Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fellini’s dreaming

The great Italian film director, Federico Fellini, died 20 years ago today. He won four Oscars for best foreign language film, more than any other director, and is considered to be one of the most important and influential European directors of the 20th century. Although not a diarist, he did, for many years, keep a record of his dreams, with descriptions and richly-coloured illustrations. These were given a lavish publication a few years after his death, and, more recently, have been made available in digital form.

Fellini was born in 1920 to middle-class parents in Rimini, on the Adriatic Sea. He was educated locally in Catholic schools, though ran away once to join a circus. He and his younger brother, as teenagers, joined the Avanguardista, the compulsory Fascist youth group for males. Lacking any interest in his education, Fellini began drawing comic portraits, and writing humorous articles. He enrolled in law school at the University of Rome in 1939, but barely attended, and continued trying to earn money by selling portraits.

Fellini worked for a short while as a local news reporter, but gravitated quickly to Marc’Aurelio, the highly influential biweekly humour magazine, for which he wrote a regular column for several years, and through which he met many other writers and artistes. He composed monologues for the comedian Aldo Fabrizi and collaborated with variety radio shows, on one of which he met a young actress, Giulietta Masina, who he married in 1943. Their only child died soon after birth.

Through the 1940s, Fellini developed a name for himself: as a scriptwriter on some of Fabrizi’s films; with Roberto Rossellini on films such as Roma città aperta and Paisà; and in partnership with the playwright Tullio Pinelli. One of the directors he and Pinelli worked for, Alberto Lattuada, wanted Fellini to co-direct a film, Luci del varietà - self-produced, it left them both in debt.

Fellini’s first sole directorial debut, Lo sceicco bianco, was also a failure. Thereafter, though, his films earned huge international praise. He won four Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film (La Strada in 1954, Le notti di Cabiria in 1957, 8 1/2 in 1963, and Amarcord in 1974), and was much honoured for others, such as La dolce vita and Satyricon. In 1993, just months before his death on 31 October, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, the Fondazione Federico Fellini, Italica, Matinee Classics, or The New York Times.

Although not a conventional diarist, Fellini did, at the suggestion of the Jungian analyst Ernst Bernhard, keep a diary record of his dreams, and these records, along with his illustrations of them, were first published in 2007 by Rizzoli International Publications as Il libro dei sogni di Federico Fellini, and then in English as The Book of Dreams.

The publisher says: ‘A unique combination of memory, fantasy, and desire, this illustrated volume is a personal diary of Fellini’s private visions and nighttime fantasies. Fellini [. . .] kept notebooks filled with unique sketches and notes from his dreams from the 1960s onward. This collection delves into his cinematic genius as it is captured in widely detailed caricatures and personal writings. This dream diary exhibits Fellini’s deeply personal taste for the bizarre and the irrational. His sketches focus on the profound struggle of the soul and are tinged with humor, empathy, and insight. Fellini’s Book of Dreams is an intriguing source of never-before-published writings and drawings, which reveal the master filmmaker’s personal vision and his infinite imagination.’

The book’s list price is $125, however there appear to be very few copies available anywhere, even second hand, and those that are offered are priced at over £700 in the UK, and over $800 in the US. A few pages from the book can be viewed at Bomb’s website. Here, though, are a few extracts taken from a more recent - and digital - three-volume edition of the original produced by Guaraldi Srl, and partly available to view thanks to Googlebooks.

23 June 1974
‘It’s nighttime. What an awful night. I am driving a black car that’s racing dizzyingly down a path that spirals down around a mountain. I can’t seem to stop despite the fact that I’m pushing the brake pedal. On my right there’s a precipice. Other cars are coming up, flashing their lights with fear.’

27 June 1974
‘A wooden root falls from the sky. “It’s the wooden harp!” someone tells me with a tone of devotion and exultation as if a miracle had taken place. “Play it!” Dressed like a monk/mendicant, I (but was it me?) draw incredibly sweet sounds from the rough piece of wood. They make people cry. Even I am moved to tears. This last part of the dream was followed by me commenting on the dream itself, as if it were a film created for television by a young director. My comments were very positive.’

14 September 1974
‘I am on the dock in Rimini on an extremely stormy night, a violent gusty wind is blowing in off the sea toward the land, raising the waves. I’m drawing. Behind me, Peppino Rotunno is sitting in an attitude of indifferent and peaceful detachment. Norman lifts my drawing, which shows a black ship daring set sail up into the water-filled air on a night similar to the one we’re experiencing. Then he puts the drawing into a hiding place.’

15 September 1974
‘Where am I going? Confused, I know that I have to leave. Are we looking for track 26 for Paris? I follow my porter, who has my bags on a car, in a disordered procession of baggage carriers. Now we’ve gotten down and lost among the others, it seems that we have to struggle to get back on.’

20 September 1974
‘In Piazza Barberini in the middle of the day, in the midst of all the traffic, I’m completely naked in bed with Sandrocchia, who is also nude. Maybe we’re making love, but nobody pays any attention, nobody notices us, as if doing so were the most normal thing in the world. Later Sandrocchia (in P.P. she vaguely resembles A, as well) says to me “When I think about you I cry right away. I always cry when I think of you.” This was her way of telling me that she loves me very much.’

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Swede in the Mid-West

Eric Norelius, a Swede who emigrated to America and became a key figure in the Swedish Lutheran church there, was born 180 years ago today. He kept a diary from aged 15 which is considered of minor historical importance. Parts of this have been translated into English, but there are no extracts freely available online, just reviews of the published works.

Norelius was born in Hassela, Helsingia, on 26 October 1833, but migrated to the US in 1850. He was trained as a priest at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained in 1855. That same year he married Inga Peterson in 1855, and they had five children. In 1856, he moved to become pastor of a new Swedish-Lutheran congregation in Vasa, Minnesota, and then Attica, Indiana, for a few years before returning to Vasa.

In 1860, Norelius was one of the founders of the Augustana Lutheran Synod (which only merged into the Lutheran Church in 1962). He was its president from 1874 to 1881 and from 1901 to 1910. He is also regarded as the founder of Gustavus Adolphus College. In 1892, he was awarded a doctorate in theology. Throughout his ministry, he was active in publishing, launching and/or editing a variety of Swedish language publications. From 1899 until 1909, he was editor of Tidskrift för svensk evangelisk luthersk kyrkohistoria i Amerika, later called The Augustana Theological Quarterly.

