That was the week that was

It took me the best part of two days to get my booster jab after my willing arm was rejected a couple of times on various pretexts, leaving me wondering whether the Anti-Vax movement had infiltrated the stabbers. But at last the deed was done – my life’s most enjoyable vaccination as I felt the needle penetrate. I resisted the temptation to leap up and high five the vaccinator.

I had a few hours before any reaction set in and made my usual pre-Christmas trip to the English Shop in Stockholm’s Old Town. As I feared there were no mince pies nor even jars of mincemeat, just a sign at the till asking customers to please not make remarks about Brexit. It has the makings of a wonderful headline “Fulminating frustrated mince pie customers induce Brexit fatigue” The shop had frozen New Zealand vegan kebab but somehow it’s not the same. I bought a Christmas pudding which must have been heavy enough to force its way through the blockade. I used to buy jars of marmite which I usually threw away unopened when they became unfit for consumption but have managed to give up this particular heritage hugging.

I’m writing this at a horribly early hour trying to overcome a sleep rhythm where I don’t fall asleep until the wee hours and am then dead to the world until mid-morning, This is irritating as the early morning hours are often my most productive period of the day. And I lose these but am instead awake during a low period from midnight to three when I don’t get much done.

At least, I’m making good progress in the night with Albert Vigoleis Thelen’s “The Island of Second Sight”, first published in German in 1953 but not translated into English before 2010, despite Thomas Mann’s praise of it being one of the greatest books of the twentieth century.

I have it in German and English and started to read the language versions in parallel. The translation seems good apart from some localisations that grate such as references to German or Swiss sixth-formers. But it went too slowly so after trudging through 70 pages, I have raced ahead with the English version and will take a few passages of the German to study in depth afterwards. I thought I’d read it before and even remember singing the praises of the novel when chatting to a Germanist at a translators’ conference. But the further I get into the novel the less I recognise and I think I must just have nibbled at the opposite ends of the book; this without even having read my copy of Pierre Bayard’s “Comment parler des livres que l’on n’a pas lus?” (How do you talk about novels you haven’t read).’’

As I age, I notice that I have greater difficulty distinguishing between when I have done something or only thought about doing it. The other day after being concerned about the non-response of an English friend, I receive a letter from him expressing mild concern that he hadn’t heard from me for a long time. Further investigation into the attribution of Alzheimer is probably not the way to go but I have now created a log where I register my letters. I will try and avoid going overboard and not giving every letter a unique registration number searchable on a database.

I am now accelerating to leave Sweden in a few days time, determined to avoid a panic 12 hours before departure when I do everything that I could have done days earlier. The danger signs are already at hand and, after a long fallow period, I have some translation work to do. It’s empowering to feel that I can influence the business cycle by trying to leave Sweden, that any move in that direction can change the deepest recession into a raging bull market for my translations. But at least it’s easier now at the tail end of my career as a translator when I’m no longer empire building but can say no to work without qualms.

I keep up my daily routine of studying Bengali and reading the Financial Times and the Guardian. I was amused to read about Johnson’s dire performance at the CBI with his flippant references to Peppa Pig. And also by  ´the comment of  Lord Karan Bilimoria, President of the CBI (and also the founder of Cobra beer), “to have a Labour leader standing on a CBI platform championing the role and success of business shows just how far the party has come”. “Quite” one might say although perhaps not agreeing where the Labour Party was originally. Starmer  is trying to emulate Blair in winning over parts of the business community; he may well have some success with manufacturing interests as the Conservative Party becomes less capable of integrating the interests of different sections of capitalism, Johnson’s “Bugger business” not being altogether a random comment.

But if the Labour Party moves in that direction, the crumbling of the red wall will continue and its mass base will fragment and I fear in the absence of an alternative that represents their interests, sections of the working class will move to the right not just to the Conservative Party who are ill equipped to keep this support in the long run but further right as has happened to some extent in our shambolic Sweden, where the Swedish Democrats gladly fill the political vacuum and pose as the new working class party.

And now for my plan for the day. I just need to check the rich associations provided by Thelen or perhaps his translator and find out what pandect, parthenogenesis, zwieback, apothegm and tellurian mean. It can’t take more than a couple of minutes,,,,I promise,,,,,,

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