, she wrote several essays on psychology and creativity; she also wrote a play and further studies of authors she had known. She died on 5 February 1937. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Brainpickings, or 3:AM Magazine.

Andreas-Salomé started keeping notebooks when still a girl, and she certainly kept journals at some points in her adult life. However, I can only find published texts in English relating to two periods in her life: in 1900 during a trip to Russia with Rilke, and in 1912-1913 while studying with Freud. The former was published in George C. Schoolfield’s Young Rilke and His Time (Camden House, 2009) - for more on Rilke’s own journals see Art but no artists.

The Freud Journal of Lou Andreas-Salomé, translated and with an introduction by Stanley A. Leavy, was published much earlier, in 1964, by Basic Books. The whole book can be read/downloaded freely from Monoskop (a wiki for collaborative studies of the arts, media and humanities). Here are two extracts.

9 December 1912
‘Adler writes me complaining of Stekel’s “disloyalty” - which I think is funny; it could not have been documented with greater speed. But he also complains of mine, and justly. We met and talked for two hours while racing all over town. But really it is perfectly possible to overcome all the differences between Freud and Adler insofar as Adler’s feeling of inferiority already comprises a primal repression experienced as a basic slight, and also insofar as Freud’s “repressed” is founded on psychized material which had already in the past attained consciousness. If we call this material “sexual” we do so by assuming it to be distinguished from “mental”; the two belong together to emphasize their duality. On the other hand, when Adler emphasizes the “ego protest,” he does so only by contrasting it with the murky totality which in a certain sense is sexuality. The mark of sexuality is that it may be viewed from two sides, from both the mental and the physical; it is here where all mental disorders and neuroses meet, as if at the point of intersection which exemplifies the whole. But only Freud has appropriated the word “compromise” for this, and only he has done justice to the double character of the process, even though he has predominantly emphasized the sexual side (especially in the beginning, when hysteria was under consideration). Only he has uncovered the intermediate range of unconscious mental functions, and only thereby has he succeeded in making room for the positive mechanisms of the process; and only this is important. Beyond merely elucidating illness, and led that far by the pathological process, we find our way into the mystery of the normal unconscious state, in which sexuality and the ego maintain their narcissistic union and the true enigma of mankind begins. For Adler there can be no enigma strictly speaking; he secs the ego confronted only by its own game.’

2 February 1913
‘Spent Sunday afternoon until evening at Freud’s. This time much more personal conversation, during which he told me of his life, and I promised to bring photographs next time. Most personal of all perhaps was his charming account of the “narcissistic cat.” While Freud maintained his office on the ground floor, the cat had climbed in through the open window. He did not care much for cats or dogs or animals generally, and in the beginning the cat aroused mixed feelings in him, especially when it climbed down from the sofa on which it had made itself comfortable and began to inspect in passing the antique objects which he had placed for the time being on the floor. He was afraid that by chasing it away he might cause it to move recklessly in the midst of these precious treasures of his. But when the cat proceeded to make known its archaeological satisfaction by purring and with its lithe grace did not cause the slightest damage, Freud’s heart melted and he ordered milk for it. From then on the cat claimed its rights daily to take a place on the sofa, inspect the antiques, and get its bowl of milk. However, despite Freud’s increasing affection and admiration, the cat paid him not a bit of attention and coldly turned its green eyes with their slanting pupils toward him as toward any other object. When for an instant he wanted more of the cat than its egoistic-narcissistic purring, he had to put his foot down from his comfortable chaise and court its attention with the ingenious enticement of his shoe-toe. Finally, after this unequal relationship had lasted a long time without change, one day he found the cat feverish and gasping on the sofa. And although it was most painstakingly treated with hot fomentations and other remedies, it succumbed to pneumonia, leaving naught of itself behind but a symbolic picture of all the peaceful and playful charm of true egoism.