The last years of Norelius’s life were spent researching and writing the history of the synod and the Swedish migration to, and settlement in, America. He died in 1916. Further information is available online from Wikipedia, the Augustana Heritage Association, the Augustana College or the Minnesota Encyclopaedia.

For much of his life, Norelius kept a diary. He used this extensively for an autobiographical work, published posthumously by the Augustana Book Concern: Early Life of Eric Norelius (1833-1862), Journal of a Swedish Immigrant in the Middle West. There are no extracts from this book online that I can find, although two illustrious journals gave it a brief review in 1935.

The Mississippi Valley Historical Review (Vol. 22 No. 2, September 1935): ‘In this autobiography of the early years of an outstanding leader of the Swedish people in America, the student of western history, as well as of immigrants, will find much of value. The volume describes Eric Norelius’ childhood on a Swedish farm and his migration to America in 1850, where he hoped to acquire the education he despaired of attaining in Sweden. [. . .] The autobiography, written in 1916 when Norelius was eighty-three years old, is based on his diaries, and parts of it consists of excerpts from them.’

In its review of the book, Minnesota History (Vol. 16 No. 2 June 1935) asks how reliable are the memoirs of an old man, and concludes: ‘Norelius himself answers the question: “There are many facts and events that we have seen or experienced in our childhood of youth which are remembered vividly. This has been the writer’s experience. Furthermore, I have kept a diary since the fifteenth year of my life.” ’

Some 30 years later, in 1967, Fortress Press published a more substantial volume - The Journals of Eric Norelius: A Swedish Missionary on the American Frontier - which was translated and edited by G. Everett Arden. Again, I can find no single quotation or extract from the book online, but Minnesota History Magazine (Vol. 40 No. 7) reviewed the book as follows:

‘Of the five sections into which these journals are divided, the first four, extending from Norelius’ birth in 1833 at Hassela, Sweden, to his ordination at Dixon, Illinois, in 1855, consist of Professor Arden’s translations of the “Minnesbok.” Norelius used this diary as the basis of autobiographical articles first published in Korsbaneret (1888-90) and Augustana (1930-31), which were translated by the Reverend Emeroy Johnson and published in book form by the Augustana Book Concern as Early Life of Eric Norelius (1934).

In these posthumously published articles Norelius usually elaborated on the “Minnesbok” versions, but sometimes the original is fuller. At times, as in the episode of the diarist’s meeting with the Baptist Anders Wiberg in 1853, there is immediacy (and in this case acerbity) in the “Minnesbok” which is lacking in the version written for publication. The final section describes a “Missionary Journey to the West Coast, 1885-1886,” which also originally appeared in Augustana.

Mr. Arden, whose work is well known to those interested in the history of Swedish-American Lutheranism, has provided a most useful introduction. In this he shows the place of Norelius in relation to religious developments in Sweden, to the beginnings of the Augustana Lutheran Church, and to the Swedish peopling of the Middle West - in particular Minnesota, which was the missionary’s permanent home from 1860 to his death in 1916. The editor-translator has also provided useful explanatory notes and an index, thus filling to some extent a gap left by Mr. Johnson in his work of 1934.

The most profound impression left on this reviewer by these journals is one of the comparative weakness of Lutheranism in the early years of the second Swedish migration, surrounded as it was by a mass of indifference to religion, and beset by competition from Episcopalians, Eric Jansonists, and (more notably) Baptists and Methodists, all of whom were in the field before the fathers of Augustana began their work.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Self-exposing massacre

Happy 90th birthday, Ned Rorem.

‘For a fortnight JH and I have been trimming the fat from this volume, fat being the truth that endangers. The book still seems bloated, for I’m as fond of my fat as an analysand is of his fears: with each slice I scream. Yet here’s a hundred deleted wounds to others and to myself, lascivious narratives, family daguerreotypes, puerile anecdotes and dirty linen.’ This is the penultimate entry in Ned Rorem’s third volume of published diaries. Although a Pulitzer-prize winning American composer particularly feted for his art songs, Rorem is more widely known, perhaps, for his uncompromising and witty diaries.

Rorem was born on 23 October 1923 in Richmond, Indiana, but moved to Chicago when still a child. He studied music at Northwestern University, Curtis Institute, Juilliard School and Berkshire Music Center. In 1948 his song, The Lordly Hudson, was voted the best published song of that year by the Music Library Association. The following year, he moved to France, and lived and worked there until the late 1950s, including a two year sojourn in Morocco. Back in the US, from 1957, he was much in demand for various music commissions.

Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, hundreds of songs, and many other types of music. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Air Music. According to Boosey & Hawkes, his music publisher, ‘Rorem is justly renowned for his art songs; his catalog includes more than 500 works in the medium. Evidence of Things Not Seen, his evening-length song cycle for four singers and piano, represents his magnum opus in the genre.’ Rorem's most recent opera, Our Town, completed with librettist J. D. McClatchy, is a setting of the acclaimed Thorton Wilder play of the same name, and was premiered in 2006. Rorem has an impoverished Wikipedia biography, which is little more than a long list of his compositions. More biographical information is available on the Boosey & Hawkes website, or from Rorem’s own website.

Alongside his composing, Rorem has written extensively about music and about his own life, in autobiographies and diaries. Although, he has been quoted as saying he is a composer who also writes, not a writer who composes, it can be argued that his diaries - in which he is frank about his own (homo)sexuality and his relationships with, among others, Leonard Bernstein, Noël Coward, Samuel Barber - have earned him more celebrity status than his music. There is an excellent article, available online in the spring 1999 edition of The Paris Review, by McClatchy in which he interviews Rorem about his diaries.

Here is Rorem responding to McClatchy’s question about when he first kept a diary: ‘I did keep a diary in 1936, age twelve, for three months when our family went to Europe. Except for frequent references to Debussy and Griffes, it focuses breathlessly on American movies seen in Oslo or tourists we met on boats. No shred of lust, much less of intellect or guile. Admittedly, words are never put on paper, be it War and Peace or a laundry list, without thought of other eyes reading them, even though those eyes might just be one’s own at another time. But I didn’t think of myself as an author. Ten years later I began a literary diary and kept it up until I went to France in 1949. It’s filled with drunkenness, sex, and the talk of my betters, all to the tune of André Gide.’

