Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Orwell's DOMESTIC diaries

The Orwell Prize website has cleared up the mystery it created when teasing readers with a story about an Orwell diary blog. According to tidbits given to national newspapers, it intended to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the start of Orwell’s diaries. But Orwell certainly wrote a diary over 72 years ago, The Road to Wigan Pier Diary, in 1936 - see yesterday’s blog. In fact, it turns out, the website is celebrating the 70th anniversary of what it calls Orwell’s ‘domestic diaries’.

Here is the site’s announcement: ‘ ‘When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page’, wrote George Orwell, in his 1939 essay on Charles Dickens. From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.’

In The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, the authors note that Orwell wrote two diaries covering the periods 28 May 1940 to 28 August 1941 and 14 March 1942 to 15 November 1942. The Orwell Prize website is clearly including these two in its blog, but, given the 9 August 1938 start to these ‘domestic diaries’, there must be others, dating from between The Road to Wigan Pier Diary and the so-called war-time diaries.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When DID Orwell start a diary?

From tomorrow (Wednesday 30 July), the diaries of George Orwell, the famous British author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, will begin to appear online and be freely available. The Orwell Prize website, which is taking this initiative, says it is to mark the 70th anniversary of the day Orwell began writing a diary in 1938. Orwell’s diaries have never been published in collected form, nevertheless the Orwell Prize website should know better - Orwell was certainly keeping a diary already in 1936, as evidenced by his Road to Wigan Pier Diary.

The Orwell Prize calls itself ‘the pre-eminent British prize for political writing’ and awards annual prizes for a book and for journalism. This year the book prize was won by Raja Shehadeh for Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape; and the journalism prize was awarded to Johann Hari of The Independent.

The Orwell Prize website is run in conjunction with the Orwell Trust, Political Quarterly and Media Standards Trust. It gives much information about the Prize, as well about Orwell himself. It also provides a few photographs of his publications and manuscripts (including diaries). The site has now announced that tomorrow, on Wednesday 30 July, it will officially launch ‘an exciting new addition, which will be a must-read for all lovers of Orwell and a valuable historical resource’. As of today, Tuesday, it gives no further information other than to provide links to two news organisations which have published teasers about the forthcoming ‘addition’.

The Guardian’s Browser blog reveals that the Orwell Prize will begin publishing Orwell’s diaries as a daily blog, 70 years after he began writing them. This is the first time the diaries, it says, which cover Orwell’s thoughts on everything from communism to cookery, will be published in full. But, the Browser asks, ‘does a blog by a dead person count as a real blog?’ Not sure I care about the answer to that one.

The Times teaser is more confusing: ‘The website for the Orwell Prize . . . is to mark the 70th anniversary of the release of George Orwell’s diaries by running them as a blog. It begins with Orwell’s first entry in 1938. ’ Personally, I don’t understand the reference to an anniversary ‘of the release of’ the diaries; and, surely, the ‘release’ and ‘the first entry’ cannot have been on the same day! The Times makes up for the confusion by having found a cute short extract from Orwell’s 29 August 1939 entry: ‘It appears from reliable private information that Sir O. Mosley is a masochist of the extreme type in his sexual life.’

I am not clear as to when Orwell started writing a diary, nor when he finished. There appear to have been no published editions exclusively devoted to his diaries. However, what are called his two war-time diaries were published in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (in the second of four volumes). These are discussed at some length by L J Hurst who also looks at the links to the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, within which the main character Winston also keeps a diary. See also the Orwell Today website for more on Winston’s diary

Hurst begins his essay as follows: ‘George Orwell’s war-time diaries were a book that failed. Their failure provides an interesting study of how Orwell thought and wrote because the Second World War provided him with much of the material for his last two novels, and one might have expected his diaries to record the development of his ideas, but those developments are more conspicuous by their absence.’

However, also within The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, in volume one, is The Road to Wigan Pier Diary. A one sentence introduction in the book, says it was a typescript found among Orwell’s paper, and, along with other notes, formed the basis of The Road to Wigan Pier, a sociological analysis of pre-war living conditions in the industrial north of England. This was written in the first three months of 1936, more than two years before 30 July 1938, the date being celebrated by the Orwell Prize website.

Some have argued, it seems (Bernard Crick in George Orwell: A Life), that the diary was not a real day-to-day diary but something that was ‘worked up afterwards’, and perhaps this is why the Orwell Prize website is ignoring it. However, Robert Pearce, writing in 1997 for The Journal of the Historical Association, argued cogently, with many examples, that Orwell treated his journal writing as a personal record not intended for publication, and therefore WAS a real diary. The full text of Pearce’s essay, entitled Revisiting Orwell’s Wing Pier, is available online for a price.

Here is a sample of Orwell’s diary from 13 February 1936: 'Housing conditions in Wigan terrible. Mrs H tells me that at her brother’s house (he is only 25, so I think he must be her half-brother, but he has already a child of 8), 11 people, five of them adults, belonging to 3 different families, live in 4 rooms, ‘2 up 2 down’. All the miners I meet have either had serious accidents themselves or have friends or relatives who have. Mrs H’s cousin had his back broken by a fall of rock - ‘And he lingered seven year afore he dies and it were a-punishing of him all the while’ - and her brother-in-law fell 1200 feet down the shaft of a new pit. Apparently he bounced from side to side, so was presumably dead before he got to the bottom. Mrs H adds: ‘They wouldn’t never have collected t’pieces only he were wearing a new suit of oilskins.’

