The darkest hour before the dawn

Two days before take-off and I am struggling to prevent myself reorganising my library.

Sensitive to dust, I have to stop sleeping with books. My collection of French books has to leave the warm western-facing light of my bedroom and make its way to the sombre Lutheran north wing of my 45 sq.m.

I mourn but it has to be so. And now I have a concept and am ready to attack. But I have to stay my hand – precipitate action would end in tears, at least lying lumbago-ridden on the floor cheek by jowl with Proust and other citizens of the republic of letters milling around in sub-alpine confusion.

I have recently emerged from a 45,000-word tunnel. Ideal David Kendall would rejoice at the return of freedom, cook healthy slow food, walk 8,000 steps a day, study Bengali, read Pagnol, the Financial Times and Le Monde Diplo, lose weight and spick and span the flat. Real-existing David Kendall opens yet another packet of ready-made soup and wanders off in the direction of the mall to buy a down-filled pillow, distinctly not prio 1. But emotionally satisfying to be able to evict from my aesthetically savaged bedroom the lumpy IKEA pillow remnant, which screamed inadequate elderly man at me every time I tried to avoid looking at it. I have to compromise with this hopeless character R.E.D.K. that life has lumbered me with. I indulged him with the pillow but tomorrow has to be a highly-disciplined, well-planned day if I am going to get to bed before 03.00 on the morn of travel.

In the last couple of days, I have learnt about obsidian, which is volcanic and non-crystalline. And I now know the meaning of tyro, which I’ve seen around for a long time but always thought it meant someone who was eager and expert but in fact means someone relatively new to something (apparently from a Latin word for recruit). And that “bel espirit” means a witty person, which led me to realise that “witty” is cognate with Swedish “vettig” (which means sensible and sagacious). In Old English, there is “wittig” which means clever, wise, loquacious, while witty has wandered elsewhere.

And I have continued to read Henrik Sienkiewicz’s Quo vadis. I’m not a great fan of historical novels, especially not ones written by deeply catholic authors. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1905 and I am curious about the Academy’s reasoning. I shall take a trip to the newspaper library when I’m back in Sweden. I’m also curious about how this author was treated by the Polish Workers Party – how much he was published then. He has presumably received a lot of attention from the current regime.

I’d better get to bed and stop mucking around with words….my tomorrow is fast approaching.

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