The first of Rorem’s diaries was published in 1966 - The Paris Diary - covering his years abroad from 1951 to 1955. ‘Its pithy, elegant entries’ McClatchy says, ‘were filled with tricks turned and names dropped (Cocteau, Poulenc, Balthus, Dali, Paul Bowles, John Cage, Man Ray, and James Baldwin, along with the rich and titled, the louche and witty).’ (Cocteau was the subject of a Diary Review article earlier this month, and Bowles of one in 2010.)

The following year, Rorem published The New York Diary, which took the story up to 1961 and ‘deepened his self-portrait as an untortured artist and dashing narcissist’. There have been several more volumes - The Final Diary in 1974, The Nantucket Diary in 1987, and Lies in 2002, for example - up to the most recent, published in 2006, Facing the Night in which he finds himself alone after the death of Jim Holmes, his companion of 32 years. Many or all of these books can be sampled or previewed at Googlebooks and Amazon.

Here, though, are some extracts from The Final Diary 1961-1972 published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1974.

16 April 1961
‘Sitting in one denuded room whose center contains a mountain of packing cases to be removed tomorrow by Robert Phelps. Without paying last month’s rent I fly Friday for London, meanwhile have already left, can only sit, wondering, for five days more.

Wondering about those three things (and there are only three) we all desire: success in love, success in society, success in work. Any two of these may be achieved and possessed simultaneously, but not all three - there isn’t time. If you think you have the three, beware! You’re teetering on the abyss. You can’t have a lover and friends and career. And even just career and love are, in the long run, mutually exclusive.’

9 June 1961
‘Three days ago at dawn I smashed my right thumb flat as a bedbug in Virgil’s bathroom door, was sped to a fourth-rate doctor in Les Halles who administered five stitches as I (blushing delirium) whispered “tu me plais”, and he replied with an antitetanus shot which, for the next twelve hours, left me hanging by a thread. (Like other chosen fools, my allergy to anything concerning horses is prodigious: to ride a horse, to smell horsemeat cooking, even to read about Swift’s Houyhnhnms, I swell like a bomb.) A week in bed, shivering, finger paralyzed. Then with a few sips of Chablis and a taste of saucisson (which, they say, is ground donkey fat) the tetanus symptoms recur worse than before. Bulges everywhere. The antiserum contagion twists even the forehead into knots of wet iron. Return to bed, every joint aching for days, pills, pills, body a gray grub, spirit a clod, thumb sticking out like a sore thumb as I ruminate on how I bring on these dramas because “life isn’t enough.” ’

7 August 1961
‘So here I am in Africa again, after ten years. And like two Augusts ago on finally returning to Chicago (where I found the initials NR childishly imbedded in the hard cement of adulthood before our former house) I am disturbed. For the past thirteen weeks I’ve sought love on three continents, and found love elusive, because you can’t go back, although nothing has changed but you, etc.

Nothing affects me. Yesterday, Guy’s friend, young Docteur Michel Blanquit, for my general education took me to the Salé morgue and there displayed the svelte naked body of a dead Berber girl who had hanged herself in the woods. Nothing. Yet this was only my second corpse, the first being that “man who jumped off the Seranac” whom all we fourth-graders ran to see and were traumatized for weeks.

Yesterday in Fez I sniffed once more the cedar, mint and heavy olives, hear and taste the terrible exoticism, feel nostalgia less strong than it should be, because I’m not involved (or don’t let myself be), and grow jealous and lonely.

Who knows if America might not after all be the country where my realest problems, for better or worse, will eventually be solved? You can go home again.’

29 September 1961
‘If I weren’t a musician I’d have more time for music. Far more informed than I is the Music Lover, the amateur; nor is his information necessarily more superficial. At a time when it counted - before the age of twenty - I did learn the piano catalogue of Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, and a bit less of Liszt and Schumann. But most of these weren’t mastered. To hear them no longer tempts me. Seldom at a concert don’t I feel I should be home writing my own music.’

7 February 1962
‘For seventeen years I’ve been intermittently keeping these diaries. What will I ultimately do with them. The earliest ones are doubtless more - well - engrossing for their reportage, but the rest are mere self-exposing massacre when au fond I am (as Maggy says) a hardworking mensch. (Hardworking? At least this journal is not concerned with my work. And today I say that work means balance without pleasure; my collaboration with Kessler and our opera for next season I anticipate with only boredom - yet what masterpieces have not sprung from even less!). The other night at one of the biweekly domestic evenings chez moi I read the “Cocteau Visit” extract to Morris and Virgil, and everyone was impressed and said: print it! But where? Oh, the energy I had for the observative journalizing in those early fifties!. But as I wrote then, we spend most of our lives repeating ourselves so now I save time by notating telegram-style. Well, if tomorrow I died, I suppose there’d remain a sizable and varied catalogue. (Am I advancing? Yes, but the scenery’s stationary.) And die perhaps I will, though, astrologically it should have happened to our whole world three days ago, February 4.’

23 December 1972 [Last but one entry]
The Final Diary is merely a title, like Journal of the Plague Year or The Great American Novel. Which does not mean it’s fiction. (Fiction freezes my pen. The discipline of invention - that which is not fact, as I comprehend fact - eludes me.) For a fortnight JH [Jim Holmes] and I have been trimming the fat from this volume, fat being the truth that endangers. The book still seems bloated, for I’m as fond of my fat as an analysand is of his fears: with each slice I scream. Yet here’s a hundred deleted wounds to others and to myself, lascivious narratives, family daguerreotypes, puerile anecdotes and dirty linen. Precisely because they are “interesting” they will remain posthumous. Well, one must, at least in appearance, grow up sometime. For only children are punished. Thus only children are frightened. Alas, only children are worthwhile.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Diary briefs

Diary of ‘White Widow’ linked to terrorism - Daily Mail, Al Arabiya

Diary of World War I veteran goes online - Queensland State Library, Courier Mail

Vicky Pryce’s prison diaries - Daily Mail, The Telegraph

Friend reveals Princess Diana kept diaries - Daily Star

Alice Walker to publish diary in 2017 - Huffington Post (AP)

Teacher’s 1907 diary found in Cardiff school - Wales Online

A picture of life in Yeovil 1887 – 1920 - South Somerset District Council, This is the West Country

Catholic Church to publish cardinal’s diaries - Global Post (AFP)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My hungry hound

The Scottish poet William Soutar passed away seventy years ago today, his death having come slowly but inevitably after more than a decade of being bedridden and constantly confronted with his own incapacity. His poetry is considered to have made an important contribution to the Scottish Literary Renaissance, but it is because of his diaries, perhaps, that he is mostly remembered, at least outside of Scotland. One of his diaries contains a witty poem about how the diary is ‘a hungry hound’, yet his mind is so bare he has nothing to feed it. He started a new journal in the last months of his life, and this he named The Diary of a Dying Man.

