But despite my somewhat one-sided reading diet, the winner was still a work of fiction: Karl Ove Knausgård's 3500 page monster Min kamp, a unique book that's already well on the way to becoming a classic five years after it first came out. Trust me, it's worth all the trouble. _____________________________________
Since everyone else is adding statistics, here are mine:
Number of books read: 108 Total number of pages: 26753 Books over 500 pages: 8 Books over 700 pages: 3 Nonfiction books: 51 Books by women: 28 Books not in English: 29 French: 13 Norwegian: 8 Swedish: 4 German: 3 Danish: 1
Don't believe everything you read on the Internet, part 94
On this page, I recently read, to my considerable surprise, that "There is a large brass sta Don't believe everything you read on the Internet, part 94
On this page, I recently read, to my considerable surprise, that "There is a large brass statue of Winnie-the-Pooh in Lima, Peru". If only this had been true, it would have been a wonderful trivia question: of course, if there were any large bear statue there, you'd automatically assume it was Paddington. But in fact, a little more googling leaves me more or less certain that it's a hoax. No one who has tried to find evidence for this statue has turned up anything at all.
Damn! I feel so gullible. But just to be on the safe side, I'll ask a Peruvian friend if she knows anything about it. _____________________________________
My Peruvian informant answered promptly:
Hahahahaha, nope, we have no Pooh bear in Lima. We have some llamas instead of flames of freedom though...is a funny story...but I can totally confirm that Winnie the Pooh is not venerated /worshiped in my country and have no brass statue.
Well, that sounds pretty definite. But I still don't understand why anyone would want to create such a remarkably pointless internet legend......more
Sitting next to a seven year old boy at dinner the other day, the conversation, as it so often does in these circumstances, turned to the interestingSitting next to a seven year old boy at dinner the other day, the conversation, as it so often does in these circumstances, turned to the interesting subject of poo. Jenkin proudly informed me that he had received a copy of Plop Trumps for Christmas. I was treated to a precis of the rules.
"You might like The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunnit," I guessed. We were both delighted when it turned out that Jenkin had in fact already read it.
"You got it for me from the English library," he told his mother.
"Did I?" she said uncertainly. "Honestly, I just can't keep up. I bring back a load of books, and an hour later he says he's finished them all."
It is a pleasure to meet the new generation of book nerds. Relax, everyone: the future is safe. ...more
"I do not want to belong to any club that would have me as a member," said Groucho Marx in his most frequently quoted line - one that I thought of sev"I do not want to belong to any club that would have me as a member," said Groucho Marx in his most frequently quoted line - one that I thought of several times while reading Confronting the Classics. Good grief, Mary Beard is doing just what I've done! She's taken a bunch of reviews, tidied them up a bit, stuck on some linking text, and called it a book! I mean, come on. I've tried her formula, and I know all the drawbacks. No doubt the individual reviews are quite good, but the construction is choppy and fragmented. It has no coherence. And she's never really addressing the reader. A lot of the time, it's painfully obvious that she's invited me into her text and then, in an elementary faux pas that no society hostess would dream of committing, she's blatantly ignoring me while she talks to the author instead. What kind of behavior is that?
Embarrassingly, though, Professor Beard is able to muster one point in her defense: her method appears to work. Despite doing three years of Latin at school, I have never felt very interested in classical studies. I passed my Latin O-level with difficulty and have never learned any Greek. I am extremely vague on classical history. But having read a few dozen of her reviews, I discover that I am rather better informed about the subject than I was before. Book reviewing, as everyone on this site knows, is an enjoyable spectator sport. I found myself paying close attention as she rapped one author over the knuckles for analyzing Latin dramas that possibly never existed, or spent half a page discussing why another didn't bother to mention in his biography of a certain famous classicist that the gentleman in question had a habit of sexually harassing his female students. She made the subject exciting. It becomes apparent than many of the so-called experts in this field are perilously close to the boundary which separates speculative research from out-and-out fraud. The facts are hard to obtain, and the temptation to extrapolate and add more or less fictitious details is enormous. She can spot them cheating when I'd gullibly swallow their stories, and it's fun to watch. And while you do that, in a manner that's familiar to anyone who hangs out on this site, you find yourself learning. After all, if you don't familiarize yourself with the background you can't follow the match.
