Saturday, 13 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [3]


25.12. 14 degrees Celsius. I ate some Alsatian sausage cold. A glass of madeira. The university swallows talents and digests them slowly and surely as the sundew which grabs the fly and use it for food, but I do not have to fight for a "position" at any university, for there has always been enough ground under my feet. The thanks one receives are mere crumbs for the sparrows, while the vultures lurk on the branch waiting for the moment you make a mistake: Thank you, thank you, friends and enemies! Now that it is dark it sounds to me as though Paris is humming. Plaisance used to be open countryside – there was even a large park and a castle, which the omnibus company demolished in order to build the depot, and now there are tenement buildings and narrow streets, and the residents are poor people. Before the tall building was built opposite to darken my dwelling, this street was better than the Rue Pernety, where I used to live.

26.12.1898 Between the first and second pages of this notebook I have inserted a note which reads: "À Madame Constance Cavé. Ce cahier doit être détruit après ma mort."

27.12.1898 No letters. Before Christmas Elise sent me the instrument I had asked for, but it was quite the wrong one, even though I carefully explained what it should look like, and drew a picture of it. It will have to be returned. Coughing badly, the codeine tablets do not help, my whole body hurts and I have no appetite. If I get the article finished, the black-gowned academics will attack it like flies on a carcase.

28.12.1898 Death is not discussed as much as love (which is also discussed on the street corner), even though it is the only certain thing in life. Write poetry about death! People love a woman/man, but, I ask, does anyone love death? Suicides I do not count, for they do their deed while their minds are unbalanced. As a physician I have seen death many times, but the face of a dead person is neither happy nor sad, but completely empty, as the death struggle is over. When I die my old enemies will be disappointed, because they will miss an important event in my life, one that with all their hearts they desired to witness.

29.12.1898 Human folly occasions an anger that warms like an eiderdown or a bottle of burgundy! Th. S. wrote to me about a dispute concerning a civil service appointment, which is interesting, even though it does not concern me at all: let Helsinki, Uppsala, Lund and all the universities of the world look after their affairs without me!

30.12.1898 7 degrees Celsius. I lie in bed under the coverlet (my coat is also being used) and am trying to write, but my fingers are numb. It is 4 pm. I did not eat, drank milk which I mixed with hot water and sugar.

31.12.1898 At midnight the year changes and I will be writing in 1899, but I will not stay up that late. In her letter Elise wished me a "Good New Year". How good will it be, I wonder?

Paris, 1. January, 1899 A person of romantic disposition would suppose that this day is a "clean sheet", as it is Sunday and the first day of the year. I have not the slightest tendency to romanticism, but I awoke pleased that I had slept better than I have for a long time, for the cough did not keep me awake. On opening the front door (I was taking the refuse out to the back yard), I received a surprise: propped against the wall was a paper-wrapped bouquet of anemones, lilac, poppies, expensive spring flowers that can only be bought at the finest flower shops in Paris, and I thought it was a mistake and the bouquet was intended for one of my neighbours, but no: in an envelope was a card with my name on it, Dr. William N. On the other hand, there was no sender's name, and I am most perplexed by this occurrence! After rummaging in the kitchen I found a large jam jar (it was not clean, but I washed it), and in it I put the bouquet of flowers, which I think is very beautiful, and it looks as though spring had come to my dark, cramped and dusty apartment. A truly remarkable event!

[Kristina Carlson, William N. päiväkirja, Otava 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Estonia gunman dead

Via RIA Novosti:
The attacker was identified as one Karen Drambyan, 57, a member of the United Leftist Party of Estonia, a group with strong links to the country’s Russian community.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

London riots

Not really a subject for this blog, I suppose, though in the context of AB Breivik's sadistic and brutal campaign it may have some relevance even here. A LiveJournal poster has written what I think is so far the best and most informative reflection on the recent violence in London and other British cities.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [2]

