Climate Change and Philosophie des als Ob

This well put together article by Charlie Martin offers a “big picture” view of the climate debate from a skeptical perspective. Whether one agrees with all or some of the arguments is not so important and ultimately less interesting than a certain literary interpretation of the “would-be” aspects of the CO2 market scheme/scam (depending on your preference).
Writes Martin:

Where do carbon offsets come from? Simply enough, some authority must certify that someone else has either reduced their CO2 output, or has agreed not to do something that would increase CO2 output they would otherwise have done. For every ton of CO2 you don’t emit, you get a certificate that you can sell on the carbon market to someone who needs permission — an indulgence — allowing them to emit a ton of CO2…

Once you have the carbon credit you need to sell it, which means there must be a market — a role filled in part by the Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX). The CCX, which was started with seed money from both government and private non-profit sources, is most emphatically a for-profit firm that functions like any commodity exchange. If you have a story about the carbon you aren’t emitting and need it certified, the CCX can certify it — for a fee. Then the CCX will help you sell it — for a commission. If you need to buy carbon credits, the CCX will match you up with a buyer — for a fee — and sell you the certificate (and charge you a commission)…

It is, of course, purely a coincidence that this market, which simply doesn’t exist without the legal requirement that companies reduce carbon emissions, is closely connected with the politically connected people who are pushing for carbon restrictions by law and treaty.

Martin concludes with a description of the three types of audience/stakeholders in the climate debate, which he labels (i) “the true believers” (a group that could be identified with the “useful idiot” archetype); (ii) the Al Gores (who may or may not be true believers); and (iii) “the rest of us”. Of these, the second is purportedly the ‘wild card’ to watch out for:

There is another, larger group, who may or may not be true believers — who can know what is in another man’s heart? — but who don’t seem to worry too much about their own carbon impact, like Al Gore. (Oh, he buys indulgences from his own company, which is one little mercy — he could conceivably instead say he would have built a bigger house with more carbon impact, and claimed a carbon credit.) A fair number of these people, though, seem to be set up to make an immense pile of money off the carbon markets, and they all seem to have impeccable political connections. This larger group makes sure that the true believers get big grants, and travel to conferences in Gstaad and Tahiti, and have well-financed platforms from which to speak.

It’s that second group we most need to watch. In the old Soviet Union, these people — the Communist Party members who received positions of power — were called the nomenklatura. They weren’t necessarily the true believers (in fact, a lot of the true Communists, like Beria and Trotsky, ended up dead or in Siberia), but they could mouth the slogans, pass on the Communist Party line, and play the system to get positions and power, dachas, and access to the “special” stores that always had sausage, green vegetables, and toilet paper.

There has been in recent months a lot of talk about the ineffectiveness of the climate change communication and PR campaign and its impending and inevitable demise, not without a doze of ridicule on the part of skeptics vs. naïve, back-to-nature, relics from the 60s believers. I would like to argue the opposite. I believe the campaign is smartly subtle, more effective than the skeptics care to admit and certainly far from over. I’m going to comment extensively in an upcoming post  on the employment of dance as an extremely effective PR strategy of climate risk communication, which is ridiculed here. But for now I will just concentrate on the “would be”s of the CO2 market scheme Charlie Martin so eloquently exposes.

As usual, we come back to and begin with language. At the turn of the 20th century, a lesser known German philosopher, Hans Vaihinger, expounded a theory known as the Philosophie als des Ob (literally, Philosophy of As If; the German entry on wikipedia is more comprehensive than the English). Encyclopedia Britannica summarizes his argument as the willing acceptance of falsehoods or fictions in order to live peacefully in an irrational world. This theory of useful fictions despite (or perhaps because of) its fallaciousness has had many practical applications in the 20th c (Nazism and Marx-Leninism would be the first big ticket items). Its utility in the climate change context is obvious and ripe with potentials. The CCX or those politically connected to it seem (from my ivory tower of observation) to be at least cognizant of the potential of exploiting the power of what is known in grammar as conditional clauses – devices for expressing the atemporal or time shifts (depending on the category of the conditional) as well as varying degrees of unreality.