And here’s another sample, from 12 June 1942, when he was working at the BBC: ‘The only time when one hears people singing in the BBC is in the early morning, between 6 and 8. That is the time when the charwomen are at work. A huge army of them arrives all at the same time. They sit in the reception hall waiting for their brooms to be issued and making as much noise as a parrot house, and then they have wonderful choruses, all singing together as they sweep the passages. The place has a quite different atmosphere at this time from what it has later in the day.’

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gladstone’s library and diaries

An auction of William Gladstone’s books at the weekend raised far more for the sellers than expected, partly because a single lot of original Gladstone family diaries sold for over ten times the auctioneer’s estimate. Gladstone, himself, of course was a prolific diarist, keeping near daily entries for 70 years. Unfortunately, they are not as interesting or as colourful as the man himself.

Last Saturday (26 July), Taylors Auctions of Montrose in Scotland, auctioned a large collection of books from the library of Fasque House, the former Gladstone home in Aberdeenshire. The library comprised many books collected by William Gladstone, four times a Liberal prime minister in the 19th century. According to Scotland on Sunday, the auctioneer, Jonathan Taylor, estimated the sales takings as in excess of £65,000, ‘a bit more than we were hoping for’.

Lot 204 was described as ‘a large collection of handwritten diaries and other papers by the Gladstone family in tin deed box, wooden box and cabin trunk and various boxes’, and was estimated at £100-£200. According to the Press Association, also quoting Taylor, some of the handwritten diaries were by Gladstone’s brother, Thomas, and were in a distressed condition having been kept in an attic. The lot sold to an unnamed Edinburgh professor for £3,400. A second auction, including another 2,000 books from the library at Fasque, is likely to take place in October.

Apparently, according to Taylor interviewed by The Times before the auction, William Gladstone was once told by his father, ‘If you want a library at Fasque, go and get it started.’ And some of the earliest books at Fasque were those bought by William while still a student at Oxford.

Gladstone, himself, began writing a diary while still a teenager at Eton, and he kept on doing so for 70 years, until the last years of his life. An extraordinary man in many ways, he won his first term as Prime Minister in 1868, and held the position until 1974, and then served three more times as Prime Minister, the last time being 25 years after the first, in the 1890s. He had a particular interest in prostitutes. He used to wonder the streets at night trying to persuade them to start a new life; moreover, he and his wife, Catherine Glynne, started a home to rescue prostitutes.

All the more disappointing then to find the man’s extensive diaries rather bald and unemotional. Here is an online extract, thanks to Portsmouth University’s geography department, from 3 Dec 1879: ‘Wrote to Miss Rose - Sir J. Watson - Eytinge (Tel.) Worked hard on my Glasgow Address: perhaps 6 hours or more. Walk after luncheon: fine bright frost all this time. Mr Campbell sang incomparable comic songs in evg. Conversation with Pr. Tulloch - & others.’

Arthur Ponsonby, in his book, English Diaries, says this about Gladstone’s diaries: ‘It is all strenuous, lofty and profound to an extreme degree, ‘with few reflections on life’. And he gives an example of how, even at a young age, his diary pattern was already set fast. Gladstone delivered a speech at the Oxford University Union in 1831 which a contemporary thought was so powerful that he wrote ‘we all of us felt that an epoch in our lives had occurred’. But all Gladstone wrote in his diary was: ‘Cogitations on reform etc. Difficult to select for a speech, not to gather it. Spoke at the adjourned debate for three quarters of an hour immediately after Gaskell who was preceded by Lincoln. Row afterwards and adjournment. Tea with Wordsworth.’

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Princess Mary’s marathon

According to a detail in her diary, Princess Mary, wife of the Prince of Wales, soon to be King George V, watched the start of the Olympics marathon one hundred years ago today and then went for a drive to Virginia Waters. That marathon has become famous for various reasons. Not only did Princess Mary herself affect the distance of the marathon (which subsequently became the standard), but the Italian winner was disqualified for being helped over the line.

The 1908 Olympics had been scheduled to take place in Rome. However, the eruption of Vesuvius in 1906 led the Italian government to divert funds for the reconstruction of Naples. London was chosen in Rome’s place, and the games were held at White City. They opened on 13 July that year, and on 24 July, exactly 100 years ago, the famous marathon race was staged.

A Wikipedia article explains how the marathon distance was established: ‘The original distance of 25 miles was changed to 26.22 miles so the marathon could start at Windsor Castle and then changed again at the request of Princess Mary so the start would be beneath the windows of the Royal Nursery.’ The marathon distance was altered again in 1912 and 1920, but from 1924 on reverted to the 1908 distance of 26.22 miles.

Born Victoria Mary of Teck in 1867, Mary was chosen to marry Albert Victor, eldest son of Edward (himself Queen Victoria’s eldest son), and in direct line for the throne. According to Time Magazine’s review of Queen Mary (a biography written by James Pope-Hennessy), she was approved of by Victoria because of her ‘lineage, decorum and diligence (constant letter writing and diary keeping)’. But Albert died, so she married the second son, George, Duke of York, in 1893. In 1901, Edward succeeded to the throne, and later the same year George was created Prince of Wales, and Mary became Princess of Wales. On King Edward VII’s death, in 1910, they became King George V and Queen Mary.

I cannot find any evidence on the internet that Mary’s diaries have ever been published, but I am sure they were used by James Pope-Hennessy in his biography. However, the ‘Official Website of the British Monarchy’ carries a photo of one page of the diary - from 24 July 1908. It reads as follows: ‘Lovely day. Sat out. At 2 we went to see the start for the Marathon Race from the East Terrace - there were 56 [sic] runners. Later we all drove to Virginia Water for tea and went on the lake. Mr Waddington arrived. We heard first that an Italian had won but he was disqualified owing to his having been helped in - an American won.’