Soutar was born in Perth, an only child in a religious family. His father was a master-joiner, and his mother wrote poetry. William studied at the local academy before joining the Royal Navy during the latter part of the First World War. While serving, he contracted a disease - later diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis - which blighted the rest of his life. After the war he studied, first medicine, then English, at Edinburgh University. He contributed to the university magazine; and his father financed publication of slim volumes of poetry, the first being Gleanings by an Undergraduate.

Encouraged and inspired by Hugh McDiarmid, who is credited with developing a literary Scots style of writing, Soutar evolved into an important figure in the so-called Scottish Literary Renaissance. After contracting TB and an unsuccessful operation in 1930, Soutar spent the rest of his life confined to a specially-adapted room in his parents house, where he received many literary visitors. In the house, also, was an orphaned cousin who prompted Soutar to write for children (Seeds in the Wind, for example). He died on 15 October 1943. Further information is available from the Scottish Poetry Society, the William Soutar website, the BBC or Wikipedia.

Soutar’s extant diaries date from 1917, when he was still with the Royal Navy, but until his operation in 1930, they contain but brief notes of appointments and information on books read. According to Alexander Scott, another Scottish poet, who edited the diaries for their first publication in 1954, ‘from the date of the operation, [. . .] the entries extend greatly, both in length and in range, until they provide a fascinating and detailed picture of Soutar’s “still life” in the room where he was bedfast - a life unique in achievement as in environment.’

The diaries were published by W. and R. Chambers Ltd under the title Diaries of a Dying Man, and much of this is available to browse at Googlebooks. Joy Hendry, author of Soutar’s entry for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (login required), says it was unfortunate that Scott chose that title because, she felt, Scott had ‘appropriated’ the title that Soutar himself gave to his very last, and very special, diary, started just months before his death. Hendry says it is thanks to American diarist scholar Thomas Mallon, moved by the tragic story of the diaries and amazed at their literary quality and Soutar’s obscurity, that a process began that brought the diaries back into print (i.e. an edition published in 1991 by Chapman Publications).

4 April 1932
‘Writing and reading: continue to wrestle with words in a very sticky fashion. Perhaps my concentration on verse has made it difficult for me when I turn to prose - anyhow, there is often a strained sound about such prose as I write. Of course all men, I expect, come upon these periods of mental stiffness - but they are depressing at the time and bring with them the fear that they may not pass away. At such moments, the mood is disintegrated - a stimulating talk with a kindred spirit may also disperse it - but alas! I rarely enjoy that. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if much of the irritating tattle which is washed my way lies like a weight on the spirit.’

28 June 1932
‘Just realised to-day that it was round about this time, 10 years ago, when I was Mercer’s age (24) [Soutar’s cousin] that the pains and stiffness in my back began. We were on holiday at Montrose. When I look at Mercer I can scarcely accept the fact that my youth was actually dying then. Seeing him walking about in my clothes - I sometimes wonder what strange necessity brought about the humiliation of my body. Man must look for a reason, and when he has lost his old gods must peer into himself. It is not self-compliment to surmise that one had to sacrifice one’s body to make a self.’

29 June 1932
‘. . . Just now as I lifted my eyes to the hillside I saw the trees waving like a wall of fire. If only one could respond to life as the earth to the sun - but the heart is so often a trim little garden with neither luxuriance nor the conflict of the jungle. It is so easy to retreat within the safe walls of mediocrity.’

4 June 1935
‘TO MY DIARY (on a dull day)
Since verse has power to give a grace
Even to the commonplace
I shall, within a rhyme, declare
The cupboard of my mind is bare
Not only of an underdone
Cutlet of thought; the very bone
Of prosy platitude is gone.
And since for you, my hungry hound,
No meaty morsel can be found;
And since I would not have you own
A master who could proffer none,
I bleed myself to be your drink:
Is not the blood of poets - ink?’

3 August 1940
‘Jennie in emancipated mood this morning, dashing about at her window-cleaning with no stockings on: sometimes the glimpse of a free, young body gives me a sudden, hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.’

6 October 1943
‘How snail-like the temp at which I seem to be living now - and yet my days are hurrying out of the world. I do not think any of my friends suspect as yet that I am under the sentence of death; and it will be fine if they continue for a good while yet to imagine that I have a touch of bronchitis, or something like that: when at last they know, an undefinable restraint will come between the free interchange of friendship.’

13 October 1943
‘Writing in the forenoon: G. G., with the concern of an elder brother, trotted in to find if I was more settled this morning: I could say that I was, but that that was due in the main to the fact I wasn’t attempting to get rid of the phlegm. The stuff was accordingly accumulating - and could not but be a factor in the increase of breathlessness and palpitation: thus one is threatened from all around, by night and by day: whichever way one may turn, the net is closing and cannot be evaded.’

14 October 1943
‘[. . .] Last night I must have been talking quite a lot; as the folks said they heard me making noises around 1:50.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beauty and the Beast

‘My method is simple; not to aim at poetry. That must come of its own accord. The very word whispered will frighten it away. I shall try to build a table. It will be up to you to eat at it, to criticize it, or to chop it up for firewood.’ This is the great innovative French film maker, Jean Cocteau, who died 50 years ago today, writing in the introduction to his published diary about the making of the famous film Beauty and the Beast.

Cocteau was born at Maisons-Laffitte, near Paris, in 1889, but his father, a lawyer and amateur painter, committed suicide in 1898. He left school young, and became friends with the actor Edouard de Max who encouraged his poetry writing. A first book, La Lampe d’Aladin, was published in 1909. The same year also saw the arrival of Ballets Russes and Sergey Diaghilev to Paris, who involved Cocteau in the theatre world. During World War I, Cocteau served as an ambulance driver; he also encountered many other writers and artists who had gathered in Paris.