19.12.1898   In Finland I am not respected!  How would it have gone with me if I had remained in Helsinki? Poorly – the mail does not go to the hinterland properly, unlike in Europe –  the circles there are narrow, malicious, and even I respect but a few men like Th. S. who is loyal to me and F. Elfving, who is also a decent man. The Fries family are Swedish, but how they have messed up my life! At the dinners in Uppsala there was punch and chatter, yes, yes, but later the mood of the music changed (furioso), F. pater did not listen to my opinions, he contradicted me and cultivated relations behind my back in many directions, and so did F. filius. Lord knows  what will become of science if the scientists comport themselves like dancing masters!  I tried to promote Zetterstedt’s appointment to the Upsala post, but it turned out otherwise, for the post went to  T. Fries filius. Professor Andersson of Stockholm had the nerve to claim that I had merely succeeded in harming Z.’s position, thank you very much!

20.12.1898   Constance brought "Christmas fare", as she he is leaving tomorrow with her "old fellow" for the Auvergne. (I thought the man was a former officer, but he is really a common soldier.)  I received food that keeps such as sausages and brawn and English-style Christmas cake  in which there were plums, apricots, cherries and raisins, and the cake is soaked in brandy. I snorted at the word “Christmas”, for C. knows the manner in which I "celebrate" it, but she also insisted on cleaning, which led to an altercation between us, and C. shed some tears when she went home. But she is a good woman.

21.12.1898  Today I sat in the hospital (I had promised Elisa that I would see the doctor), on a bench with a mother who held a crying baby in her arms, an old, loud-voiced deaf woman, a labourer whose leg was wrapped in bloody rags, etc.  The dreary corridor echoed with footsteps when the nurses and doctors walked by, and I at last I made up my mind to get to my feet and shout that I was a doctor too, and should therefore be treated with respect, did I have to bow and scrape in order even to make a doctor halt in his tracks, I was not trying to jump the queue ahead of the concierge-woman or the tinsmith, but had been waiting for two hours, so perhaps at last it was my turn. A third hour began, and I could not endure to wait any longer, but went home. Let Dr. S. send me instructions for treatment by letter as before. I am too thin, I know it is true,  I am six feet tall and weigh only 136 pounds, but my frame has the strength of spirit and intellect.

24.12.1898   I ate two slices of Christmas cake and drank two small glasses of Madeira. (A.B brought the Madeira yesterday.)  I have found  the pharmacist R's  old letter in which he writes: "Vous serez toujours pour moi un homme d'une veritable science, mais d'un caractère quelquefois difficile. " Friends and enemies in the same basket! R.  helped me to manage my affairs in Paris during the time when I held the post at Helsinki, but later he got tangled in a troublesome affair which had its origins in the fact that I did not inform Descaine of my travel to Helsinki, although he got me the money with which to complete the Synopsis (Part Two), and therefore D. began to threaten to reclaim the money by legal means, which information was passed to me by R. That wretched sum of money, a mere handout, which originally seemed almost an insult, but the real insult was the fact that I was suspected of laziness or incompetence or even of dishonesty! I immediately sent half of the sum to Tulasne, and through him a letter to  D.  My relations with many people were at once broken off, but not even in the scientific sense can I associate with people who do not trust me and do not value my work. Since in the room it is only 15 degrees Celsius, I shall drink one more glass of Madeira, this is my Christmas Eve.

[Kristina Carlson, William N. päiväkirja, Otava 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

(to be continued)


From 2083, by Anders Behring Breivik:

...we have to agree on a consensus for creating a modern, “un-tainted”, cultural conservative, patriotic youth movement which will prevent our youths from joining NS or WN movements. This movement should be somewhat like the equivalent of Russias Nashi movement (Putins youth movement - 120,000 members aged between 17 and 25). They are anti fascist/anti Nazi, but still patriotic conservatives.

(p. 652)

Many state leaders around the world are puzzled over how little resistance the European elites are getting in their attempts to completely demographically reshape Europe.

Even the Russian president, Vladimir Putin knows exactly what is going on as he has publicly stated in the past:

“Western Europe is heading in a direction where they are going to become colonies of their former colonies."

(p. 732)

Q: Name one living person you would like to meet?