The Italian was Dorando Pietri, and the American Johnny Hayes, but, according to an excellent Los Angeles Times article on the race, there were only 55 runners.

‘Tens of thousands of spectators lined London’s roads to cheer on the 55 runners (from 16 nations) sweltering in the afternoon heat,’ the article states. ‘Longboat held the lead at the 17-mile mark, when he suddenly dropped out. Unconfirmed reports indicated that he had ingested strychnine, the performance-enhancer of choice during this era. Wearing red pantaloons that reached his knees and a white kerchief to shield his dust-covered hair, Pietri took control at the 25-mile mark. But he had reached the edge of human endurance; he collapsed repeatedly, only to be aided to his feet. ‘He was helped by the officials,’ says Olympic historian Bill Mallon, ‘in clear violation of the rules.’ A groundbreaking photograph captured Pietri‘s desperate last effort at the finish, supported by two attendants (one of whom was falsely identified as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes). Medical staff carried away Pietri as the Italian flag was hoisted. Meanwhile, Hayes entered the stadium and completed his lap. The U.S. team lodged a protest. Pietri was disqualified and Hayes awarded the gold medal.’

In London today, apparently according to the Inside the Games website, the race is being re-enacted by the Flora London Marathon organisation, and the Royal Mail and Royal Mint are releasing a specially-designed commemorative stamp and coin cover respectively.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yes, Minister, thanks to Hunt

Lord Hunt of Tanworth has just died. Lord who? Tam Dalyell starts his obituary of Lord Hunt for The Independent by remarking that, alas, people often lodge in the public mind and are remembered by posterity on account of comparatively minor episodes in the course of their otherwise long and distinguished lives in public service. For Lord Hunt, a Cabinet Secretary, the episode concerned his attempt to stop the publication of Richard Crossman’s diaries. If he had been more successful (which might have been the case if he'd been less rigid a negotiator), there might have been no Yes, Minister.

John Hunt was born in 1919, and after serving in the Royal Navy joined the civil service in 1946. In 1973, he was appointed Cabinet Secretary by Edward Heath, but then served under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan before retiring in 1979. According to The Daily Telegraph obituary he was ‘percipient, considerate and businesslike’ and his ‘self-confidence and zest for a workload were a by-word among his Civil Service colleagues’. After retiring, he worked for various businesses, including Prudential Corporation and Banque National de Paris, and headed various official committees, such as one looking into cable television and another on European Union issues. He was made a life peer in 1980. He died last week, on 17 July.

Richard Crossman, who died over 20 years ago in 1974, was a prominent left-wing intellectual, an MP for nearly 30 years, and a writer/editor for the New Statesman. From 1964 until 1970, he served in Harold Wilson’s cabinet, and his diaries of that time were posthumously published. Today, those diaries are much celebrated for being the first to reveal the inner workings of government, and, slightly less intellectually, for being a key source of one of the BBC’s most-loved comedy series - Yes, Minister.

But if Hunt had had his way there would have been no Yes, Minister. In 1974, after the election of a Labour government under Harold Wilson, Crossman’s diaries were sent to No 10 and passed to Hunt for clearance. But Hunt objected to their publication because of detailed references to cabinet meetings. Nevertheless, in January 1975 the first extracts of the book were published in The Sunday Times without Hunt’s consent. The Attorney General immediately sought an injunction to prevent publication of the book or extracts from it on the grounds that cabinet proceedings were confidential.

An informative House of Commons report in 2006 on the publication of political memoirs looks back at the Crossman affair. It recalls that the court did in fact uphold the principle that there was an obligation of confidentiality imposed on a cabinet minister in the public interest of collective responsibility. However, it also found that there was a time limit on this obligation. As ten years had passed between the events described and publication of the Crossman diaries, it was judged that the book would not undermine cabinet confidentiality. The report also notes, however, that no injunction was sought against the latter volumes of the text, even though they were published less than ten years after the events they described.

Interestingly, Dalyell in his obituary, remembers Graham Greene, then managing director of Jonathan Cape, publishers of the diaries, telling him that if John Hunt had not been so rigid he would have been prepared to make cuts in the diaries. Hunt was so difficult, so uncompromising, the obituary says, that Jonathan Cape decided to publish without alteration. Dalyell also writes about how, years later Hunt had told him that he himself had been ‘agog to read Crossman’s diaries’.

Here are a couple of snippets from Crossman’s diaries. This one is from his introduction (as reproduced in the House of Common’s report): ‘Memory is a terrible improver - even with a diary to check the tendency. And it is this which makes a politician’s autobiography (even when he claims his rights and uses official Cabinet papers) so wildly unreliable . . . If I could publish a diary of my years as a minister without any editorial improvements, I would have done something towards lightening up the secret places of British politics and enabling any intelligent elector to have a picture of what went on behind the scenes between 1964 and 1970.’

And thanks to the BBC for this one which provides the genesis of a now-famous catch phrase: ‘In a way it is just the same as I had expected and predicted. The room in which I sit is the same in which I saw Nye Bevan for almost the first time when he was Minister of Health and already I realize the tremendous effort it requires not to be taken over by the Civil Service. My Minister's room is like a padded cell, and in certain ways I am like a person who is suddenly certified a lunatic and put safely into this great, vast room, cut off from real life and surrounded by male and female trained nurses and attendants. When I am in a good mood they occasionally allow an ordinary human being to come and visit me; but they make sure that I behave right, and that the other person behaves right; and they know how to handle me. Of course, they don't behave quite like nurses because the Civil Service is profoundly deferential, ‘Yes, Minister! If you wish it, Minister!’ ’

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Diary twist in Ron Arad story

Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force navigator, was shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and captured by Amal, a Shia militia. For more than 20 years, Israel has been trying to rescue him, or to find out what happened to his body, and his story has gripped a generation of Israelis. Now, in one more excruciating twist, sections of a diary he wrote in 1987 have been returned to his family as part of a wider Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap deal.