In 1917, Cocteau met Picasso and they went to Rome where they joined up with Diaghilev and worked on a ballet called Parade, with music by Erik Satie and choreography by Leonide Massine. After the war Cocteau founded a publishing house which published his own writings and scores by Stravinsky, Satie and a group of composers known as Les Six. By 1923, and possibly because his intimate friend Raymond Radiguet had died from typhoid, Cocteau had become addicted to opium. While trying to recover, he produced various works, such as the play Orpheus, the novel Children of the Game, and a first film, Blood of a Poet.

Les Enfants Terribles, which is considered Cocteau’s finest work, was published in 1929. The same year, he was admitted to hospital with opium poisoning. In the 1930s, Cocteau focused increasingly on films, although in 1936 he undertook a journey round the world, one similar to that described in Jules Verne’s story. In the following year, he met the actor Jean Marais, with whom he had a close and fruitful friendship for the rest of his life.

During World War II, the Vichy government branded Cocteau a decadent; but he also took some unwise actions that led to claims he was a German collaborator. After the war, he made Beauty and the Beast and turned both Orpheus and Les Enfants Terribles into films. He died of a heart attack on 11 October 1963, apparently on hearing of the death of his friend Edith Piaf. Further biographical information is readily available on the web, try Wikipedia, the official site of the Jean Cocteau Committee, Kirjasto, or the French Film Guide.

Cocteau, it seems, often kept diaries, and many of these have found their way into publication, in French, obviously, and sometimes in translation. The two most well-known of his diaries translated into English are Diary of a Film (also Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film), first published in English in 1950 by Dennis Dobson; and Opium: The Diary of a Cure. More recently, in the 1980s, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in New York and Hamish Hamilton in London have published two volumes of Past Tense: Diaries, being Cocteau’s diaries from the last decade or so of his life.

The following extracts come from Diary of a Film, as translated by Ronald Duncan and published by Dennis Dobson Ltd. Some of this book can be read online at Googlebooks, and a review by Tennessee Williams can be found in a 1950 edition of The New York Times. The first long extract comes from Cocteau’s own introduction

‘I have decided to write a diary of La Belle et la Bête as the work on the film progresses. After a year of preparations and difficulties, the moment has now come to grapple with a dream. Apart from numerous obstacles which exist in getting a dream on to celluloid, the problem is to make a film within the limits imposed by strict economy. But perhaps these limitations may stimulate imagination which is often lethargic when all means are placed at its disposal.

Everyone knows the story of Madame Leprince de Beaumont, a story often attributed to Perrault, because it comes from ‘Peau d’Ane’ between those bewitching covers of the Bibliothèque Rose.

The story requires faith, the faith of childhood. I mean that one must believe implicitly at the very beginning and not question that the mere gathering of a rose might involve a family upheaval, or whether a man can be changed into a beast, and vice versa. Such beliefs will offend the grown-ups who are always ready to condemn with derision those whose humble faith offends them. But I have the impudence to believe that the cinema which can depict the impossible may convince even them and turn such dreams into realities.

It is up to us, (that is, to me and my unit, in fact, one entity) to avoid those particular things which can break the spell of a fairy story, for when it comes to sequence, the world of make-believe is at least as susceptible as the world of reality.

For fantasy has its own laws which are as rigid as those of perspective. One can focus on what is distant, and hide what is near, but the style remains defined and is so delicate that the slightest false note jars. I am not saying that I have achieved this, but that is what I shall attempt within the means at my disposal.

My method is simple; not to aim at poetry. That must come of its own accord. The very word whispered will frighten it away. I shall try to build a table. It will be up to you to eat at it, to criticize it, or to chop it up for firewood.’

30 August 1945, 7am
‘I woke up with a start in the night. It was raining. I suddenly realized a mistake I had made, which I must correct without anybody noticing it. If they did they would lose confidence in me. I am not a real director and probably never shall be. I get too interested in what is happening. I begin to watch it as though it were a play. I become a part of the audience and then I forget all about the continuity. I have forgotten the continuity of movement where Marcel André mounts his horse. So that we can still use that shot, I shall have to cut a bit of Nane Gernon at the window. She will have to say her lines again and then leave the window, so that Marcel in the next cut can make his movement. This means I shall finish up behind the horse when he mounts it and says ‘And you, Beauty, what shall I bring you?’

30 August 1945, 7:30pm
‘First day that I have actually done what I wanted to do. Splendid sunshine and clouds. We took advantage of the clouds after lunch to work behind the house, and produced the effect of evening by using lamps.

But this morning we nearly lost the little time that we’d gained on our schedule owing to the flying school students looping the loop above us. Darbon went to the officers. They are to pay us a visit at ten o’clock. One of them is Mangin’s son. They’ve promised to make the pilots fly further off.

I’ve nearly finished the linen scene. With a bit of luck I should be through with it tomorrow, between nine and one o’clock. (Ludovic and his watering cans, Mila’s shadow; Beauty’s arrival in her Princess’s dress in the lanes of sheets, discovered by Jean Marais who lifts up the first sheet as though it were a stage curtain a l’Italienne to reveal the background behind the bench.)

In order to make sure of Mila and Nane’s laughter in the close-up (on Josette’s line, ‘bring me a rose . . .’) I asked Aldo to dress himself up as a hag. He made up his face under a veil, and wore long blond curls made of woodshavings. He was grotesque and looked like an old witch. I pushed him out in front of them after the clapper-boy. But they told me they laughed only because they didn’t find him funny.

After the linen tomorrow I shall go on to the orchard, and do the scene of Beauty appearing with her father, to link up with the settings of the sheet and the house. Lebreton is recording sounds of chickens and running water for me, so that the background noises have the correct atmosphere.

1 June 1946 (the last entry in this published diary)
‘Am writing these last lines of this diary in a country house, where I am hiding from bells of all kinds. Door bells, phone bells, and the Rouge est mis.

Decided to quit as soon as the film was finished. And it was yesterday that I showed it for the first time to the studio technicians at Joinville. Its announcement, written on a blackboard, caused quite a stir at Saint-Maurice. They had filled up quite a theatre with benches and chairs. Lacombe had even postponed his shooting so that his unit and artists could attend.

