Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Benefits of nomadism
Glorious autumn weather here in Sofia – although the ground floor garden flat is getting ever more icy cold every night and morning. Time to move somewhere warmer!
I started the morning with a long article which touches on one of the most fundamental issues for us all (apart from food and accommodation) – companionship. It’s about the trend (which I’ve noticed here in Europe) for women to choose to remain single. Men are simply not worth the bother! The article in The Atlantic journal starts perhaps in a rather self-centred way but soon proved to a worthy read about contemporary values – backed up with perspectives from forays to other lands, cultures and times. I recommend it.
A trip to the nearest Knigomania bookshop a few minutes round the corner in Vassil Levski St gave a good haul –
• Modernism – the lure of heresy by Peter Gay (2007) – a wonderful-looking 600 page treatment of all art forms of this genre by an historian who escaped with his family from Berlin in 1933 when he was a young boy; one review is here and a more critical and historical one here
• the classic Zen and Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance – an inquiry into values (1977) – which I have from internet but whose electronic format does not invite me in. I need to touch!
• a novel by the highly rated John Cheever from 1957 - The Wapshot Chronicle
• Langenscheidt’s Grosswoerterbuch Deutsch als Fremdensprache – to help me with my reading of the Spiegel magazine which I have taken to buying here. Langenscheidt I remember with some veneration from my father’s study (when he had the voluminous but silky weekly edition of Die Zeit paper dispatched from Germany in the late 1950s and 1960s during his post-war pastoral "reconciliation" twinning with a church in Heligenkirchen near Detmold). With its 1312 German pages at 16 euros, it offered 10 times the value of almost similarly-priced and much smaller dictionaries (half of whose contents are taken with English-German for which I have no use)
This is the great thing about the bookshops here. You are not press-ganged by marketing into buying latest releases. You never know what gem from the past you will find – even if the editions are fairly recent.
Talking of Der Spiegel, it had an incredible story yesterday about the Germans finding a 55 billion mistake in their national accounts because one bank added up wrongly – giving the system now a windfall to that extent!!
When I started this nomadic life of mine all of 21 years ago, I noticed one immediate advantage. I was no longer exposed to British newspapers and the relentless noise of television reporting. This not only released time for other pursuits; it also created greater serenity. I could hear myself thinking – and was more able to choose my own agenda. Television has not been allowed into my Carpathian house – and I have no temptation to open the television set here since it offers only Bulgarian programmes. Of course, I am hit with news headlines when I go onto the yahoo site for my mail – and I do then always check the Guardian website after that – but rarely find myself spending longer than 10 minutes on its articles. The BBC has become my great consolation – particularly the Through the Night programme – which are constantly introducing me to new pleasures eg in the past week Telemann’s Suite for strings and continuo (TWV.55:Es3) in E flat major; Taneyev, Sergey Ivanovich (1856-1915) Symphony No.4 in C minor (Op.12); and Respighi, Ottorino (1879-1936) Rossiniana. I even find myself listening to opera – eg the haunting tones at the moment of the final section of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony which can be heard for the next 5 days.
The BBC’s economic bloggers are always worthwhile – particularly Paul Mason and Stephanie Flanders and I was impressed with the radio series she has started recently which figures key figures (such as George Soros).
I mentioned JK Galbraith recently. His son, James Galbraith, is also a renowned economist who has been highly critical of mainstream economics and has a useful piece on those economists who were warning years ago of the bursting of the bubble and how they were marginalised within the profession. For me this is not a left-right issue – it is about hubris and the need constantly to challenge (in the phrase coined by Galbraith Senior) the “conventional wisdom” .
Finally a good article about the "We are the 99%" protestors