Well... I don't know. It's hard to argue with results; maybe this isn't such a bad format after all. In fact, I almost wonder if I shouldn't try it again myself... ...more
[Alarums and excursions. Enter IMELDA STAUNTON as THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, followed by herPeter Jackson's Mother Goose (part 3), conclusion
[Alarums and excursions. Enter IMELDA STAUNTON as THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, followed by her many CHILDREN. She is distraught and speaks in a British regional accent]
OLD WOMAN: Aw naw! I dawn't knaw whut to dew! Children, arre yew all there? Let me see: Fred, Susan, Jeremy... aw naw!!!!
[The camera whips round, then zooms in on the top of a huge oak, where we can see something white. Enter an evil ORC]
ORC: Rock a bye baby. Har, har, har!
[He begins to shake the tree. Branches fall off. The BABY wakes up and cries hysterically]
OLD WOMAN: Dew summat!
[Enter JACK, a hunky dark-haired dwarf, and JILL, a hot elf-babe]
JACK: Don't worry ma'am! I can save your son! Now, if I can get to the top of the hill fast enough...
[He mounts his GIANT WAR-SQUIRREL and starts leaping up the hill. When they reach the top, they make a death-defying bound into the tree]
ORC: When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. Har, har, har!!!!
[He gives the tree a final shake. In a wild action sequence that lasts about fifteen minutes, JACK, the BABY and the GIANT WAR-SQUIRREL fall from branch to branch, fight the ORC, and are finally dashed to pieces at the bottom]
JILL: [holding the lifeless JACK and weeping bitter tears] He's broken his crown. Why does it hurt so much?
SIR IAN MCKELLEN: Because it's been written for the 16 to 24 Asian demographic. ...more
Casting around for a good way to explain what an excellent book this is, I realize that I can say it very concisely: in an approachable but still quit
Casting around for a good way to explain what an excellent book this is, I realize that I can say it very concisely: in an approachable but still quite responsible manner, it tells you everything you need to know about the Standard Model of Particle Physics to be able to understand the equation on the famous CERN T-shirt.
Well, that was my best shot. If you aren't convinced now, you never will be. ...more
Several people have wondered over the last year which review I've been trolled on most often. In an effort to answer this vital question, I've compileSeveral people have wondered over the last year which review I've been trolled on most often. In an effort to answer this vital question, I've compiled another list. Here, you can see all my reviews on which the comment thread contains at least 100 comments:
So this is what Goodreaders are really interested in! Next time I'm asked, I'll be able to give a snappy answer: in roughly descending order, it's God, Harry Potter, Science, Goodreads, Hitler, Sex, Vampires and Proust. All things considered, not too bad... ...more
Forgive me, dear friends: after struggling through 350 pages of minutely annotated ASL conversations, I feel I have to inflict the same pain on someonForgive me, dear friends: after struggling through 350 pages of minutely annotated ASL conversations, I feel I have to inflict the same pain on someone else. I know, it's the classic cycle of abuse. You don't have to tell me.
Figures 12.1 to 12.6 show a sequence from a lecture where a Deaf linguist briefly discusses Liddell's Grammar, Gesture and Meaning and contrasts it with two related works, Neidle's The Syntax of American Sign Language and Johnston and Schembri's Australian Sign Language. She starts in Figure 12.1 by signing COMPARE THREE BOOKS and holding up her weak left hand to act as a 3-list buoy. This list represents the three books, and intermittently returns throughout the rest of the exposition.