A: The Pope or Vladimir Putin. Putin seems like a fair and resolute leader worthy of respect. I’m unsure at this point whether he has the potential to be our best friend or our worst enemy though. He’s very hard to psychoanalyze. I wouldn’t want to be his enemy, that’s for sure. Obviously, he has to openly condemn us at this point which is  understandable.

(p. 1407)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


by Tommi Parkko

In a city built inside a pot there is no dancing,
rise from pitch and molten lead, be a straight-backed saint.
The black steps rustle down to the shore, the ribs of the houses
melt into the river.

Old age is a habit rooted in the body, the icons bear the pure
colours of God. The black and the grey are from man, from bone.
The other colours are from flowers, shield bugs and stones
The sky is perforated by urine, the snow by Tycho Brahe’s toenail.
In a city built inside a pot there is no dancing,
do not talk to me of Mary or of virgins. Your unicorn
is the beluga whale and the relics
are tsarist bonds and Kafka. You must threaten
the relics with fire and spike to have your will.

In the synagogue's attic are the remains of a creature, and pigeons,
the city’s dream beneath the tourist map.
You will soon call the castle home, it is the backbone of everything.

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

[From Pelikaani, Savukeidas, Turku, 2011]

Dershowitz in protest at ambassador's remarks

Alan Dershowitz has spoken out in protest against remarks made in a recent interview by Norway's ambassador to Israel that Hamas terrorism against Israel is more justified than the recent terrorist attack against Norway. At the conclusion of his article, Dershowitz writes:
Nothing good ever comes from terrorism, so don’t expect the Norwegians to learn any lessons from its own victimization. As the ambassador made clear in his benighted interview, “those of us who believe [the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel] will not change their minds because of the attack in Oslo.” In other words, they will persist in their bigoted view that Israel is the cause of the terrorism directed at it, and that if only Israel were to end the occupation (as it offered to do in 2000-2001 and again in 2007), the terrorism will end. Even Hamas, which Norway supports in many ways, has made clear that it will not end its terrorism as long as Israel continues to exist. Hamas believes that Israel’s very existence is the cause of the terrorism against it. That sounds a lot like the ranting of the man who engaged in the act of terrorism against Norway.
The time is long overdue for Norwegians to do some deep soul searching about their sordid history of complicity with all forms of bigotry ranging from the anti-Semitic Nazis to the anti-Semitic Hamas. There seems to be a common thread.

Update (August 5): The Jerusalem Post has published an op-ed piece by Norway's deputy foreign minister in which he says the following:
The ambassador was incorrectly quoted by Ma’ariv. He did not compare the motivation behind different terrorist attacks; he simply tried to answer a question about whether the terrorist attacks in Norway would change perceptions of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He stated that many Norwegians see the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territory in the context of the occupation and religious extremism, and that this view would probably not change after the events in Oslo and on Utoeya.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [1]

by Kristina Carlson

26.11.1898  Solitude is not dispiriting or sad, but it is sometimes boring, and I conclude that this is due to the company in which I am alone.

27.11.1898  Today a pharmacist, D. (there have been many pharmacists in the circle of my acquaintances!), invited me to dinner at his home on Sunday.  I went with some reluctance, as the D.’s  live in a street off the Avenue de Messina where I had to travel by omnibus, and what was more,  Dr. D. did not belong to the same botanically cultured group as, for example, the pharmacist Dr. R., who at one time did much to help me (my relations with him have broken) – Dr. D. is just an ordinary, successful, wealthy pill-pusher. I accepted the invitation none the less, because he assured me that there would be no other guests apart from myself, and that his family had an excellent cook. The dinner was indeed first-rate: Potage velouté aux champignons, Filets de poisson en soufflé, Bifteck sauté béarnaise, Pommes normande en belle vue, vegetables, cheeses, and so on, and good wines. When we rose from the dinner table I had to pay for my meal with  some culture! The children’s nanny and Madame D. led into the drawing-room two little girls with curly hair adorned with bow-ribbons, whom they planted in front of the grand piano to play duets, and after the first piece I applauded, but when they began to play a third I began to fret and wondered when it was going to be the little girls’ bedtime, which fortunately arrived at the end of the fourth. I do not know what error led the D.’s to imagine that I was a lover of music, but luckily I managed to catch the omnibus.