Wikipedia provides an excellent resumé of the uncomfortable Arad story. After being captured by Amal, he was bartered in negotiations for the release of Shia and Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Letters Arad had written and photos of him were used to prove he was alive, but, in 1988, the talks broke down. Since then, the Israelis have never stopped trying to find him. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they captured and interrogated first Abdul-Karim Obeid, a member of Hezbollah, and then Mustafa Dirani, Amal’s security chief. Dirani indicated that Arad had been handed over, in some way, to the Iranians. In 2003, Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, admitted that an intelligence agent had been killed during an operation to find Arad.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz (also recently the source of this blog’s Kafkaesque diary story) gives a detailed explanation of the various theories about Arad’s fate, and the ongoing debate within Israeli about whether to accept Arad is dead. Other Haaretz articles have followed the brokering of a new deal (by German negotiators over two years) which culminated yesterday in the exchange of five live Lebanese prisoners, including a notorious murderer, and the remains of many others, for the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers. The BBC called it a day of great emotion on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border - of triumph and defiance in Lebanon, but of grief and anger in Israel.

Interestingly, though, it seems that a comprehensive report from Hezbollah on Arad paved the way for the prisoner/remains swap - even though the report was considered inadequate. According to Al Jazeera (which, like Haaretz, quotes Israel’s Channel 10), the Hezbollah report is simply an updated version of a similar one in 2004. It details further efforts to find Arad, but the conclusion remains the same: he went missing on the night of 4 May 1988.

However, the new Hezbollah report does also include previously unseen photographs of Arad, from 1987, and letters, as well as sections from his diary, and these seem to have been an important element in making the prisoner deal work. In the last couple of years, one or two photographs and bits of video footage of Arad, dating from the 1980s, have turned up, but this appears to be the first time diary fragments have been returned. According to Haaretz, Israeli officials said the diary and the pictures had only sentimental value and did not shed light on Arad’s fate. Nevertheless, it is thought there might be more of the diary still in Lebanon’s possession.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Temptations and weaknesses

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Henry Edward Manning, one of the most influential Roman Catholic figures in England during the second half of the 19th century. Manning was also a diarist, and, after his death, his diaries - which are full of unguarded introspection - caused some controversy among biographers.

Manning was born on 15 July 1808 at Totteridge, Hertfordshire. His father was a Tory MP, and a governor of the Bank of England. After studying at Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford (which now holds his archives), Manning went on to be ordained in 1832. He was appointed to the curacy and then to the living at Lavington-with-Graffham in Sussex, and, in 1840, to the archdeaconry at Chichester. He married in 1833, but his wife died four years later. In 1842, Manning, who had become a member of the Oxford Movement, published The Unity of the Church, and, in 1844, Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford, espousing his high church beliefs.

Subsequently, in 1851, after much soul-searching, he switched to the Roman Catholic Church, was re-ordained, and went to study in Rome, where he met the pope. Back in England, he rose rapidly in the church to become Archbishop of Westminster, in 1865. Ten years later, he was elevated to cardinal. He is remembered today for his work in founding orphanages and schools, and for his successful intervention in the 1889 London dock strike.

According to Arthur Ponsonby, author of English Diaries, the publication of a large number of extracts from Manning’s diaries in a 1896 biography written by E S Purcell, caused ‘some controversy on the ethics of biography’. Purcell stated that Manning had given him the diaries, but Shane Leslie, in his later biography (Henry Edward Manning - His Life and Labours), reveals that, in fact, Manning never did entrust the diaries to Purcell, and that Purcell was also guilty of many inaccuracies.

A 1921 review of Leslie’s book, by The New York Times (which has usefully digitised many of its archives), includes this introspective quotation from Manning’s diaries (probably dating from the 1840s):

‘- Self-complacency, high aims and professions in the spiritual life. (Give me to see myself).
- Sins of the tongue, as in London that morning, and also in repeating a Spanish blasphemy. (Set a bridle on my tongue.)
- Ostentation of learning and mean concealment of ignorance (Show me Thy light and in it my darkness.)
- Envy, especially in spiritual offices and state.
- Vainglory and self-flattery. Picturing and talking to myself. (Real love of Christ’s name.)
- Censuring others with an aim. (Charity and simplicity.)
- Anger, especially with J L Anderdon. (Patience.)
- To this I must add fearful want of love toward God; fearful want of repentance; fearful absence of mind in prayer. Dead, sluggish, obstinate, unwillingness to pray. It is a feeling like nightmare when one cannot move.’

Ponsonby has a high opinion of Manning as a diarist. We find, Ponsonby says, ‘in Manning a genuine diarist who confided at the very moment to the private pages of his journal his passing thoughts and impressions and his changing views and who did not hesitate to expose himself to charges of inconsistency and to accuse himself of faults and failings which could not be to his credit, all with an apparent disregard for the verdict of prosperity. Here was a man seemingly bent on the attainment of power and position, who appeared to lay great store on public regard and fame. He might have written himself up in his diary, or at any rate he might have destroyed any papers that would expose him in an unfavourable light. He did not do either . . .’