In Figure 12.2, the lecturer continues by fingerspelling L-I-D-D-E-L-L, touching the D1 digit on her left hand as she reaches the end to indicate that Liddell is the first element of the list. She then does the same with N-E-I-D-L-E, touching the D2 digit, and J-O-H-N-S-T-O-N, touching the D3 digit. Having listed the three books, she adds ALL↓D1-D3 DIFFERENT, directing the ALL sign from D1 to D3 using a slanting downward motion. We read this as "All three books are different".
The lecturer may originally have intended to start with Liddell, but she now changes her mind and in Figure 12.3 signs THEORY→D2+++; she repeats the sign THEORY several times, directing it towards D2, which we can interpret as "The second book (i.e. Neidle) is very theoretical". Next, she continues PRO→D2 SAY, i.e. "Neidel says". As she does this, she leans slightly to the left and redirects her gaze to show that the following signs come from a blended surrogate representing Neidel. The immediately following part, TREES C-H-O-M-S-K-Y EXPLAIN[incessant] SECRET ASL thus means approximately "According to Neidel, tree (diagrams) and Chomsky over and over again explain all the secrets (of) ASL". The mock-serious affect expressed by the signer's face convey that she thinks Neidel believes this, but that she personally doubts it.
In Figure 12.4, the lecturer now reverts to her original posture and signs ALSO THEORY→D1 DIFFERENT, "the first book (i.e. Liddell) is also theory, (but) different". She then signs PRO→D1 SAY, "Liddell says", this time leaning to the right to establish a second surrogate blend where she represents Liddell. Similarly to the immediately preceding passage, the next few signs, GRAIN PHOTO SEMANTICS DIAGRAM ARROW TANGLE+++ ("grain(y) photos (and) semantic diagrams (with) very tangled arrows") should be read as describing what the lecturer represents Liddell as saying. The non-verbal adverb th, characterized by a protruding lip formation, typically indicates loss of control and here suggests that the signer does not consider that Liddell is fully in command of his material.
In Figure 12.5, the lecturer again returns to her original posture and reactivates the 3-list buoy to sign BALANCED→D3, i.e. "Johnston and Schembri are balanced". She continues INFLUENCE D1→D3 D2→D3, directing the sign for INFLUENCE so that it goes both from D1 to D3 and from D2 to D3. This astonishingly compact way of saying "Johnston and Schembri have been influenced by both the other authors" is typical of ASL's expressive syntax. In the closing sequence, PRO→D3[topic] TREES NO SEMANTICS NO BALANCE, the lecturer points to D3 (Johnston and Schembri), briefly leans left during TREES to resume the "Neidel" blended surrogate, returns to a neutral posture to sign NO, briefly leans right during SEMANTICS to resume the "Liddell" blended surrogate (again using the non-manual adverb th), returns again to a neutral posture to sign NO, and finally repeats the sign BALANCE. This could be translated as "Johnston and Schembri do not allow themselves to be unduly swayed either by Neidel's tree diagrams or by Liddell's obscure semantics, but as noted maintain a sense of balance".
(view spoiler)[Apparently as an afterthought (Figure 12.6), the lecturer adds NOT DEAF NOT KNOW ASL NOT EXIST JOKE. It is unclear what this means. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The other day, I was being criticized by certain people for posting a frivolous review of Er ist wieder da despite not having read it. Well, I am theThe other day, I was being criticized by certain people for posting a frivolous review of Er ist wieder da despite not having read it. Well, I am the first to admit that my behavior is inexcusable, but I was a little surprised not to have been arrested earlier. Ladies and gentlement of the court, I have been doing this for years. I'm a serial offender. I'm just glad that I've finally had a chance to come clean.
Here are some other reviews I've posted of books I haven't read (I'm afraid this is a mere sample):
I was somewhat disturbed to hear from Lilo that the negative review of Er ist wieder da which she had posted on Amazon had been removed without notice
I was somewhat disturbed to hear from Lilo that the negative review of Er ist wieder da which she had posted on Amazon had been removed without notice. As an experiment, I thought I would post a negative review of Mein Kampf, where I do the same thing and advise people not to read it. You can find the review here.