Let’s look at Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – a fictional story about a fictional world of absolute idealists. It is a world without material or temporal existence. It is rather, a mental proposition, a conditional. The story opens with a “real” dinner conversation between two friends and the narrator proceeds to take us on a journey through real and fictional books and characters, weaving unreality into reality, blurring fact and fiction until we are transported into the dream-nightmare world of Tlön. Conceived in the minds of a scholarly society of philosopher kings, this “brave new world” is thought into existence in opposition to terrestrial chaos and eventually substitutes itself for reality. Since reality on Tlön is strictly mental, the only discipline which constitutes its culture is psychology and speculations à la Philosophie des als Ob the typical pastime:

It is no exaggeration to state that the classic culture of Tlön comprises only one discipline: psychology. All others are subordinated to it. I have said that the men of this planet conceive the universe as a series of mental processes which do not develop in space but successively in time. Spinoza ascribes to his inexhaustible divinity the attributes of extension and thought; no one in Tlön would understand the juxtaposition of the first (which is typical only of certain states) and the second – which is a perfect synonym of the cosmos. In other words, they do not conceive that the spatial persists in time. The perception of a cloud of smoke on the horizon and then of the burning field and then of the half-extinguished cigarette that produced the blaze is considered an example of association of ideas.

This monism or complete idealism invalidates all science. If we explain (or judge) a fact, we connect it with another; such linking, in Tlön, is a later state of the subject which cannot affect or illuminate the previous state. Every mental state is irreducible: there mere fact of naming it – i.e., of classifying it – implies a falsification. From which it can be deduced that there are no sciences on Tlön, not even reasoning. The paradoxical truth is that they do exist, and in almost uncountable number. The same thing happens with philosophies as happens with nouns in the northern hemisphere. The fact that every philosophy is by definition a dialectical game, a Philosophie des Als Ob, has caused them to multiply. There is an abundance of incredible systems of pleasing design or sensational type. The metaphysicians of Tlön do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding. They judge that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature. They know that a system is nothing more than the subordination of all aspects of the universe to any one such aspect. Even the phrase “all aspects” is rejectable, for it supposes the impossible addition of the present and of all past moments. Neither is it licit to use the plural “past moments,” since it supposes another operation… One of the schools of Tlön goes so far as to negate time: it reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present memory. Another school declares that all time has already transpired and that our life is only the crepuscular and no doubt falsified and mutilated memory or reflection of an irrecoverable process. Another, that the history of the universe – and in it our lives and the most tenuous detail of our lives – is the scripture produced by a subordinate god in order to communicate with a demon. Another, that the universe is comparable to those cryptographs in which not all the symbols are valid and that only what happens every three hundred nights is true. Another, that while we sleep here, we are awake elsewhere and that in this way every man is two men.

I see in Vaihinger’s “theory of cognition”, and include Borges’ text because of its literary superiority, some clear parallels with the climate dialectics. As we sink deeper into the fiction, Borges’ voice of quiet sadness and resignation haunts the illusory landscape.

Things became duplicated in Tlön; they also tend to become effaced and lose their details when they are forgotten. A classic example is the doorway which survived so long it was visited by a beggar and disappeared at his death. At times some birds, a horse, have saved the ruins of an amphitheater.


Virtual Travel with Pessoa, Google and the Russian Railways

Noone is better at describing the ‘tedium of physical traveling’ than Fernando Pessoa in The Book of Disquiet – an endless mental journey through aesthetics and philosophy:

Fragment 451

Travel? One need only exist to travel. I go from day to day, as from station to station, in the train of my body or my destiny, leaning out over the streets and squares, over people’s faces and gestures, always the same and always different, just like scenery.

If I imagine, I see. What more do I do when I travel? Only extreme poverty of the imagination justifies having to travel to feel.

Any road, this simple Entepfuhl road, will lead you to the end of the World. But the end of the world, like the beginning, is in fact our concept of the world. It is in us that the scenery is scenic. If I imagine it, I create it; if I create it, it exists; if it exists, then I see it like any other scenery. So why travel? In Madrid, Berlin, Persia, China, and at the North or South Pole, where would I be but in myself, and in my particular type of sensations?

Life is what we make of it. Travel is the traveler. What we see isn’t what we see but what we are.

Why travel indeed? If the book has become an outdated transport medium, Google has just launched a new travel product-experience – virtual ride on the Trans-Siberian Moscow-Vladivostock railine, complete with a choice of soundtrack from balalaikas to a meditative rumble of wheels to an audio recording of Gogol’s Dead Souls (in Russian) should you be so inclined. As you follow the passing scenery from your train window to whatever acoustic accompaniment you prefer, you can also trace your route on the map and explore the surroundings, and that for 9000km, 7 time zones and 150 hours of footage.

