Teeter-Totter On The Brink


As we all know, and I used to know but since forgot and re-learned only recently, we, humans, live in the Holocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic  Era. That means only that at certain point of human development scientists among our species agreed on calling it thus.

The “deciding body” is the International Geological Congress. It defines the planet’s geological timescale  by  dividing it into units, the longest of which are eras, then periods, then epochs and ages.


Since the mid-twentieth century, human footprint and humanity’s impact on our mother-planet has become a subject of both research and concern. Thus far, scientists and laymen alike agree that humans manifested their presence on Earth in a most profound way. Can we distinguish between man-made and natural at this time and age? Yes, we can… not without difficulty, however.

It does look like our species of mammals manged to trample and ravish the planet Earth to a degree that we can rightfully put a claim on the entire epoch.

Juan Gatti artwork

Artwork of  Juan Gatti

Scientists from around the world met this week to decide whether to call time on the Holocene epoch after 11,700 years and begin a new geological age called the Anthropocene. 

A group of geologists, climate scientists, ecologists and an expert in international law that have been conducting research since 2009, all met face-to-face for the first time in Berlin on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue. (Reuters, Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of Cultures of the World))

“It is clear that, though we have differences about when it starts, it seems as a group that we were quite happy to say we are in the Anthropocene,” said Colin Waters, secretary for the working group and a geologist for the British Geological Society.


Juan Gatti. Anatomical Botanical Studies

Have we, indeed, entered a new human era already — the Anthropocene – to reflect our deep impact on the planet?

We have to wait until August 2016 to know for sure. At that time, the working group must report its conclusions to the International Geological Congress. If the International Geological Congress says YES, the Anthropocene it should bethen we can get lucky and literally rather than metaphorically live in two epochs.

Until then, lets just teeter-totter on the brink of the Anthropocene.



Murder In A Wax Museum. Update

FEMENThe following is an update to my Breaking News: Murder In A Wax Museum post of June 6, 2014.

PARIS, Oct 15 (Reuters) – A Ukranian activist belonging to topless feminist group Femen was convicted for exhibitionism by a Paris court on Wednesday for having attacked a statue of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a wax museum in the capital.

Iana Zhdanova, with “Kill Putin” written on her nude breasts, attacked the likeness of Putin at the Musee Grevin in the capital with a wooden stake in June.



The activist, who has lived in France for two years as a political refugee, laughed in court after the judge ordered her to pay fine of 1,500 euros ($1,897) for vandalism and a crime called “sexual exhibition” in French, as well as other damages payable to Musee Grevin.

“I’m laughing because it’s very strange,” said Zhdanova, 26, outside the courtroom. “I’m very surprised by this decision.”

Zhdanova’s lawyer, Marie Dose, said it was the first time a French court had sentenced a Femen member for sexual exhibition, calling it a precedent that would thwart the group’s ability to protest. Dose said she would appeal.

This is an official announcement of the above on the FEMIN web page:FEMEN articleAs well as the header image on that page:FEMEN page

Darwin Award 2014

DarwinAs you might’ve heard, Darwin Award is named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution. It commemorates those who aspired and succeeded in improving our gene pool by removing themselves from it.

The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of
the human genome by honoring those who
accidentally remove themselves from it…

Warning: Morbid content to follow.

Some of the deserving contenders for the Darwin Award 2014 are:

ray-of-sunA Swiss woman experimented with the “sun diet”, assured that exposing herself to sun rays will provide her with all necessary nutrients to sustain life. She died of starvation. Who gave her such an idea remains a mystery.

snake handling pastorJamie Coots, a Kentucky preacher famous for handling snakes during religious services, has died after being bitten by a poisonous snake at his church. He and his followers believe that God calls upon them to handle venomous serpents and to drink other poisons. Bitten, Coots refused medical treatment because he believed that his fate is in God’s hands.

Oscar AguilarOscar Aguilar liked taking all sorts of selfies, but one of them accidentally turned deadly when he posed with a gun. When the 21-year-old went to take the “killer selfie”, he accidentally pulled the trigger of the wood-handled pistol, firing off a single round into his forehead.

Argentinian Darwin Award contenderAn Argentinian young woman, Sonia Perez Llanzon, died after she reportedly injected herself with Vaseline in an attempt to give herself a breast augmentation. 

articleA Mexican teenager, Cruz Marcelino Velazquez, 16, volunteered to take ‘a big sip’ of the liquid at the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego, trying to persuade inspectors that it was only apple juice. It was, in fact, methamphetamine.the wellA 17 year old Egyptian youth fell into the well and drowned while trying to save a chicken. His sister and two brothers rushed to help him and also fell into the well. Two other people tried to rescue them but succumbed to the dame fate. Their bodies were fished out of the well. Luckily, the chicken survived.

wild elephantTwo men in Kenya, Leornad Tonui and Michael Shikuku, were capturing selfies with a wild elephant when they were trampled to death by the irate pachyderm who proceeded to bury the corpses with brush. The two men were actually touching the elephant’s face while taking the photos. Charles Darwin cautions, “When taking sensational selfies, remember the Photoshop option.”