28.11.1898  People who live in the flatness of the everyday do not think about their own condition, they are well-to-do and satisfied, for they have delicious dishes and good wines on their tables, they have shiny carriages and sleek horses, servants who bow to them, and they live without care, for it never even occurs to them that everything could be different – instead, their happiness is ensured by at one-dimensional view of the world. Perhaps they browse through newspapers and novels, attend the theatre or concerts and look at works of art, but this dilettantism has a uniform surface, and their minds are not touched by art. They have a certainty about the essence of the world that is based on an assumption, one that they do not call into question by looking through a microscope or telescope. They are pitiful, but they are "happy", so what is there in them to pity? I thought  that even on a flat surface a crack or roughness would appear, but with these self-satisfied people that does not happen. While I do not begrudge them their wealth and their self-satisfaction,  I would never dream of exchanging my narrow room for the cardboard theatre of their world.  

30.11.1898   I too have received awards! The French Academy’s Prix ​​Desmazières, an honorary doctorate, honorary membership of the Fauna & Flora, what else, by giving those awards they salved their bad consciences, but did I receive assistance when it was most needed, for the writing and printing of the Synopsis, for example? Had I jumped off the bridge in 1857 my great work would have remained unpublished. My only support was  Dr. J. B. Mougenot, who lived in the Vosges, and though I have never wanted to be financially dependent on anyone, I agreed to accept money from him, as it was a loan and not a gift, and a loan that I paid back conscientiously. Mougenot, said that precisely because of all the difficulties the Synopsis would become dear to me, and in that he was right, though my joy in completing the work did not last long, for the second part was still waiting to be written and published, a process that took many more years. I did not take seriously Mougenot’s instructions about the life of society, for he exhorted me to be polite and conciliatory in my behaviour, and said  in his letter that "Truth and the conviction to defend the right opinion give one strength, but one must strike with caution." How does one "strike with caution"? With the butt of an axe? I was sorry when M. passed away a few weeks later, after I had taken up my post in Helsinki in the autumn of 1858.

1. 12.1898  Awards, awards, indeed! Perhaps they will even put up a gravestone for me,  though at Helsinki University they ridiculed my clothes (I did not dress according to their idiotic dress code , not even at meetings of the Senate), and my meagre sandwich lunches, because even my students ate better than their professor, and it was told as an amusing story how I hammered and chiselled the dry pieces of bread, when hunger overtook me  and the students on a specimen-gathering trip and nothing else edible could be found. at the peasant cottage. One of the students broke a tooth, but when the pieces of bread had been soaked in spring water for a little while, they were fit to eat.  In their heart of hearts the university people had no respect for me, of course I know that, that is precisely why I was not given von Nordman’s apartment, because among them there were still those with whom I had quarrelled as a younger man, when in Fauna & Flora I  opposed von Nordman’s plan to send a biological expedition to the White Sea, yet it was  my duty as the Society’s vice-chairman to oppose it, because the White Sea was not part of the region we studied, and the expedition was against the Society’s rules.  Nordman and his assistants would have  liked the Society’s  2000 roubles for himself! When Nordman resigned from the Society he was followed by Mannerheim, Nordenskiold, Ilmoni, Bonsdorff, Mäklin and Wright, but was that my fault, or was it the fault of the Society’s rules?

2.12.1898   In the mid-1860s Admiral Jones, who lived in Dublin, sent me 500 francs when he heard that I had resigned my professorship, but later I never heard anything more from him. The German F. Arnold sent me 100 francs, but I returned that money and wrote "timeo Danaos”, because Arnold is a Schwendenerist, and my opinion is not for sale. Monsieur M. sent me some lichen specimens wrapped in hundred franc notes! I suppose he was quietly trying to help, but I returned the money and later only accepted a fee, which I had earned by my study of the specimens.

3.12.1898   I took a long walk, though the weather was bad, it was cold and windy and the drizzle poured from the sky, but as I walked my brain also remained in motion  (the peripatetic school) – in my apartment I can only move an inch or two  at a time, as there are books and papers all over the floor.  I must outline the contents of an article, there is not enough light for microscope work, and my eyesight is not what it was. Constance has not visited.