In case of motion sickness, Pessoa comes to aid again:

Fragment 122

The idea of travelling nauseates me.

I’ve already seen what I’ve never seen.

I have already seen what I have yet to see.

The tedium of the forever new, the tedium of discovering – behind the specious differences of things and ideas – the unrelenting sameness of everything, the absolute similarity of a mosque and a temple and a church, the exact equivalence of a cabin and a castle, the same physical body for a king in robes and for a naked savage, the eternal concordance of life with itself, the stagnation of everything I live, all of it equally condemned to change…

The Google train ride on the Trans-Siberian in this sense emotionally resembles a frozen TV dinner. It robs the imagination and leaves an empty aftertaste.

Truth Commissions: Histories of Laughter and Forgetting

History kills. Literally. In a bizarre event reported by RFE/RL, Lenin has recently taken revenge on an irreverent desecrator of a Belarussian memorial to the dear leader in an act showing how history continues to keep a firm grip on its victims.The anonymous 21-year-old is said to have climbed on top of the larger-than-life, seven-meter Lenin and attempted to hang from his famous outstretched arm, when part of the statue collapsed, sending the prankster to his poetic demise.

While the young victim cannot be brought back to life, history, can be ‘restored,’ and will. Lenin’s long arm, according to a follow-up story published the very next day, will be returned to its former glory as soon as possible, say local authorities.

Svetlana Boym, the author of “The Future of Nostalgia” – a book that examines 20th century cultural history through the prism of individual and collective experiences of memory, uses the terms restorative and reflective to talk about two distinct ways of looking at the past. The restorative view is manifest in nationalist revival movements, which make use of national symbols, myths and conspiracy theories for the purpose of an absolute reconstruction of the past. Proponents of this view believe that their restorative projects are about the truth, that the past is static, and cultural and national identity is formed and solidified through collective artistic symbols and an oral epic tradition.

A reflective view of the past, on the other hand, dwells on the durational, the dynamic, the changing aspect of time, on the incomplete, on the shattered ruin and on the individual experience of the past, which is often a mournful memory and indefinable longing rather than deterministic seeking and proclamation of truth.

The first is dead serious and unforgiving. The second takes itself less seriously, tracing the experience of mourning in the direction of irony and mirth. It is also capable of forgiveness, partly through the therapeutic quality of forgetting and partly through the sensation of blurring the real and the imagined.

Exploiting memory

Memory is sad business. Etymologically, the word can be traced through the Latin memor, ‘mindful’ to the Greek martus, gen. marturos, ‘witness’ (not until New Testament Greek does the word acquire the additional ‘witness to God’ from where the English word martyr originates). The word also appears in Old English as murnan, ‘to grieve.’ The Indo-European root mer- or smer-, from which all memory cognates derive, means ‘to be anxious, to grieve.’ Examples of such cognates include, the Greek merimna ‘solitude, anxiety,’ the Old Lithuanian mereti, ‘to be anxious,’ the Serbo-Croatian mariti, ‘to grieve over,’ and the Sanskrit smarati, ‘he remembers.’

The list goes on. The subject of memory is exploited by myriad competing ideologies. Charged with controversy, it has most recently become a topic of concern for government and non-government institutions set on a mission to dispense (or dispense of) historical truths. In their more benevolent form, truth commissions can be imagined as cathartic institutions – secular churches of a sort – that aim to transform both guilty sinners’ and traumatized victims’ memories for the lofty purpose of achieving reconciliation.

So far so good. On the implementation level, however, these idealistic projects begin to crack: who commissions the truth commissioners? What is the methodology applied in the process of transforming individual and collective memories? Even if the aim of these commissions is rehabilitative rather than punitive, can they ever be devoid of this or that political agenda?

While truth commissions are a relatively recent phenomenon, historic revisionist projects – their ‘shadows’ in the parlance of analytical psychology – are as old as history itself. The historic revisionist is an anachronistic species who is particularly driven by symbolic anniversaries. Recent examples of such opportunistic political campaigns feeding on the corpse of history include the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; the establishment of the “Commission to counter the attempt of falsification of history to the detriment of interests of Russia,” coinciding with Moscow’s celebration of the 64th anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany; the melodramatic spat between new EU members Hungary and Slovakia because the latter barred the former’s president from privately crossing its border on a day the country was commemorating the invasion by Soviet-led troops, which included Hungarians; and finally, the looming 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – an event ripe with potential for more memorialization and less and less laughter and forgetting à la Milan Kundera.