Ponsonby gives a few extracts from Manning’s diaries, including some that foretell his conversion: ‘The Church of England after 300 years has failed 1) in the unity of doctrine 2) in the enforcement of discipline 3) in the training of the higher life’; and, ‘I am conscious that I am further from the Church of England and nearer Rome than ever I was’. There is, though, very little about his actual conversion, or - surprisingly - his interviews with the pope.

Here’s another extract about diary writing itself, from 1851: ‘Since I lost my journals I have no heart to begin again. Also keeping a journal 1) led to self contemplation and tenderness 2) kept alive the susceptibilities of human sorrow. Yet it was of use to me in remembering and comparing sessions and in recording marked events.’

Ponsonby concludes that, in Manning’s diaries, ‘the dignified, stern, ascetic almost saintly Cardinal is shown to be an ordinary human being, struggling sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully with the temptations and weaknesses which all flesh is heir to.’

Abduction diaries

The Palestinian campaigner, Jaweed Al Ghussein, has just died; it would have been his 78th birthday this Friday. Persecuted by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for many years because of attempts to draw attention to corruption in Yassar Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), he was also abducted twice. His daughter, Mona Bauwens, a journalist in London, runs a website about her father which, in particular, aims to publicise the injustice suffered by him and to extract an apology from the PA. Right now though, she says, she’s working on what she calls the Abduction Diaries.

Ghussein was born in Gaza in 1930 to a wealthy family. With the creation of Israel in 1948, he was sent to the American University in Cairo, where he first met Arafat. In 1964, he moved to London with his famil to pursued his (successful) business career. Nevertheless, he held on to his Palestinian heritage, and, in particular, helped finance the education of young Palestinians. In 1984, he was appointed chairman of the Palestinian National Fund, the PLO’s financial arm. Subsequently, though, he began to suspect Arafat of serious financial corruption. Millions of pounds given by Saddam Hussein, for example, were neither acknowledged or audited, according to Sandra Harris’s obituary of Ghussein in The Guardian. And then, when Ghussein criticised Arafat’s backing of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, their relationship broke down.

Ghussein persevered under Arafat until May 1996, but then resigned very publicly on Abu Dhabi TV calling for ‘accountability and transparency’. Thereafter, according to the Ghussein website, he was ‘a marked man’. A vicious media campaign orchestrated by the PA followed, as well as two abductions, one from Abu Dhabi, and the other from a hospital in Cairo. Eventually, international pressure, not least from Amnesty International, secured his release, and allowed him to return to London. However, the period of persecution permanently damaged his health and left the family stripped of its wealth. He died on 1 July, leaving his wife Khalida, a son Tawfiq, and a daughter Mona (Bauwens).

Since his death, several obituaries and many messages of condolences have been added to the Ghussein website, as have copies of campaign letters still being sent out. One from 7 July, for example, to the office of President Mahmoud Abbas starts as follows: ‘Mr Jaweed Al Ghussein passed away July 1. It is a sad indictment on the Palestinian cause, which is a noble one that the Palestinian Authority has failed to honour him and acknowledge the tremendous contribution he has made to the Palestinian people. Mr Al-Ghussein may have passed away but his legacy remains and we will continue to request from the leadership and the Palestinian Authority for ‘RAD ITBAR’ and a public acknowledgment to gross injustice he underwent. I once again remind you of UN Secretary General Koffi Annan said ‘those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it.’

Also on the website is a page about Mona. It says she is based in London and writes regularly for magazines and journals in the UK and the Middle East. And then it says this: ‘Right now I am working on the Abduction Diaries, which recounts my detailed experiences at the time of my father’s abductions. For years I have found it difficult to even open them let alone write about them as they reminded me of the dark period of continual threats from Abu Dhabi and the PA. But ultimately what has emerged in spite of the ordeal is all the many instances of kindness and help I was shown, sometimes by total strangers or people who knew of my father . . . I hope readers will find the diaries both heart-warming as well as informative.’

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grizzlies and a smoking monkey

Animal Planet, a US TV company, announced last week that it is to broadcast a new eight-part series called The Grizzly Man Diaries. The programmes will document the last ten years in the life of Timothy Treadwell, a rather extraordinary man who lived and died with grizzly bears. Treadwell has already been the subject of a film, made by the German director, Werner Herzog, who is, in fact, a bit of a collector of extraordinary subjects. There was Fitzcarraldo, who had a steamship pulled over a mountain in Peru (Herzog’s diaries on his film about this man are due to be published in English soon), and then there was my own uncle, Mike Goldsmith, the subject of Echoes From a Somber Empire.

Treadwell, born in 1957, spent much of the 1980s involved with drugs, but then found bears. He turned himself into amateur naturalist and documentary film maker, and for 13 seasons lived among the grizzly bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska. In 2003, towards the end of the 13th season, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and eaten by one or possibly two of the bears. A film about Treadwell featuring his own video footage and photos, called Grizzly Man, made by Herzog was released in 2005. In it, Herzog suggests that Treadwell was a disturbed individual with a deathwish. The film includes a scene in which Herzog himself is listening, with earphones, to an audio tape that was recording while Treadwell and Huguenard were being killed.

Animal Planet, a US satellite and cable television channel, part of Discovery Communications, says it is dedicated to programmes that highlight the relationship between humans and animals. It launched in 1996, but earlier this year ‘relaunched’ itself under a new image that supposedly sheds a 'soft and furry side' for 'programming and an image with more bite’. The more bite, presumably, includes this new eight part series about Treadwell - The Grizzly Man Diaries. The programmes are based on Treadwell’s diaries, as well as archived video footage and still photographs, and are being made by the same producers as Grizzly Man. According to PR Newswire, Marjorie Kaplan, Animal Planet president and general manager, says the series ‘really digs deep into the glory that Timothy saw in these magnificent creatures’.