At 6:30 Marlene Dietrich was seated beside me. I tried to get up to say a few words, but the accumulation of all those minutes which had led to this one moment quite paralysed me and I was almost incapable of speech. I sat watching the film, holding Marlene’s hand, crushing it without noticing what I was doing. The film unwound and sparkled like a far-off star - something apart and insensible to me. For it had killed me. It now rejected me and lived its own life. And the only thing I could see in it were the memories of the suffering which were attached to every foot. I couldn’t believe that others would even be able to follow its story. I felt they too would become involved in these activities of my imagination.

But the reception of this audience of technicians was quite unforgettable. And that was my reward. Whatever happens, I shall never get such a touching reception as I did from this little village whose industry is the canning of dreams.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, October 7, 2013

My picture fallen

Today marks the 440th anniversary of the birth of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and an adviser to Charles I. However, he became so unpopular for his persecution of Puritans that he was eventually beheaded. His diary - several decades before Pepys - is surprisingly interesting and personal. In one entry he fears that a picture of himself fallen from the wall might be an omen since Parliament is ‘almost every day’ threatening his ruin.  

Laud was born on 7 October 1573 in Reading, Berkshire, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He was educated at Reading School and St. John’s College, Oxford. Thereafter he entered the church and became involved in a small group whose members opposed Puritanism. After holding a series of appointments, he became a royal chaplain in 1611. Supported by Charles I, he exercised an important influence over church policy. This only increased when he was appointed to the Privy Council in 1627 and made Bishop of London in 1628.

In 1633, Laud was made Archbishop of Canterbury, a position which allowed him to pursue his persecution of Puritans even more rigorously than hitherto. When he tried to impose the Anglican liturgy in the Presbyterian churches of Scotland, armed revolt broke out - the Bishops’ War ensued. Subsequently, Laud’s influence waned rapidly. In 1640, the so-called Long Parliament accused him of treason, and he was imprisoned in the Tower. He was tried in 1644-1645, but Parliament needed to pass a special bill before he was finally found guilty and beheaded. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Berkshire History, or the online edition of the out-of-copyright Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

A substantial diary kept by Laud was first made public by William Pryme in 1644, before Laud’s execution, in A Breviate of the Life of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury: extracted (for the most part) verbatim out of his owne Diary, and other writings, under his owne hand. The diary, which is more interesting than many of the confessional diaries of the period (see Longing after damsens for example), has since been published more fully in collections such as The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God William Laud, D.D., sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (Parker, 1853), which is freely available at Internet Archive.

5 February 1622
‘Wednesday, I came to London. I went that night to his Majesty, hearing he had sent for me. He delivered me a book to read and observe. It was a tract of a Capuchin, that had once been a Protestant. He was now with the French ambassador. The tract was to prove that Christ’s body was in two places at once, in the apparition to St. Paul.’

9 February 1622
‘I gave the King an account of this book.’

6 July 1622
‘I preached at Westminster.’

15 July 1622
‘St Swithin. A very fair day till towards five at night. Then great extremity of thunder and lightning. Much hurt done. The lantern at St. James’s house blasted. The Prince then in Spain.’

14 December 1622
‘Sunday night, I did dream that the Lord Keeper was dead: that I passed by one of his men, that was about a monument for him; that I heard him say, his lower lip was infinitely swelled and fallen, and he rotten already. This dream did trouble me.’

23 March 1623
‘Tuesday, The censure of Morley, Waterhouse and the printer, about the petition against my Lord Keep. That afternoon the K. declared to the committee, that he would send a messenger presently into Spain, to signify to that king that his Parliament advised him to break off the treaties of the match and the Palatinate, and to give his reasons of it; and so proceed to recover the Palatinate as he might. Bonfires made in the city by the forwardness of the people, for joy that we should break with Spain.’ (See Wikipedia for more on the English involvement in the Palatinate campaign.)

26 August 1624
‘Thursday, My horse trod on my foot, and lamed me: which stayed me in the country a week longer than I intended.’

20 October 1628
‘Monday, I was forced to put on a truss for a rupture. I know not how occasioned, unless it were with swinging of a book for my exercise in private.’

29 March 1629
‘Sunday, Two papers were found in the Dean of Paul’s yard before his house. The one was to this effect concerning myself: Laud, look to thyself; be assured thy life is sought. As thou art the fountain of all wickedness, repent thee of thy monstrous sins, before thou be taken out of the world &c. And assure thyself, neither God nor the world can endure such a vile counsellor to live, or such a whisperer; or to this effect. The other was as bad as this, against the Lord Treasurer. Mr. Dean delivered both papers to the King that night. Lord, I am a grievous sinner; but I beseech Thee, deliver my soul from them that hate me without a cause.’

27 October 1640
‘Tuesday, Simon and Jude’s eve, I went into my upper study, to see some manuscripts, which I was sending to Oxford. In that study hung my picture, taken by the life. And coming in, I found it fallen down upon the face, and lying on the floor. The string being broken, by which it was hanged against the wall. I am almost every day threatened with my ruin in Parliament. God grant this be no omen.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sinking so exceedingly

Jonathan Edwards, considered by some to be the most important of American philosophical theologians, was born 310 years ago today. He was a major figure in the revivalist movement of New England in the 1730s and 1740s - the so-called First Great Awakening - but fell out with his own congregation and went to minister at a Massachusetts mission outpost. Many of his sermons and essays were published, and old editions of his collected works, readily available online, tend to include a diary he kept when still a young man.

Edwards was born on 5 October 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, into a large family; and, having been tutored by his father and sisters, entered Yale College aged 13. He worked as a pastor in New York, before returning to Yale as a tutor. He took a position, in 1737, as associate pastor to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, in Northampton, Massachusetts. The same year he married Sarah Pierpont, and they had 11 children.

After Stoddard’s death, Edwards took over in sole ministerial charge of the large Northampton congregation, and began to criticise the moral ills of New England society, not least in published sermons and essays, such as A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God. He went on to produce many more tracts inspiring and supporting the revivalist movement, not least The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival (1742), and A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746).

According to Yale University’s web page on Edwards: ‘Perry Miller, the grand expositor of the New England mind and founder of the Yale edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards, described Edwards as the first and greatest homegrown American philosopher. If the student penetrates behind the technical language of theology, Miller argued, “he discovers an intelligence which, as much as Emerson’s, Melville’s, or Mark Twain’s, is both an index of American society and a comment upon it.” Although nineteenth-century editors of Edwards “improved” his style out of embarrassment for his unadorned, earthy, and earnest language, today Edwards is recognized as a consummate and sophisticated rhetorician and as a master preacher.’