“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” says Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses.” The comment resonates with the sentiment of philosopher-poet Friedrich Nietzsche’s attack on historical knowledge and education for their own sake, knowledge which he calls impotent, stripped of all creative impulse, one that leads to a decadent culture and the ultimate destruction of the vitality and strength of a nation (the Germany of his time).

It is not that history cannot serve life, Nietzsche says in “The Use and Abuse of History for Life;” the desire to know the past is inherent in every individual and every nation. Historical knowledge is ‘healthy’ as long as it serves as inspiration for action, as reverence to the heritage of one’s ancestors, or as relief from suffering. Out of context, however, historical knowledge can be easily manipulated for unhealthy and degenerate ends:

From the thoughtless transplanting of plants stem many ills: the critical man without need, the antiquarian without reverence, and the student of greatness without the ability for greatness are the sort who are receptive to weeds estranged from their natural mother earth and therefore degenerate growths.

Another author obsessed with the labyrinthine clogs of excessive memory is Jorge Luis Borges, who in the short story “Funes the Memorious” creates a character who possesses total memory. Unable to forget anything, Funes is an example of the Nitzschean historic man of paralysis, since without forgetting, no action can take place, and creation is reversed into degeneration. In Gabriel García Márquez’ novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” the characters suffer from the opposite malady: an insomnia sickness that culminates in total amnesia and the construction of an imagined, fictitious reality.

Therapeutic forgetting

Philosophers and writers have been preoccupied with the subject of memory and forgetting for thousands of years. More recently, cognitive and neuroscience has taken up serious interest in the pathology of memory.

Daniel L Schacter, author of “Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past” talks about the subjective experiences of ‘remembering’ and ‘knowing’ the past by paying homage to yet another memory-obsessed writer – Marcel Proust. Proust, who contemplated the act of remembering as “a telescope pointed in time,” laid the groundwork for scientific research of the experience of remembering. Writes Schacter: “Foreshadowing scientific research by more than a half century, Proust achieved the penetrating insight that feelings of remembering result from a subtle interplay between past and present.”

Cognitive science is ‘in tune’ with literature not only when it comes to blending past and present realities, the literal and the literary, truths and fictions.

Gerd Gigerenzer, mostly known for his work on heuristics, argues in his book “Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious” that more memory is not always better, and that our best choices are usually based on “a beneficial degree of ignorance,” gut feelings and intuition rather than on our culturally held beliefs that more information is always better and that more choice is always better. Gigerenzer echoes Nietzsche on the ‘healthy’ use of history as a prompt for action: “Forgetting prevents the sheer mass of life’s detail from critically slowing down the retrieval of relevant experience and so impairing the mind’s ability to abstract, infer, and learn.”

Forgetting and mythopoeia then can be seen as therapeutic devices – a way of digesting the past through slow creative reflection instead of archiving the ulcerous symbols of history.

Psychology and cognitive science research can also help shed light on the physical and mental processes of memory work and adaptive forgetting to bring relief to traumatic experiences.

Myths and legends, oral epics or folk songs are the instruments of restorative ‘historians.’ Taken out of their native earth, which is the realm of literature, and ‘transplanted’ – to use Nietzsche’s metaphor – into the foreign soil of politics, they become degenerate growths of populist rhetoric that appeal to the fictions of national identities. It is those forms of literature, diagnostic rather than prescriptive and focusing more on the individual than the collective that have the potential to transform the experience of suffering, which posses the magical ability of turning tears into laughter.

Platonic reconciliation

There are some truth commissions that make use of individual stories, interviews and personal recollections, but their performance is nevertheless marred by their ultimate purpose, which is collective by the nature of their commissioners. They are governmental methods of constructing big pictures and sense-making tools that are devoid of sensing, which is an individual and private experience.

In an ultra-networked, technologically insatiable world where context is valued over content, the very existence of truth commissions is, to say the least, suspect. Contextual truths fall prey to the insensitized, ready-made emotions on which the non-reflective minds of political entrepreneurs in need of quick fixes and relativistic truths gorge. As long as truth commissions remain in the realm of collective bureaucracy, reconciliation will remain Platonic – a present representation of an absent thing.

A song at the year’s end

Frankfurt, September

by Paul Celan

translated by Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh

Blind wall-space
bearded by brilliances.
A dream of a cockchafer
sheds light on it.