Freud also talked about why I had become so deeply involved in psychoanalysis. To begin with, it was nothing but the kind of neutral objective interest that one feels when embarking on new researches. Then the opportunity came in all its liveliness and personal urgency to stand in the presence of a new science, again and again to be at a beginning and thus related to the problems of the science in an increasingly intimate way. What settled the matter for me, however, was the third and most personal reason that psychoanalysis bestowed a gift on me personally, its radiant enrichment of my own life that came from slowly groping the way to the roots by which it is embedded in the totality. When Freud said laughingly “I really think you look on analysis as a sort of Christmas present,” I could only agree, since for me it was not a question of resolving conflicts between the depth and the surface. And quite possibly neither joy nor anguish are ever so vividly impressed on us as when they proceed from the unconscious to the level of experience; just as bliss once enjoyed can be horribly transformed into pain in the course of the night, so too it is likely that the memory of hours of crucifixion may be transformed to a life beyond, a resurrection glistening with the stars. In the homeland of our emotional life it is true that heaven and hell - in other respects only fictions - are preserved for us in the unconscious as our eternal reality.’

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Alongside Carl Rogers

‘I forgot in my last entry to say anything about the river life here in South China. It is one of the most interesting things I have seen. [. . .] I have seen five and six people, a whole family, living on a little covered sampan not more than twenty feet long and six feet wide. How they do it is a mystery. [. . .] The bareness of their existence must be beyond comprehension.’ This is a Carl Rogers, who died 30 years ago today, writing in a travel journal long before he became one of the most influential of 20th century psychotherapists. One review says it ‘offers a great opportunity to be alongside him as his philosophies form and develop.’

Rogers was born in 1902 in Chicago into a family of Pentecostal Christians. He was a studious child, by all accounts, and went to study at the University of Wisconsin, where he joined the YMCA. Aged 20, he was selected as one of ten students to go to the World Student Christian Federation conference in Peking. On returning, he switched to studying history. After graduating, in 1924, he moved to New York and began to study at the Union Theological Seminary, while taking psychology lectures at Columbia University That same year he married Helen Elliott and they had two children.

After two years, though, Roger left the seminary to attend teachers college at Columbia obtaining an MA and then, in 1931, a PhD. While completing his doctoral work, he had begun studying children, and he had been appointed director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Rochester, New York. From 1935 to 1940 he lectured at the University of Rochester and wrote his first book, The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child (published 1939). In 1940, he became a professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University, where he wrote Counseling and Psychotherapy (1942). From 1945, Rogers was a professor at the University of Chicago, where he founded a new counselling centre; this allowed him to pioneer research into what goes on in therapy sessions, and led to his 1951 book, Client-Centered Therapy.

In 1956, Rogers became the first President of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, and from 1957 he taught psychology at the University of Wisconsin, and wrote one of his best-known books, On Becoming a Person. With Abraham Maslow, he pioneered a movement called humanistic psychology. In 1963, he became a resident at the new Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI) in La Jolla, California, but then left WBSI, though remaining in La Jolla, to help found the Center for Studies of the Person in 1968. He died on 4 February 1987, a few days after a bad fall. For further biographical information see WikipediaEncyclopædia BritannicaNew York Times obituary, the Norwich Centre.

Online Archive of California provides this assessment of the man: ‘Rogers was a psychologist and psychotherapist who initiated what Abraham Maslow later called the “third force” of psychology, following the behaviorism of Pavlov (and later B. F. Skinner) and Freudian psychoanalysis. This “third force” of humanistic psychology has been so closely identified with Rogers that it is often called Rogerian, a term its namesake objected to. His innovation was to treat clients as if they were essentially healthy, and he felt that growth would occur when a non-judgmental, non-directive (later, “client-centered”) therapist created a warm, accepting environment to nurture the client and allow self-knowledge and self-acceptance to occur. Rogers is considered by many to be the most influential psychologist after Freud.’

Rogers was an occasional diarist, but only one of his diaries has been published - the one kept in 1922 during his six month travels to China and the Far East. Another dozen or so diaries are held in the Carl R. Rogers Collection at The University of California, Santa Barbara, but they all date from the latter years of his life, and remain restricted to public view. The Collection describes the diaries as follows: ‘Fourteen notebooks from the period of 1977-82. Eleven notebooks contain travel notes, primarily concerning workshops. In addition to practical notes and narrative description, these diaries contain observations on the workshops and thoughts on Rogers’s relationships with women. One notebook relates dreams, memories, and personal musings unrelated to travel, and two others are purely records of dreams.’