In 1750, after a long-running dispute with his congregation, Edwards was dismissed by the church in Northampton for trying to impose strict qualifications for admission to the sacraments. According to Yale again: ‘His dismissal is often seen as a turning point in colonial American history because it marked the clear and final rejection of the old “New England Way” constructed by the Puritan settlers of New England. [. . .] Ironically, then, the colonial theologian who best anticipated the intellectual shape of modern America also was its first victim.’

in 1751, Edwards went to the mission post of Stockbridge, on the western border of Massachusetts, where he pastored a small English congregation, and wrote many of his major works, including A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of Will. In late 1757, he was lured back to mainstream society with the presidency of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) - because, according to Princeton, he was considered ‘the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time’. He died but a few months later. For further biographical information see Wikipedia, the Jonathan Edwards Center website (Yale University), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, or the Desiring God website.

Edwards has no claim to fame as a diarist, but his collected works do include some pages of a diary kept largely in his youth. A first section is made up of fairly regularly entries from December 1722 to September 1723; and a second section has frequent entries between October 1723 and June 1724, then intermittent entries to June 1725, one single entry in 1726, one in 1734, and finally three in 1735. The diary can be found in The Life of President Edwards by S. E. Dwight published by Carvill in 1830 (and in other general compilations of Edwards’ works) at Internet Archive, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and Googlebooks.

15 January 1723
‘About two or three o’clock. I have been all this time decaying. It seemed yesterday, the day before, and Saturday, that I should always retain the same resolutions to the same height. But alas! how soon do I decay! O how weak, how infirm, how unable to do any thing of myself! What a poor inconsistent being! What a miserable wretch, without the assistance of the Spirit of God! While I stand, I am ready to think that I stand by my own strength, and upon my own legs; and I am ready to triumph over my spiritual enemies, as if it were I myself that caused them to flee: when alas! I am but a poor infant, upheld by Jesus Christ; who holds me up, and gives me liberty to smile to see my enemies flee, when he drives them before me. And so I laugh, as though I myself did it, when it is only Jesus Christ leads me along, and fights himself against my enemies. And now the Lord has a little left me, how weak do I find myself! O let it teach me to depend less on myself, to be more humble, and to give more of the praise of my ability to Jesus Christ! The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? The occasion of my decaying, is a little melancholy. My spirits are depressed, because I fear that I lost some friendship the last night; and, my spirits being depressed, my resolutions have lost their strength. I differ to-day from yesterday in these things: I do not resolve anything to-day half so strongly. I am not so perpetually thinking of renewing my resolutions as I was then. I am not half so vigorous as I was then; nor am I half so careful to do every thing with vigour. Then, I kept continually acting; but now, I do things slowly, and satisfy myself by thinking of religion in the mean time. I am not so careful to go from one business to another. I felt humiliation about sun-set. What shall I do, in order that I may, with a good grace, fall into christian discourse and conversation? At night. The next time I am in such a lifeless frame, I will force myself to go rapidly from one thing to another, and to do those things with vigour, in which vigour would ever be useful. The things which take off my mind, when bent on religion, are commonly some remarkable change or alteration - journeys, change of place, change of business, change of studies, and change of other circumstances; or something that makes me melancholy; or some sin.’

17 January 1723
‘About three o’clock, overwhelmed with melancholy.’

1 January 1724
‘Not to spend too much time in thinking, even of important and necessary worldly business, and to allow every thing its proportion of thought, according to its urgency and importance.’

2 January 1724
‘These things established, That time gained in things of lesser importance, is as much gained in things of greater; that a minute gained in times of confusion, conversation, or in a journey, is as good as minute gained in my study, at my most retired times; and so, in general, that a minute gained at one time is as good as at another.’

3 January 1724
‘The time and pains laid out in seeking the world, is to be proportioned to the necessity, usefulness, and importance of it, with respect to another world, together with the uncertainty of living, and of retaining; provided, that nothing that our duty enjoins, or that is amiable, be omitted, and nothing sinful or unbecoming be done for the sake of it.’

6 January 1724 [At Yale College]
‘This week has been a very remarkable week with me, with respect to despondencies, fears, perplexities, multitudes of cares, and distraction of mind: it being the week I came hither to New-Haven, in order to entrance upon the office of tutor of the college. I have now abundant reason to be convinced of the troublesomeness and vexation of the world, and that it will never be another kind of world.’

7 January 1724
‘When I am giving the relation of a thing, remember to abstain from altering either in the matter or manner of speaking, so much, as that if every one, afterwards, should alter as much, it would at last come to be properly false.’

2 September 1724
‘By a sparingness in diet, and eating as much as may be what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be able to think more clearly, and shall gain time; 1. By lengthening out my life; 2. Shall need less time for digestion, after meals; 3. Shall be able to study more closely, without injury to my health; 4. Shall need less time for sleep; 5. Shall more seldom be troubled with the head-ache.’

12 September 1724
‘Crosses of the nature of that which I met with this week, thrust me quite below all comforts in religion. They appear no more than vanity and stubble, especially when I meet with them so unprepared for them. I shall not be fit to encounter them, except I have a far stronger and more permanent faith, hope, and love.’

30 September 1724
‘It has been a prevailing thought with me, to which I have given place in practice, that it is best sometimes to eat or drink, when it will do me no good, because the hurt that it will do me, will not be equal to the trouble of denying myself. But I have determined to suffer that thought to prevail no longer. The hurries of commencement and diversion of the vacancy, has been the occasion of my sinking so exceedingly, as in the last three weeks.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Power of a lion

Karl von Terzaghi, an Austrian civil engineer and geologist, sometimes called ‘the father of soil mechanics’, was born 130 years ago today. His colourful life, some of which was spent in the US, included a long-running scientific duel which had a tragic end, employing Sylvia Plath’s mother as his secretary, and engaging with Hitler on the best way to lay building foundations. Although his diaries, held in Oslo and Essen, have not been published, they were used extensively by Reint de Boer in his biographical work The Engineer and the Scandal: A Piece of Science History.