So far, three people have voted for it and one person has attacked me in a rather bizarre way. I'm curious to find out what will happen next. In particular, I want to see if Amazon remove my review too. My guess is that this will only happen if the review gets a large number of votes - so if you're also curious, please go there and add your vote. I will post an update if and when there have been any significant developments. _________________________________________
Well, here's an interesting development. The Amazon review, which is currently running at 20-3, has not been deleted... but one of the more deranged posts by "CitizenChampion", the guy who was attacking it, has been removed.
So far, then, Amazon have behaved quite correctly. Did anyone on this thread flag Citizen's post? I didn't. _________________________________________
Only a few hours later, and with the score at 24-3, we have a new incident: this time, Amazon have deleted a sarcastic post criticizing "CitizenChampion" and implying... well, let's not get into that. But it went remarkably quickly. Whoever's in charge certainly seems to have their eye on this one. _________________________________________
I knew "CitizenChampion" wouldn't give up that easily. Since his latest post will probably soon be deleted by the moderator, I'm pasting in a copy here.
In all probability you are a Jew.It further seems that these hidden bastards might share a common trait that an enemy once is an enemy always. What you have committed has little or nothing to do with "Mein Kampf",though you truly fear them this is about an enbred contempt perhaps even the having of ill-will against my ability to participate. This forum like another forum here at Amazon is a wicked as it is corrupt.You are not honest Manny Rayner and neither are this hidden filth behind the scenes that I wpould rather grab you by the throat,You bastard menace.
Keep at it, "Citizen"! I'm feeling prouder of my partially Jewish ethnicity every day. The score is now 31-3. _________________________________________
I'm afraid that all of Citizen's posts have now disappeared from the Amazon review: some have been deleted by the moderator, and some by Citizen himself. He's probably making a smart move. I don't know where he's from, but in quite a lot of countries he might have been getting into illegal hatespeech territory.
Well, Citizen, if that was so then I'm flattered you were willing to risk a fine or maybe even some community service to attack my little review. [Update: in England, it seems that this would be entirely possible. See Paul's message #85 in the comment thread.] And I'm relieved that I had the presence of mind to save one of your comments for posterity. You have not written in vain.
The score is now 37-3, and the review has reached the first page. Thanks for all the support, guys! _________________________________________
A few days later, and Citizen is back! I'm copying all his posts from now on. Why, oh why, didn't I do this right from the start? You can see that I'd never have made an investigative journalist. Anyway, here is his latest open letter to the world:
Your a liar Manny Rayner, however like your source of information it remains an embedded feature of your claim. You remain a hidden wretched wickedness that is a plague upon a honest word. You indeed like your claim of half and half is like your word,it is stolen and now you are crying wolf. One further thing your inability to be honest is likened to this websites inability to be honest as to "Mein Kampf". I really do not care whatever cornball crap your hustling whoever the hell you are but one thing is for certain this no good website has deleted many upon many comments of mine that require an honest approach to who is Adolf Hitler.This embedded feature is so determined to deny any claim of another opinion that this embedded feature is as your half and half claim,that is your history as well as this claim has legs. What I said was in all probability you are a Jew this was after Amazon was having a heart attack.Amazon is not capable of being honest.It is truly regretful to have worked well on an opinion and then to see this disease spread. Do you know who Amazon is ?
The score is now 45-4. _________________________________________
Citizen's latest post has been deleted (it says by the author), but now a new voice has joined the conversation. "Loki" writes:
The statement "Hitler is evil" is a subjective statement: I for one do not subscribe to the idea of absolute "Good" and absolute "Evil". So, I do not think it appropriate to stay away from reading any book because someone thought the author "evil". One should read and assess for oneself.
So I do not think it appropriate that people should recommend against reading a particular because they consider the author or subject "Evil". They should make the recommendation solely on the merits of the book, AFTER reading the book.
I hope Amazon would take note and will not allow such reviews to be posted.
How will Amazon react? My prediction is that they'll just ignore it, but we will soon see.
The score is now 49-6. _________________________________________
"Loki", who is a good deal more polite and coherent than Citizen, is still trying to persuade me that I am being unfair to Mein Kampf. He says that everyone has a right to be heard, including Hitler. Well, as I just replied, I couldn't disagree more. Hitler long ago forfeited his right to be heard. He has no rights at all.
We're now at 50-6. _________________________________________
This thing is in danger of getting out of hand; I had no idea that so many Goodreaders felt it was immoral to discourage people from reading what is widely cited as the most hateful and dangerous literary work in human history. But, be that as it may, I would just like to remind everyone what the original point of the exercise was: I wanted to see if Amazon would delete a review whose sole purpose was to persuade shoppers not to buy Mein Kampf.
I have said harsh things about Amazon before, but this time I'm delighted to give them a clean bill of health. If anything, they have been overzealous in defending me. At least in this instance, they have made it very clear that they think it's more important to show respect towards Hitler's millions of victims than to try and increase their profits by removing or downplaying negative reviews of his dreadful, utterly evil book.
I misjudged you, Amazon. Apologies, and Merry Christmas! _________________________________________
Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community in Munich, said she had not vigorously opposed it when the project first surfaced. But her position, she said, hardened after hearing from outraged Holocaust survivors.
“This book is most evil; it is the worst anti-Semitic pamphlet and a guidebook for the Holocaust,” she said. “It is a Pandora’s box that, once opened again, cannot be closed.”
I think I first read it, in English, when I was about seven, but I only just got around to looking at the Danish original. If it doesn't bring tears tI think I first read it, in English, when I was about seven, but I only just got around to looking at the Danish original. If it doesn't bring tears to your eyes, then your heart is truly of stone....more
On first looking into Chapman's Homer Bjørneboe's Bestialitetens historie
MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingOn first looking into Chapman's Homer Bjørneboe's Bestialitetens historie
MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne: Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes He stared at the Pacific—and all his men Look'd at each other with a wild surmise— Silent, upon a peak in Darien*.
* After which they raped and massacred hundreds of thousands of Aztecs, plundered their country of gold and precious stones, and reduced the remaining people to slavery. The following is an extract from an Aztec account of one of the key incidents:
Here it is told how the Spaniards killed, they murdered the Mexicans who were celebrating the Fiesta of Huitzilopochtli in the place they called The Patio of the Gods.
At this time, when everyone was enjoying the fiesta, when everyone was already dancing, when everyone was already singing, when song was linked to song and the songs roared like waves, in that precise moment the Spaniards determined to kill people. They came into the patio, armed for battle.
They came to close the exits, the steps, the entrances [to the patio]: The Gate of the Eagle in the smallest palace, The Gate of the Canestalk and the Gate of the Snake of Mirrors. And when they had closed them, no one could get out anywhere.
Once they had done this, they entered the Sacred Patio to kill people. They came on foot, carrying swords and wooden and metal shields. Immediately, they surrounded those who danced, then rushed to the place where the drums were played. They attacked the man who was drumming and cut off both his arms. Then they cut off his head [with such a force] that it flew off, falling far away.
At that moment, they then attacked all the people, stabbing them, spearing them, wounding them with their swords. They struck some from behind, who fell instantly to the ground with their entrails hanging out [of their bodies]. They cut off the heads of some and smashed the heads of others into little pieces.
They struck others in the shoulders and tore their arms from their bodies. They struck some in the thighs and some in the calves. They slashed others in the abdomen and their entrails fell to the earth. There were some who even ran in vain, but their bowels spilled as they ran; they seemed to get their feet entangled with their own entrails. Eager to flee, they found nowhere to go.
Some tried to escape, but the Spaniards murdered them at the gates while they laughed. Others climbed the walls, but they could not save themselves. Others entered the communal house, where they were safe for a while. Others lay down among the victims and pretended to be dead. But if they stood up again they [the Spaniards] would see them and kill them.
The blood of the warriors ran like water as they ran, forming pools, which widened, as the smell of blood and entrails fouled the air.
And the Spaniards walked everywhere, searching the communal houses to kill those who were hiding. They ran everywhere, they searched every place.
Reading Bjørneboe's comments in Bestialitetens historie on Saint Paul and the way he reorganized Christianity, I was reminded of Monty Python's sketchReading Bjørneboe's comments in Bestialitetens historie on Saint Paul and the way he reorganized Christianity, I was reminded of Monty Python's sketch Interview with Vice-Pope Eric, which is kind of the short, comic version. For people who aren't familiar with this masterpiece, here's the relevant passage:
PYTHON: To return to sex. (CHEERING)
STALIN: What about Communism?
PYTHON: Later, later. Vice-Pope, did Christ himself say anything about sex being sinful?
VICE-POPE: Apparently not, no. This was obviously an oversight on his part, which fortunately we have been able to rectify, with the help of the teachings of Paul...
PYTHON: The Pope?
VICE-POPE: No, no, the saint. The woman-hater.
PYTHON: Oh, the pouf.
VICE-POPE: So they say, yes. Anyway, we've managed to pass this off as Christ's teaching, rather successfully as I think you will admit.
ALL: Absolutely. First class job.
FRAMPTON: Had me fooled.
VICE-POPE: So that even where sex has been... well, permitted, the guilt's been in there, doing its job.
FRAMPTON: Does this necessity to sub-edit Christ sometimes worry you?
VICE-POPE: Not really. After all, you can't treat the New Testament as gospel. And one must remember that Christ, though he was a fine young man with some damn good ideas, did go off the rails now and again, rich-man-eye-of-camel for example, which is only to be expected, because he came from a difficult background... an under-privileged Jewish family, his father, God, God the Father that is, was all over the place, in addition to which He wasn't married to Christ's mother.
FRAMPTON: But Joseph was.
VICE-POPE: Yes, but Mary was a virgin you see, so the marriage could never have been consummated and so was not legally valid.
PYTHON: So, either way, Christ was a bit of a bastard?
VICE-POPE: Yes, an almighty bastard of course but... This sort of thing helps to explain, too, why he became polygamous in his after-life; all nuns being brides of Christ, as you know.
KRASZT: But with certain exceptions, you accept his teaching?
VICE-POPE: Oh yes, it's been an invaluable basis for our whole operation really. Of course people accuse us sometimes of not practising what we preach, but you must remember that if you're trying to propagate a creed of poverty, gentleness and tolerance, you need a very rich, powerful, authoritarian organisation to do it.
FRAMPTON: I'm afraid I must go now. I have to get Eddie's tea ready....more
Their have been many descriptions of the grieving process in world literature a very famous one is In Search of LosThe Grieving Process in Literature
Their have been many descriptions of the grieving process in world literature a very famous one is In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust Marcel's GF has died in an acsident he is very sad and goes round asking all her friends if she was a lezzy but no one will tell him for sure in the end he thinks maybe it wasnt so important really. A modern book about the grieving process is Min Camp by Karl Over Knaugard his father has died and he is very sad and cries all the time speshully becoz his father has left the house looking like a bomb hit it there are empties and crap everywhere so he has to spend all week cleaning it up it is a nightmare.
Unfortunately In Search of Lost Time and Min Camp are very long they are like litrally thousands of pages so I havent had time to read them for this essay but they are very important books in world literature all the same. But last nite I went and saw Cans by Stuart Slade it is also about the grieving process but it is shorter and the theater is above a pub that is a plus if you ask me. This girl Jen and her uncle Len are grieving for Jens father who is also Lens brother they are cleaning up his shit putting stuff in boxes it is a bit like Min Camp I think. They are very sad becoz he topped himself he was a TV personalty who was accused of being a perv and a cereal rapist it is a refrence to Rolf Harris or Bill Cosby one of those people anyway.
Cans is quite funny people were LOLing all the time you learn a lot about how grieving works like when you are grieving you dont see the funny side of things their is this bit at the beginning when they are drowning mice it is hilarius but Jen cant see that becoz she is so broken up about her dad. And when you are grieving you arent interested in sex Jens BF wants her to sext him pictures of her ladybits but shes not interested in the end she smses him gifs she has got off a porn site she wonders if he will notice but he dont.
You learn that grief is very difficult Jen is so sad but their are 2 things that are very important if you want to feel better you have to have someone to talk to and you have to drink a lot of cider. I liked this play a lot next time something really bad happens to me I will remember that. ...more
If you haven't read David Mazieres and Eddie Kohler's already-classic "Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List", check it out now to find new angles on hIf you haven't read David Mazieres and Eddie Kohler's already-classic "Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List", check it out now to find new angles on how to become a published academic author. More details here, including the referee report. ...more
This book is not a novel, and it is not an autobiography, and it is certainly not a responsible work of history, sociology or anthropology. It is, morThis book is not a novel, and it is not an autobiography, and it is certainly not a responsible work of history, sociology or anthropology. It is, more than anything else, a meeting with the author, a Norwegian who has spent his life wandering the world collecting information for his masterpiece, the History of Bestiality. He sometimes calls himself Johannes, and sometimes Jean, or Giovanni, or Ivan; he is evidently very far from sane, and he usually has a glass of wine in his hand. After a while, I began to imagine the surroundings. We are sitting in a large room in an establishment which might be a psychiatric hospital, but is more likely a rather downmarket brothel. As we talk, people wander in and out. Sometimes, they join in the conversation for a while; my host asks them to read passages in their native languages, while he nods encouragingly. Many of them are attractive young women, who look at him (never at me) with melting eyes.
Sometimes I think Johannes hates humanity, and sometimes I think he loves it too much. He refers to his fellow human beings by a variety of pet names; he calls them his small bears, or his lemurs, or his wolves. He launches into long, fantastically detailed stories about the Nazi doctors, the witch-hunts of the early 17th century, the conquests of the Aztec and Inca empires, the Vietnam war. He has a ferocious and unforgiving hatred of the Americans, the Russians, the Germans, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, the Italians and the Catholic and Protestant churches. He cannot mention Lenin or Saint Paul without spitting, but he loves Marx and Jesus. He keeps changing his mind about Robespierre.
He says that Hitler might have been a good thing for the Europeans; they finally had a chance to learn what it was like to be on the receiving end. But then he shakes his head and says it’s probably too difficult for them to understand.
He describes how men have raped and tortured women in the name of religious and political ideals. He is extremely specific, and presents long lists of the dreadful things that they have done; after a while, he is so agitated that he can hardly speak. When this happens, the girl nearest him touches his hand for a moment, or smooths his thinning hair, and after a while he can go on.
He complains bitterly that the universe has no meaning. He makes frequent reference to the burning heat at the center of the Earth and the absolute cold of space. He says there is life only here, in this tiny zone precariously wedged between the two extremes, and that we have turned our fragile little abode into a torture chamber.
He talks for several hours. In the end, he is too exhausted and overwrought to continue. He collapses on to his bed and lies there, half reclining, momentarily unable to speak. One of the girls, the one who appears to be his favorite, brings him a jar of pills. He helps himself to a handful and washes them down with more wine.
“I have done what I could,” he says, in an unexpectedly clear voice. “Now it is up to you. Nunc dimittis; suffer thy servant to depart in peace.”
I leave. No one looks at me; they can only see him. ...more