Behind that, raster of lamentations,
Freud’s forehead opens up:

the tear
compacted of silence
breaks into a proposition:
logy for the last

The pseudo-jackdaw
(cough-caw’s double)
is breakfasting.

The glottal stop is breaking
into song.

Thank you for your interest in my blog. In 2009, this blog will undergo a transformation. In addition to a change in title, the focus will change to reflect my literary interests. You will find me under “Things whole and not whole”.

With best regards,


How Literature Can Enhance Intelligence Analysis

Some months ago while watching a televised performance of the Scottish play, it occurred to me that dramaturgy would be an interesting potential to explore in relation to alternative intelligence analysis. Here was a staging of a whole host of issues that the intelligence analyst is confronted with on the job: early warning, denial and deception, human leadership profiling, and assassination to name but a few. From the very first scene of the three witches providing “early warning” and nature foreshadowing the impeding gloom and doom of the story to the self-reflections of a king (and queen) losing the power of their title to the subtle change in patterns of light vs. dark in all their metaphorical expressions, the play is full of lessons and analogies that the intelligence analyst could use as a prompt to boost his/her critical thinking skills.

What a pleasant surprise then, to discover last week a paper by Jeffrey White, “Shakespeare for Analysts: Literature and Intelligence”, published by the Joint Military Intelligence College. In this paper White makes a powerful argument for the value of reading literature both in terms of teaching new analysts ways to expand their imagination in order to be able to better discover patterns and make sound interpretations and also aiding seasoned analysts gain more multifaceted perspectives on human behavior in complex situations.

In Shakespeare’s historical and tragic plays, White finds a wealth of resources pertaining to human behavior that he claims is of enduring interest to intelligence analysis: conspiracy, treason, assassination, moral corruption, poisoning, civil war, inner-circle behavior, political relationships, the effects of asymmetry in culture, power, and personality, succession, rivalry and faction, loyalty, political violence, the analysis of motives, and the handling of ambiguity and uncertainty.

The paper is not only an intellectual reading exercise; it also provides concrete sets of questions that the author has developed through his reading of Shakespeare to aid the analyst frame the issue he/she is tasked to analyze.

Here is a crunched exerpt:

Questions to examine when looking at a leader in a position of great power
Source: Shakespeare’s Henry V

  • How did he prepare for his future role?
    How did he exercise leadership?
    Was he self-aware in doing this?
    How did others – allies, enemies and subordinates – see him?
    What was his response to the possibility of failure and defeat?
    How did he manage the uncertainty he faced?
    How did he weigh the responsibility that he had to carry?

Questions to examine when looking at a weak leader in a position of great power
Source: Shakespeare’s Henry II

  • What are the dimensions of leadership failure?
    What is it like to lose power?
    What is it like to believe yourself to be in charge, but to actually be failing?
    What is it like to see yourself as a failure, and know it’s your fault?
    What is it like to see your opponent win?
    How do your supporters see you as you lose?
    What is it like to usurp a crown?
    Is success ever final?

Questions to examine the pure exercise of force
Source: Shakespeare’s Richard III

  • What is it like to covet the throne?
    What is it like to be willing to do anything to win it?
    Can one enjoy oneself in the gaining of it?
    Can a person be evil and still have admirable qualities?
    What are the limits on the exercise of power and the use of force?
    What are the implications of evil at the pinnacle of leadership?

Questions to examine civil war
Source: Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy

  • What are the key dynamics of a civil war?
    How does violence expand?
    How does violence become personal?
    How does the use of violence evolve as a civil war emerges?
    How is violence justified, to the self and to the group?
    What kinds of behavior and actions does it produce?
    What do the leaders see as the civil war process begins and progresses?
    What do they do in response?

Questions to examine plotting a coup
Source: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

  • When is a coup justified?
    What rationalizations are employed?
    When is the right time?
    How do the plotters see one another?
    How does opposition arise?
    What are the internal dynamics?
    What is the range of behaviors among the principals?
    What are the consequences, intended and unintended?

Questions to examine family matters, the behavior of members of small groups or “inner circles” – could be particularly useful when looking at clans, tribes and some organized crime groups
Source: Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI

  • Is “family” important in the politics of “tribal” or “lineal” societies?
    How do the relatives of leaders affect the political situation?
    Are family and political power inseparable in dynastic or traditional societies?
    What are the consequences of poor family political management?