Karl von Terzaghi was born on 2 October 1883, the first child of a soldier and his wife in Prague. On his father’s retirement, the family moved to Graz, but Karl was sent to military boarding schools where he developed an interest in astronomy and geography, and excelled at mathematics. In 1900, he started studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Graz, graduating in 1904. A year of military service followed, during which time he translated a popular English geology field manual into German, and undertook further studies in geology.

Terzaghi went to work for a firm involved in hydroelectric power generation, and, by 1908, was managing construction sites; he successfully completed complex projects in Croatia and Russia. In 1912, he went on an extended tour in the US, visiting major dam construction sites. On returning to Austria he was drafted into the army to lead an engineering battalion. Before the war’s end, he took up a professorship at the Royal Ottoman College of Engineering in Istanbul where he began his groundbreaking research into the behaviour of soils.

By 1924, working at Robert College, also in Istanbul, his work was receiving much attention, and he accepted a job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here he set up his own laboratory, and published widely, not least in popular magazines such as Engineering News Record. During this period, he employed Aurelia Schober Plath (later to become the mother of the poet Sylvia Plath) as his secretary. It appears, Terzaghi was a much sought-after dinner companion, not only because of his scintillating conversation but because of his charisma too. In 1928 he met a young geology student, Ruth Dogget, and soon married her.

By 1929, Terzaghi was back in Vienna, having accepted a newly created chair of soil mechanics at Vienna Technical University. He travelled a lot through Europe, lecturing and consulting. During a sabbatical (1936-1937) he became involved in a Nazi building project in Nuremberg, and a conflict over the best way to lay a sound foundation led to a discussion with Hitler; he also undertook a lecture tour in the US. On returning to Vienna, just after the birth of his first son Eric, a long-running dispute (originating in different views over the so-called uplift problem) with another Austrian scientist, Paul Fillunger, came to the boil and ended with Fillunger’s suicide.

Terzaghi moved to the US in 1938, serving as professor of civil engineering at Harvard University from 1946 until his retirement. His consulting business continued to expand, and included the chairmanship of the Board of Consultants of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam project until 1959. He died in 1963. Wikipedia has a little more information; otherwise try Googlebooks for Richard Goodman’s biography: Karl Terzaghi: The Engineer as Artist.

Terzaghi left behind an extensive set of diaries, though, as far as I know, these have not been published. However, Reint de Boer used them extensively in writing his book, The Engineer and the Scandal: A Piece of Science History, published by Springer, 2005. This book might provide a piece of science history, but it’s not a great piece of science writing. The prologue begins as follows: ‘This book gives one an indepth study into an important part of the development of the Theory of Porous Media’ - hmmm, sounds a bit dull so far - ‘as well as the amazing story of the glittering life of Professor Karl von Terzaghi.’ The scandal in the title refers to the dispute with Fillunger.

Further along in the prologue, de Boer explains: ‘[Terzaghi] left behind an extensive record of his life in diaries, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, statements, notes etc. In particular, his diaries contain a lot of facts about his life, individuals, who accompanied him, and his surroundings. However, von Terzaghi was a vain person and belonged to that group of people who work their whole lifetime on their own memorial. In his diaries he sometimes described important events in his life not on the day on which they occurred, but a long time later, and he glossed over many facts. Thus, one has to be careful in adopting his view on facts and his description of certain occurrences uncritically. [. . .]. von Terzaghi kept not only the extended diaries, discovered at his home in 1995/97, which are the basis for this treatise, but also an incomplete set of diaries with short entries which have already been known for a longer time [. . .]’

Much of The Engineer and the Scandal can be previewed at Googlebooks. Here are a few short extracts quoted within the narrative of the book.

6 September 1902
‘I have happily finished my treatise “On the Intellect”. It is the first time that I have taken up the pen. That should be the beginning and the introduction to a series of larger and smaller papers which I will attack soon.’

September 1902
‘I feel the power of a lion in me, since I have broken the heavy ban which encircled me for years. I know now only one goal: extreme particular education in natural sciences, a body like steel and iron and then to the farthest south.’

September 1902
‘I have heavily sinned by my failed efforts, by nearly outrageous meditations, although not responsible, and I am punished severely by disorder and unsteadiness. I will regain all this by the greatest strictness against myself and systematic working.’

October 1902
‘I must learn to give talks, the skill to have an effect on other persons by means of language in order to convince them with that, which I have recognized as the truth. Truth? No, I have to convince them from that, which I have inspected as right and desirable. I stand here, isolated, and will represent my opinion as the present right one, will myself as the center and not as a follower. My work will be to a great extent independent. . .’

31 December 1902
‘Too many intentions, too little energy. Great phrases, small thoughts. Innumerable books, lack of concentration. The year which I end today, is as each of the proceeding [sic] years, distracted. I spent a part of my time with wandering about in the dark instead of with systematic work . . . However, I must admit that I made quite an imposing piece of progress this year. I have founded my philosophy of life recently through the realization of the moral law in us. I have won by this a measure of regulation and opinion in my way of acting.’

23 October 1903
‘Now I have determined plans for the future. I will abandon all dreams of my youth and choose a profession in which I can work most fruitfully. I would like to graduate from the Technische Hochschule as well as possible in order to enlarge as ever possible, the chance to get a professorship for mechancs.’

October 1912
‘It is just the calling of my life to develop all the skills which I possess as completely as possible. I have a certain hesitation going back to Europe, even for a short time. Europe is the land of the sins of my youth. There I developed, alongside many good things, all the bad seeds in my nature.’

2 October 1922
‘I must thank the Creator that I pass the threshold of the 40th year of my life as a mature man who has made his talents unfold and has already realized to a large extent the goals, of which he dreamed in his youth. In this summer I had the feeling of being on top of life. My achievements are beginning to receive the recognition and attention which they deserve. The publications of the total results of my previous research and thinking ensured. And the unnatural relationship with my wife cleared up. On September 14, I arrived in Constantinople. There following two weeks appeared to me like one year as a result of the variety of events. The old love to Olga struggled with the indignation at her behaviour and the indignation succeeded.’

22 October 1922
‘I have thought of you [Olga] daily, this year, of the women I have loved so much, and of our small child, Verele.’ Here de Boer explains: ‘He lamented his previous and then-current situation in over eight pages of his diary and expressed several muddled thoughts and strange statements indicating that he was completely out of balance.’