4.12.1898   The next time the year changes, we shall be on the threshold of a new century, and a hundred years after that there will be a new millennium, too.  I shall sink into history, and no one will remember me. Elise maintains that the “good” people will be remembered, because their memory will be transferred from friends and relatives to subsequent generations, but I am not a “good” person! If friends (?) and enemies are to be believed, I am:  sharp-tongued, cantankerous, malicious, quick-tempered, unforgiving, rancorous, suspicious, jealous, bitter, pig-headed, egocentric, ill-bred, and stingy. Among other things.

5.12.1898  Plain talking is not valued in academic  "social circles", and rebuttals must be wrapped in cotton wool, so as not to "offend" anyone. But is the cause of science advanced in this way?  Honesty has always been my guiding principle. But it is not enough – for everything to go smoothly one must please, no matter how insignificant one’s work! Even  in ancient times one could  succeed by means of  eloquence, although one’s other achievements were not particularly impressive.

8.12.1898   Perhaps I am not a nice person, perhaps no one likes me – let alone loves me – so I can hardly expect even pity as my lot.

10.12. 1898   A.B. came to visit, even though in a letter I had forbidden him to, as except for  Constance I do not want to let anyone into my apartment,  and my friends know that, but A.B. was stubborn, and rang my doorbell despite my prohibition, which made me angry, because I was dressed in a morning coat and cardigan, with woollen socks on my feet, and was not prepared to receive a visit. A.B. did not, however, turn away from the door, but came inside, because I did not think I could stop him by force. He brought me meat pasties and egg pasties, two cakes coated in pink sugar, a bottle of burgundy and a newspaper, but my wrath did not abate until he handed me a surprise, which was a reproduction of  Georges Seurat’s painting "La Grand Jatte"!  After he left, I studied the picture closely, and I am just as thrilled as when I saw the original work, though the copy fails to do it full justice. I like Seurat’s "scientific" way of painting, for he is not content with an obvious or flat surface like the painters of the old school who try to carefully imitate the reality that is visible to the eye. Instead,  S. disperses and reassembles, and in this process I see a confluence with microscope work, when the gaze is directed on even the smallest elements, and the brain traces their  significance and completeness. A. B. also talked about the other "Impressionists", whose paintings he believes I ought to see, but perhaps this one alone will suffice. Once I had moved the other things away, I leaned the picture against the edge of the stove.

11.12.1898   Sunday. On Rue Didot there was a modest funeral. When I stopped to raise my hat,  Madame L. hurried up to me, whispering in a loud voice that "he ought not to be buried in consecrated ground, because he took his own life," and it was apparently the same coal merchant whom I saw in the summer. In my opinion he need not have troubled to take his own life, as he would soon have died from high blood pressure and heart failure in any case. I didn’t jump into the Seine, and I am already at an age where I know that  Nature takes care of death in due time, so there is no point in hurrying.

12.12.1898   At night it was cold, and I felt so chilled that I shivered. I got up in the dark to fetch a coat to put on top of my quilt. In the morning the outside thermometer read -3, and when I went out to buy milk and bread I saw that  the water flowing from the drainpipes had frozen in the street, which the little boys thought was fun, because they could “skate". The cold and darkness prevented me from working at the microscope. Of the things that  A. B. had brought me I still had 1 egg pasty, 1 cake, and ¼ bottle of wine. After I had eaten, at 4 pm I went to bed.

16.12.1898   I shiver and have no appetite, I suffer from shortness of breath and pains in my joints, my stomach is bad and I am unable to work, but I will endure, for I know that I have done the right thing, I have not curried favour with anyone, I have not sold myself, I live like a poor artist, even though I am a scientist, and posterity will not remember me though I have sacrificed my whole life to science. I suppose art is never "wrong" as science can be, but is that any consolation to  the artists whose work is not valued and not purchased? (G. Seurat  is said to have been a wealthy man, but he had a very short life.)

(to be continued)

[William N. päiväkirja, Otava, 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff