It felt good to go into a research library again though there were very few people around at Carolina Rediviva. I returned a book of Romain Rolland’s letters to Elsa Wolff, which I have had since those distant days before Covid-19 (a flashier person than me would have used the word “prelapsarian” here). I didn’t manage to establish whether it’s her signature on a signed book I have but I now know that she had sufficient knowledge of English to be able to read this book. And that it was probably not a present to her from Romain Rolland as the dates aren’t quite right. I’ll have to try to check her signature and see what other Elsa Wolffs I can find in the early twentieth century.
The weather is touch and go just now, unreliable; I decided to risk a soaking as a customer was late with a manuscript and I unexpectedly had time on my hands and badly needed exercise. So off I went on my bike through Luthagen, which is fast becoming part of “my” Uppsala, and past the cemetery, keeping my taphophilia in check (I still have a few calls to make). On my way back, I give into the temptation to buy an ice cream and sit by the river for a while (in principle, I don’t eat when I’m out). It’s a pleasant stretch by the kiosk where there used to be an old toll gate and where the “svart bäck”, the blackspring) tributary flows into the Fyris. Then to my post box where I was pleased to receive Gregor Thun’s “Uprooted. How Breslau became Wroclaw”. I’m fascinated by cities like Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Stettin (Szczecin) and Breslau (Wroclaw) which changed nationality and have wanted to read about the process of changeover. It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like if Salisbury or Dorchester, for instance, became French.
I’ve spent some weeks reading the Cambridge Companion to the Bible. Not for religious reasons but because I’ve wanted to be able to find my way around the Bible better so that I know what I’m looking at when examining church art (for example, stained glass windows) and can better understand the way of thinking of those choosing the motives. I’ve been dissatisfied for a long time with the rag bag of odd bits and pieces of knowledge that my formal education equipped me with, the spectacular stories Adam and Eve, the Ark, Moses etc., without telling me much about the overall structure and intention of the work. I didn’t read much of the Bible itself – more about the interpretations by, above all German scholars about the age of the various parts, the relationship between history and myth, and the possible intentions and identities of the various editors. It’s an interesting book and the more I know about Christianity, the curiouser I find it. The two testaments seem an odd combination and the Trinity an uneasy device that creates endless problems. I felt I made some progress but by the time I got half way through the prophets I was losing momentum and felt an urge to return to the world of now so I went over to Piketty’s first book (which I thought I’d better read before buying his new book).
I was rather disappointed by Piketty. It’s undoubtedly a serious work with a lot of useful and interesting statistics, especially on the distribution of income, and, unlike much of modern economics, does tackle some important issues and offer a basis for discussion. But I found his analysis of capital fuzzy and he was closer to conventional economics in his values and way of thinking than I’d expected. He’s certainly not the 21st century’s answer (or equivalent) to Marx. It says much about the barrenness of conventional economics that even a modest attempt at a serious discussion in a broader framework than conventional macro confers star status.
I stopped before I got to Piketty’s suggested solutions and contented myself with reading a couple of reviews, which confirmed my thoughts (and, of course, attracted my approval for their stringency…..).
Otherwise, I am reading about northern Uppland, the Walloons and the iron industry in preparation for a trip in that direction later in the summer. Discussions about pig iron and blast furnaces have left me rather cold in the past but I want to get a better idea of what went on and how the mining and refining of iron ore and other activities were connected (and master some of the terms used in the field). It seems an interesting part of Sweden which I’ve hardly looked at (other than what I have seen from the E4 or the railway). I realised the other day that the old spelling of Lövsta, Leufsta, could well be inherited from the Walloons as this would be the Walloon pronunciation.
It feels good to relax my isolation now even though I am continuing to be very careful. I noticed being by myself and focusing on my own planned projects that I tend to float away into my own time zone. I read for too many hours at a stretch, then get tired and sleep too much in the day. The other day I woke up refreshed and ready for my breakfast and the start of the day. After a while, I thought it was a bit dark and realised that it was 00.30 in the morning. And now it starts to feel not so much of a problem that I have to address but as an irritating intrusion, an unwanted intrusion of conventional attitudes into my time plan.
I should probably not be too creative with the circadian rhythm for reasons of mental hygiene; this “problem” will probably right itself once I have greater interaction with other people. I rate the chances of a sympathetic response to my operating on KSNLST (Kendall Standard Non-Linear Subjective Time) as poor….