The China Diary, however, as edited by Jeffrey H. D. Cornelius White, was published in the UK in 2012. It is a direct copy (Rogers wrote the diary on a typewriter he lugged around) with spelling and grammatical mistakes included. Rogers’ daughter Natalie provides a foreword, in which she says of the diary that it is a ‘doorway to [Rogers’] heart, mind and soul in his most formative year’. A review - in Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies Vol 13 No 1 (2104) - says the diary is ‘a really valuable insight into Carl Rogers, and offers a great opportunity to be alongside him as his philosophies form and develop.’ Here are several examples - though there’s not much forming of philosophies apparent!

20 March 1922
‘This has been one of the most beautiful days that we have had since we left home. The trip from Kobe down to the end of the Island has been simply one grand panorama of changing scenes; rice paddies, mountains, hills, fishing villages, great broad rivers, and the beautiful inland sea.

There were many interesting things in the morning; the train was taking us rapidly into warmer country and it looked more and more like summer. For the first time we saw rice growing in the fields, and the men and more often the women out in the water up to their ankles, weeding the rows. The rice is a very slender wiry looking plant when it is small, and a darker green even than the winter wheat.

During the afternoon we rode for a long time within sight of the inland sea. The little thatched huts of the fishing villages were most interesting. They were the same general type as the farmers houses, one storied, with thin wooden walls, and a very neatly thatched roof, but they were not as prosperous looking as the farmhouses. In many places there were ponderous stone or earth dikes to keep the sea from rushing in on the little rice fields. The fishermen in many places have placed weirs, crude little bamboo traps, across the mouth of the rivers that empty into the sea, and catch the fish as they go up the river to spawn.

The scenery along the coast is the best I have seen anywhere since I have started. The mountains and jagged rocks formed a “stern and rockbound coast,” and the rocky islands off the coast were about as fine as anything of that sort I have ever seen. In some places there were rocky reefs where the breakers were breaking and casting great clouds of spray into the air, for the wind was very strong.

The craft were as interesting as the sea itself. There were many of the large, clumsy fisherman’s dories being sculled along by means of the large orr at the stern; there were little native coasting boats, with patched old sails; and now and then we would see a larger freighter steaming along.

We got to Sheminoseki right on time (all Japanese trains seem to be right on time) and got our baggage transferred to the boat. We were all prepared for a rough night, for we knew how strong the wind was, but we were a little surprised to find that the passenger steamer that had set out for Fusan in the morning had had to give up and come back, because it was too rough to cross. However the officers of the boat thought we could make it all right, and they were going to make another try, anyway, so we steamed out of the long harbor. There was surely some gale blowing, but it didnt bother most of us. Austin, Mildred, Jean, and myself even went so far as to have some bread and jam and tea before we went to bed. I slept like a log, though every now and then when I woke up, the boat seemed to be doing its best to stand on its head. It didnt roll so badly, but it pitched and bucked as badly as I have ever wished to try it.’

29 March 1922
‘Last night we had dinner, we being the men of the American delegation, with Jack Childs and five Chinese, leaders in YM work. We had an interesting discussion about the Chinese Student Movement, but the most interesting part of the discussion for me was to see the way in which the Chinese worked. Two of them, Dr. Lew and Mr. Koo, were, I think, the keenest men there. All the Chinese were fully the equals of the Americans. There surely is no doubt in my mind that the Y is following the right policy in turning over the leadership of the work to the Chinese Just as fast as that is possible.

We had a Chinese dinner, with about twenty courses. They eat in even a more informal way than the Japanese, putting the bowl of food in the center of the table, and going after it with their long chopsticks. We had more queer stuff than I ever hope to see again. We had preserved eggs, which had been burled for years in the dirt. They were alright, though I failed to get very enthusiastic over them. We had fish eggs, and fish, and rice and chicken, and bamboo sprouts, and various kinds of sweet dishes, and tea, and finally ended up with a lotus seed pudding. It was some feast. I dont think that I liked it quite as well as the Japanese guenabi dinners that we had. The food all seems to have a rather insipid taste, without much spice of any kind.