Questions to examine the role of women in politics
Source: Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI

  • Can women play important political roles in traditional societies?
    What are these roles and what are their limits?
    What tools and methods do women have available?
    How do they actually exert power and influence?
    Under what circumstances can they emerge as political players in their own right?
    Do women have any special advantages?

Questions to examine loyalty and honor
Source: Shakespeare’s King John

  • Are loyalty and honor absolute or contingent?
    What is the basis for loyalty to political leaders?
    How is loyalty won and kept?
    What are the boundaries of loyalty?
    Is anyone totally loyal or completely honorable?
    Why do people break oaths or change sides in a political contest?
    What justifications do they employ?
    What are the political and military consequences of dishonorable actions?

White concludes with the sound observation that literature, and the works of Shakespeare in particular, is a good starting point for examining political psychology. It helps the analyst with pattern recognition on a basic human level that transcends cultural differences. I find this argument particularly viable and would add that, the reading of myths has a similar power to evoke patterns that are universally applicable even if the particular mythological hero is associated with specific geo-cultural characteristics. There is a difference between how an individual and a group would react to particular circumstances. Where the group reaction might help define certain cultural peculiarities, the individual reaction to a situation of fear, power coveting, revenge, loyalty, etc., in my view, follows a more general line, one not specific to culture, ethnicity and/or religion, but specific to the “human condition”.

Finally, in terms of concrete application of literature to the process of intelligence analysis, I must fully voice my support for White’s argument that reading good literature contributes to the analyst’s ability to write better – a largely undervalued and underestimated skill in intelligence analysis. In White’s words:

“As we go down the road to “digital production” and “knowledge packets”, concepts that are fundamentally antithetical to story telling and sense making, it will be increasingly important that quality writing continue to be one of the essential elements by which we measure quality analysis. As his skills as a playwright matured, Shakespeare hardly wasted a word. ”

See here Perseus resources on Shakespeare.

Bloomsday in Zürich

Today, 16 June, is Bloomsday. It is the day on which events take place in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses and which has become a commemorative occasion for Joyce’s afficionados celebrating the Irish genius.

For me, personally, it also commemorates 7 years since I first came to Zürich, the city where James Joyce rests in peace under the beautiful folliage of Züriberg’s Fluntern cemetery, and in the esteemed company of Elias Canetti’s neighbouring memorial.

I was on this trip with my father who is a Joycean scholar and beamed at the prospect of making the trip from down south in Lugano, where he was a visiting lecturer, to Zürich on the 16th of June 2001. By a most spectacularly serendipitous occurrence, as we were crossing the gate of the cemetery, we ran across a small group of people speaking English, who were clearly on the same pilgrimage as us. It turned out, in fact, the group was lead by Fritz Senn, a Joycean scholar my father admires. The group was indeed on a walking tour of Joyce’s Zürich, which we were only too pleased to attend, including an apéro in the evening at The James Joyce Foundation. The foundation is home to an impressive library with translations of the author’s work into every language imaginable. What a delightful surprise, nevertheless, when among the balancing of canapés, glasses of wine and verbal juggling, Fritz Senn appeared with a copy of a translation my father had done almost 20 years ago of Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man into Bulgarian!

At the time, I had no idea that 2 years later I would end up moving to Switzerland and Zürich. It’s been a garden of forking paths…

For Joyce enthusiasts:

James Joyce Walking into Eternity Dublin Tour

Part 1



Part 2



Also of interest:



Think tank on the Future of Books

Another great serendipitous find – The Institute for the Future of the Book. It’s a Brooklyn/London-based think tank dedicated to the evolution of reading and writing in the digital age.  Some of their projects include The Googlization of Everything – a book in progress that visitors to the site can contribute to, aiming at the following 3 questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google? How is Google’s ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge; and How has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions and states? Another book in progress project to which readers can contribute is the Without Gods project, or a history of atheism. Lewis Lapham of Harper’s Magazine has a page on the site, entitled Operation Iraqi Quagmire, which features Lewis’ comments on US foreign policy toward Iraq. Finally, a title that caught my eye because I spent the last year of my studies in Classics researching and writing on the topic of perceptions of memory and writing in the ancient world, The Gates Memory Project is a collaboration project between Flickr and The Institute for the Future of the Book. Unfortunately, this last one appears to be at a stall, with the last blog entry dating back to 2005. Nevertheless, there are some interesting posts in the archives.