Herzog, himself, is rather partial to disturbed individuals. At the height of his fame in the early 1980s, he made Fitzcarraldo, a film based on the real-life Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald. In the film, Fitzcarraldo is portrayed as a bit mad, not least for transporting a steamship by land over a big hill. The actor playing the lead, another German, Klaus Kinski, was considered a major source of tension, as he fought with Herzog and other members of the crew and upset the native extras. In a documentary, My Best Fiend, Herzog says that one of the native chiefs offered to murder Kinski for him, but that he declined because he needed Kinski to complete filming.

In 2004, Herzog published Eroberung des Nutzlosen (Conquest of the Useless). According to the ‘only authentic and official website of Werner Herzog’, this is the ‘mysterious and already legendary diary, written before, during and after the production of Fitcarraldo.’ An Italian version already exists, and English version is in preparation apparently.

I can’t leave Herzog and his disturbed individuals and extraordinary subjects without mentioning another of his films, made about my uncle, Mike Goldsmith. Mike was an Associated Press journalist based in Paris and Morocco, but Africa was his beat. In 1977, he went to Central Africa Republic to report on the elaborate preparations being made by Jean-Bédel Bokassa for his own coronation. While there, Mike was arrested and charged with spying, and Bokassa personally beat him. After an intervention by the French government, I believe, partly based on the fact that Mike’s mother (my grandmother), Dolly, was dying in London, Mike was released, and arrived in time to see her before she passed away. I remember, though, that he was black and blue. Much later, in 1990, Herzog released Echoes From a Somber Empire in which Mike is filmed revisiting Central African Republic, and interviewing Bokassa’s wives, children and lawyers. A classic last scene shows a monkey smoking.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brod’s diaries in Kafkaesque story

Kafka - author of The Trial and The Castle - is always good for a story, and so much the better if it’s a Kafkaesque one. The Guardian has a full page Kafka news story in its international section today (9 July), but it’s sourced, I’m sure, from a story in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. While The Guardian uses a completely spurious lead, Haaretz pegs its story to the 125th anniversary of Kafka’s birth on 3 July. Of interest to this blog, though, is Brod, Max Brod who is credited with first promoting Kafka’s work. Like Kafka, Brod was also a diarist, but unlike Kafka’s diaries, Brod’s diaries are missing.

Here is the first paragraph of this morning’s Kafka story in The Guardian: ‘Scholars of the 20th-century writer Franz Kafka were in a state of suspense last night at the news that the remains of his estate, which have been hoarded in a Tel Aviv flat for decades, may soon be revealed.’ Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the article to explain the use of the phrase ‘in a state of suspense last night’.

Here is the first paragraph of the more sober story published by Haaretz a day earlier: ‘On a quiet street in the heart of Tel Aviv, not far from Ben-Gurion Boulevard, stands an old apartment building with a well-tended garden in front. The exterior does not reveal the exciting story that has been hidden for decades inside the building, to which the eyes of scholars and lovers of literature are now turned: Many researchers believe that in a ground-floor apartment there can be found the remnants of the estate of the great 20th-century writer Franz Kafka, whose 125th birthday was celebrated on July 3.’

Kafka died in 1924, leaving his estate and papers in the hands of his friend Max Brod, another Jewish writer, who then did much to promote Kafka’s writing. It is well known that Kafka despite being asked by Brod to destroy his unpublished works, did not do so. Brod defended his action by saying he had told Kafka of his intentions not to comply, and that, therefore, if Kafka had truly wanted the works burned, he would have left them to a different executor.

With Hitler’s advances, Brod moved to Israel in 1939, taking Kafka’s papers with him. Many of these were eventually transferred to archives, but Brod kept hold of ‘a great deal of varied material’. Brod died in 1968, leaving his estate, including whatever Kafka papers he still held, to his secretary, Ilse Esther Hoffe. And it is Hoffe who lived in the Tel Aviv flat, ‘the old apartment building with a well-tended garden', but who died last year, aged 101. According to Haaretz, she had sold a few of the Kafka papers, but had jealously held on to rest, refusing to show them to any one.

Haaretz talked to Nurit Pagi, who is currently writing her doctorate on Brod at the University of Haifa. She said: ‘Everyone was trying to get to this material, but came away empty-handed. . . It’s like a Kafkaesque detective puzzle that someone doesn't want solved. All the people who are doing research on Brod are telling each other: If you hear anything, let me know.’ (The Guardian article, incidentally, said Haaretz called the story ‘Kafkaesque’, another slight inaccuracy.)

Among Kafka’s works saved by Brod, and later published, were his diaries. Kafka started writing a diary in 1910, aged 27 (possibly at the suggestion of Brod) and continued until near the end of his life. Wikipedia has information on the diaries, and The Diary Junction provides links to both German and English versions freely available online.

Interestingly, however, Brod was also a keen diarist, and his diaries formed part of the estate left to Hoffe. According to Haaretz, a German publisher, Artemis and Winkler, paid Hoffe a five-figure advance for Brod’s diaries in the 1980s, but never received them. In 1993, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Hoffe had removed the Brod diaries from her apartment and transferred them to a safe at a bank in Tel Aviv, where they remain to this day. Artemis and Winkler is now owned by a large publisher, apparently, who is still negotiating access to the diaries. They are thought to contain intimate details about Brod’s life, and may well provide interesting information on Kafka’s life.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Che’s last days

The Bolivian government has just announced its intention to publish a fascimile edition of Ernesto Che Guevara’s handwritten diaries. They concern his time in Bolivia, where he was trying to spark a revolution, and where he was eventually caught and shot. Some photos of the diaries are available online, as is some information about Che’s very last diary entry in which he is worrying about the reliability of an old woman goat herd.