The only thing that I didnt like was that it kept us until midnight - at least the feast and discussions did, and as the next day was the opening of the work of the General Committee, I thought that was too bad.’

27 May 1922
‘Here we are still in Hongkong, I in the hotel and Ken in the hospital. He is getting better, but rather slowly, and I expect that we will be in town for at least three days more. He had dysentery on his last trip out here, and this seems to be a mild return of it. It is too bad he had to get sick here. It is one of the most uninteresting towns we have struck, and we also know very few people here, so that it isnt an awfully exciting time I am having. I wish we were up at Canton. Hongkong is about as provincial a city as I have ever seen. In their newspapers nothing but Hongkong news is printed. I dont suppose there has been a total of one column of U.S. news in the five days we have been here. Even the North China news is very scanty. They had chucked off in one inside column what may very possibly prove to be the most important bit of news in China since the Revolution, namely, that Wu Pei Fu, being now of course the master at Peking, is planning to call together the Old Parliament of 1913, is trying to reconcile Sun Yat Sen, and is suggesting Li Yuan Hung for president as a man who can reconcile both parties. If he can put those things thru, it will reunite China under one govt, and perhaps do away with her civil war for some time. Incidentally Dr. C.T. Wang told Ken when we were in Peking that that was what he thought Wu Pei Fu would do if he beat Chang Tso Lin. I expect that C.T. had quite a little to do with formulating that policy, too. You see, the South will not consider uniting with the North unless they recognize the Parliament which was illegally dismissed several years ago, and which fled to Canton to set up the southern govt as the only legally constituted govt in China. So it may be that this proposition of Wu Pei Fu’s, including as it does the recognition of the Old Parliament and the suggestion of a strong moderate like Li Yuan Hung, may really be very Important, I sure hope It works out.

No shipping has been going out of this port until yesterday on account of a typhoon which has been moving northwest from Manila, and also partly on account of the launchmens strike. I guess it is becoming normal again, tho. The Empire State left yesterday, and the Pinetree State will be leaving Wed, so you ought to get lots of mall.

I forgot in my last entry to say anything about the river life here in South China. It is one of the most interesting things I have seen. Thousands of people dont know what it means to spend 24 hours on land. They form a kind of separate caste from the land dwellers, and they live on their boats all the time. It is an inexpensive life, and they earn a little money by ferrying people across the river, and doing a little freight work. I have seen five and six people, a whole family, living on a little covered sampan not more than twenty feet long and six feet wide. How they do it is a mystery. They have a little place in the back for a fire to cook their food, and they sleep on the bare boards, with a wooden block to put under their necks for a pillow. They often have a brood of little chicks in a tiny yard on the boat, and on the larger boats they often have a dog. They dont have to worry about space to keep their property. Their wardrobe consists of the clothes on their back, their cupboard is a place big enough to hold a bowl apiece and an iron bowl for cooking, their washtub, and bath, and dishwashing sink, and toilet, are all found in one place - the river - and that is about all there is to their lives. The bareness of their existence must be beyond comprehension.’

8 June 1922
‘Well, our wind didnt develop into a typhoon after all, tho it was fairly rough. It was a great sight to watch the little fishing junks trying to get to shore from way out five or ten miles where they had been fishing. They would sink almost out of sight in the trough of the waves, and then be lifted way up on the crest, with the dripping prow just balanced in empty space, and then they would plunge nose down into the next wave, raising a cloud of spray that would hide the whole boat for a second or two. I sure admire the nerve of their skippers.

This morning we arrived at Amoy. We wound around several fine islands into the harbor of Amoy, which is itself located on an island. As the ship was only going to stop three hours, we had very little time to see things. We went off onto Kulangsu, the island where most foreigners live, and saw some of the mission schools, and had a long talk with Mr. Elliott, the Y secretary there, but we didnt get over to the city itself, partly because our time was so short, and partly because the plague was a little worse there than in most of the cities we have been in, and Ken was a little scared to risk it, tho there was no real danger, I think. We pulled out of the harbor shortly after noon, and got under way for Foochow.’