Guevara is one of most iconic revolutionary figures of the 20th century. He was born into a middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina, and studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1953, he moved to Guatemala, joined the pro-communist regime until it was overthrown, and then fled to Mexico, where he joined Fidel Castro and other Cuban rebels. In the first half of the 1960s, he served as Cuba’s minister for industry in Castro’s government, but then in 1965, he left for Bolivia where he became involved again in revolutionary activities. He was captured by the Bolivian army and executed.

According to Reuters, the documents just unveiled by the Bolivian authorities include a diary of his time fomenting revolution in Bolivia, written in two frayed notebooks, a logbook and a few black-and-white photographs. Apparently, they disappeared from an army vault in the early 1980s, but resurfaced when put up for sale at a London auction house, and were then bought by the Bolivian authorities. Since then, they’ve been locked away, in Banco Central de Bolivia.

Guevara’s reputation as a diarist soared with The Motorcycle Diaries. Originally, the book was published in Cuba in 1993, and then an English version came out in 2003. The following year, a film version was released and became a huge success. However, the Bolivian diary was first published much earlier, the year after Guevara’s death, in 1968, by Stein & Day, and has been reproduced in various versions since then - see Abebooks for example.

Although the text of the diary is well known, the Bolivian government has now asked Plural Editores to publish a fascimile of the handwritten books, and this should be available later this year. According to Pablo Groux, Bolivia’s vice-minister for culture,  it is one of the projects put forward by Comité Bolivia to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Guevara’s death (9 October 1967).

As far as I can tell there are no substantial extracts of Che Guevara’s diaries available on the web, but The Diary Junction does provide a couple of useful links. One of them is for a page by Peter Kornbluh called The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified. Here is the paragraph about Che’s last diary entry:

‘October 7, 1967: The last entry in Che’s diary is recorded exactly eleven months since the inauguration of the guerrilla movement. The guerrillas run into an old woman herding goats. They ask her if there are soldiers in the area but are unable to get any reliable information. Scared that she will report them, they pay her 50 pesos to keep quiet. In Che’s diary it is noted that he has “little hope” that she will do so. (Harris, 126; CIA Weekly Review, “The Che Guevara Diary,” 12/15/67)’

Friday, July 4, 2008

Blood and Judd

A short post about Blood and Judd, because they’re such great names and they rhyme. A history student, Steven St Onge (not a bad name in itself), has been digging around in the Special Collections & Archives at Wesleyan University and discovered a couple of interesting diaries from the 19th century. One is by Lorenzo Whiting Blood who, it seems, had a bit of rough childhood, and then some trouble finding a job and a wife; the other is by Mrs Judd who wrote about travelling with her husband and children.

Wikipedia tells me that Wesleyan University is ‘a highly selective private liberal arts college’, in Middletown, Connecticut. Although founded, in 1831, by Methodists, it is now secular. The Special Collections & Archives department is located in Olin Library and claims an extensive collection of rare books and materials related to the university and Middletown. St Onge has been digging around in this archive, and prepared notes and finding aids for two interesting diaries. These notes have just been publicised through the Special Collections & Archives blog.

Lorenzo Whiting Blood, a Methodist minister, was born in 1812 and died in 1881. For about ten years, as a young man between 1835 and 1844, he wrote a diary. It begins, according to the Special Collections & Archives website notes, with a look into his past as he explains about being raised by Hindal, a cloth trader, who used to beat him regularly. There is a lot in the diary about his time at Wesleyan, and his struggles to become a Methodist minister. There are entries about his failed attempts to set up a school, about preaching to prison inmates on good behaviour, and about visiting a school for the deaf where he was amazed to see ‘conversations with their hands’. More personally, he describes how, at one point, he rushes home to try and stop his brother taking up a job on a whaler. According to St Onge, once Blood leaves university, the journal then describes ‘the troubles [he] faces trying find a job, marrying his hometown love, and ends with him becoming deacon of Mystic [Connecticut]’.

The second diary, for which the Special Collections & Archives website now has extensive notes thanks to St Onge, is that of Harriet Stewart Judd, wife of Orange Judd a former Wesleyan student. Born in 1822, Harriet married Judd in 1855, and she was around 50 when she wrote the diary now in the archives. It is titled Notes of Travel – No. 5, which indicates there were or are others - but nothing is known about them. This diary was written from 30 October 1872 to Christmas Day 1873 and chronicles three trips taken by the Judd family (Harriet and Orange, and three children) across the Eastern coast of the US States and to Europe. While Harriet mentions the tourist sites they visit (Naples, Pompeii, Paris, London, and Liverpool), she also writes about the family’s dynamic and her husband’s ongoing sicknesses. An interesting event occured, the online notes say, when the family visited a Genoa hospital housing thousands of poor people including many orphans. These orphans were trained in furniture making, and seemed content. Judd writes that she was relieved to see charity in Genoa but surprised to see so many ‘dwarfs’ in the hospital.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Unsecret secret diaries

I love books and news stories about secret diaries. There’s one today, and there’s going to be another in three weeks. The diaries may have been secret once upon a time, but my headines would be Angelina Jolie’s pregnancy diary - no longer under wraps; and Abigail Titmuss’s diaries - no longer secret. Everybody knows! is reporting a story today that Angelina Jolie, who has three adopted children and one natural child and is now expecting twins, has a ‘secret pregnancy diary’. The story originates, I think, from the National Enquirer (but its website does not appear to be working as I write) and from an anonymous source who said the ‘journal is very special to her and she's keeping it private, even from Brad’. The source added that Angie jokes in the journal that she's ready for her twins to ‘just come out and get it over with’.

Hardly a secret diary, though, especially if I know about it.

And three weeks from today, on 24 July, Headline Review (which astonishingly lacks a website at the moment) is due to publish The Secret Diaries of Abigail Titmuss: How to Play the Fame Game and Come Out on Top. According to the publisher’s blurb (see Amazon), Titmuss ‘tells it like it is’. The diaries follow Titmuss’s life from nurse, to model, to business woman, and to her obsession with being a celebrity. Her diaries, the blurb promises, are ‘fabulously racy, scorchingly honest and always just a little bit tongue in-cheek’.

But - after 24 July - no longer secret!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Servigliano Calling

‘Even to this day the diary has a slight aroma of cocoa,’ says Steve Dickinson about a diary kept by his uncle Robert Dickinson while a prisoner at Servigliano, an Italian war camp, in the 1940s. Substantial extracts from the diary have just been made available online at the Survivors of Camp 59 website, hosted by Indiana University.

A large holding camp was built at Servigliano, 60km south of Ancona, in 1914, at the start of the First World War, and was re-used from January 1941, a few months after Italy entered the Second World War. In September 1943, once Italy had signed the armistice with the allies, there was a mass breakout. The Germans, however, soon re-established control of the camp, using it not only for recaptured prisoners but for Jews too.

Robert Dickinson, a gunner with the Royal Artillery, was interned at Servigliano, Camp 59, from 23 November 1941 but escaped after the armistice in September 1943. He spent time with an Italian family in Gassino, northern Italy, but by October 1944, was fighting with the Partisans against the German army. He was killed in March 1945.

Some time after the war, Dickinson’s diary was discovered during renovations to the farmhouse in Gassino where he’d stayed. It was returned to his family, and is now held by Steve Dickinson, who has made it publicly available. The diary itself has a cover made of old cocoa tins (hence the smell) with a broadcast aerial design incorporating the title Servigliano Calling. It begins with his capture by the Germans in November 1941, and finishes, about six months before his death, in September 1944.

According to the Survivors of Camp 59 website, Dickinson’s diary details day- to-day activities and events at the camp, including football matches, camp cooking recipes, mail and food parcels received, special holiday activities, and escape attempts. There are many extracts on the site, including this one from 8 September 1943: ‘Continued evening! Playing bridge and in comes the long awaited news Armistice! Spoilt a perfect 3 trump hand; but why worry. Hit my fist such a whopper up the wall; skin off the knuckles. No sleep.’

Last year, a Servigliano survivor, Dennis Sweeney, was reunited with his diary - sixty years on, according to a Chicago Tribune report (originally sourced at the Allentown Morning Call, although I can find no trace of the story on its website). Like Dickinson, Sweeney had escaped after the 8 September armistice, but he then entrusted his diary to a fellow prisoner Carl Valentine. Valentine, in fact, escaped Italy, while Sweeney was recaptured and shipped to Germany (but unlike Dickinson, he survived the war). A few years ago, Valentine died, and his nephew inherited Sweeney’s diary, and eventually decided to trace the owner. Sweeney’s jottings - which end on the day of the armistice, 8 September 1943 - are not as entertaining as Dickinson’s. Here is one, thanks to Richard Annotico, from 29 May 1943: ‘I received my first letter. It was the first letter I received in 7 months and believe me I was the happiest boy in camp. I must have read that letter 10 times that day.’

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A clubbable gentleman-parson

This week, Boydell Press is due to publish, for the first time, the diaries of John Longe, a suffolk vicar, described as an affluent and clubbable gentleman-parson.

Historically, in Britain, priests have been among the most prolific of diarists. The Diary Junction, for example, carries more data pages on ‘priests’ than any other profession (with the exception of ‘writer’ which diarists are any way), the majority of them in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Religious diarists do often leave behind endless records of their duties and practices, but they also make interesting observations on the society and culture in which they function.

John Longe, the vicar of Coddenham, kept careful records of his activities, relationships and possessions in pocket-books and inventories. These are held by the Suffolk Records Society. Boydell Press, part of Boydell & Brewer Ltd, a US and UK publisher specialising in historical (and music) titles, is about to publish (3 July) a compilation of this material, edited by Michael Stone - The Diary of John Longe, Vicar of Coddenham, 1765-1834.

Longe is described as ‘an affluent and clubbable gentleman-parson of the Georgian age’ who ‘enjoyed the company of his peers, both as host and guest, and travelled throughout the region’. He ran a household with 10 servants and a farm. Besides preaching and leading worship, he also trained young curates, marshalled his parishioners under threat of Napoleon’s invasion, and served as a magistrate.

Boydell Press does a whole range of interesting diary titles. There’s Diary of John Young, Sunderland Chemist and Methodist Lay Preacher, covering the years 1841-1843, full of subjective passages about his faith, but also giving insight into his social, religious and business. The Bousfield Diaries give an inside view into middle-class family life in the late Victorian era, in particular showing the family’s dependence on their servants. And then there's The Diary of Thomas Giordani Wright, Newcastle Doctor, 1826-1829, which tells of a doctor’s arduous life in the collieries.