The Kenyan men are the 2014 Darwin Award Nominees “confirmed true by Darwin”.

See more nominees at  DarwinAwards.



Schizotypy, Anyone?


Incidentally, today is World Mental Health Day 2014. This year’s World Mental Health Day shines a light on schizophrenia. At least 26 million people are living with schizophrenia worldwide according to the World Health Organization, and many more are indirectly affected by it.

Recent scientific research shows that people in artistic or scientific professions (dancers, researchers, artists, photographers) more often than the general population suffer from mental illness, with a significant connection between writers and schizophrenia.



Patient: “Sometimes I think the wall is moving.” Doctor: “Cut down on drinking.”

For the study, researchers tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level.

The findings reveal that bipolar disorder is more prevalent in the entire group. 

Authors, however, more commonly suffer from the other mental disorders — including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse — and are almost 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.


Creative professions are more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism.

The findings suggest that mental disorders should be viewed in a new light.

“If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient’s illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment,” said Simon Kyaga, consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.


“In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavor to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as morbid.”

Here is an excerpt from Schizotypy, Flow, and the Artist’s Experience, an article in Psychology Today:

In a recent study reported in Schizophrenia Bulletin, Nelson and Rawlings propose that a mild form of schizophrenia called schizotypy may be positively associated with the experience of creative flow. Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that affects roughly 1% of the population and involves altered states of consciousness and “abnormal” perceptual experiences. Schizotypy, which is a watered-down version of schizophrenia, consists of a constellation of personality traits that are evident in some degree in everyone.

Do you have any of the following “traits”?

  • A cold or inappropriate affect
  • Anhedonia
  • Odd or eccentric behaviour
  • A tendency to social withdrawal
  • Paranoid or bizarre ideas not amounting to true delusions
  • Obsessive ruminations
  • Thought disorder and perceptual disturbances
  • Occasional transient quasi-psychotic episodes with intense illusions, auditory or other hallucinations, and delusion-like ideas, usually occurring without external provocation

Are you going mad? You might check you eves. Might as well, you are a schizotypical creative genius experiencing a flow. Have fun while it lasts!

The Art of Overtone Singing

The “other-worldly” sound of overtone singing is hard to master, say those who know a thing or two about singing. The technique is “native” to Mongolia, called sygyt, meaning throat singing  in Mongolian.

Anna-Maria Hefele, a classical soprano who also plays a dozen or so musical instruments, has been practicing the art of overtone singing for over 10 years.

The skills she displays on the video far outweigh what the thousands of viewers, including musicians, thought possible for a human being. At the 25-second mark she starts off with the basics, but then the real show begins: she starts shifting the fundamental note, while independently controlling the frequency of the overtone.

In case this sounds confusing: every note has a fundamental frequency. For instance, an E in the third octave sits somewhere at the 40-42Hz mark. But every note also has higher, subtle frequencies at which it resonates – those are called harmonics. They are multiples of the fundamental frequencies (an E in the fourth octave would be somewhere around 80Hz, then 160Hz and so on). (Polyphonic German soprano does the impossible – sings 2 notes at once!)

Miroslav Grosser can teach you basics of overtone singing.


YouTube has many videos featuring “the original” Mongolian throat singing as well as several of its “derivatives” — Tuvan and Siberian in particular.

Arithmetics For The Teachers Day

world teachers dayThis year on 5 October, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of World Teachers’ Day. The day commemorates the adoption of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the status of teachers in 1966.  This recommendation is morally binding for all countries. (UNESCO. World Teachers’ Day 2014: Invest in the future, invest in teachers!)

Very well then, perhaps most appropriate here would be a slide show about teaches everywhere, from slams of faraway and god-forsaken lands to less faraway places, blessed with airy towers of knowledge, wise-looking teachers and above average children, breathing in their every word. Not that pupils in the slams of faraway lands aren’t bright or don’t breath in their teachers’ every word, it’s just that they might breath in dust and a odors not ordinary found in towers of knowledge.  There is, however, a nice slideshow presentation on today’s UNESCO page with pupils and teaches from all over the world.

Another occasion-appropriate material would be a bunch of quotes about teachers, education and inspirations sparked by great teachers. Such as this one, for instance:  A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. (Brad Henry). Plenty more can be found on Brainy Quote, where this came from. Never mind that right next to it Swami Vivekananda insists, quite persuasively, “You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.” I suppose our souls should be celebrated along with the rest of our favorite teachers.

I leave it at that and choose yet another “right thing to do” — a heartwarming story about a great teacher.  Not my own, however, although I had a few teachers who taught me a thing or two, and whom I remember warmly and wish them Happy Teachers Day.

Russian painter Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky (1868–1945)  was lucky to get into the school of the famous Russian pedagogue Professor S. A Rachinskiy, who noticed the boy’s talent and helped him get his education in arts.

The artist dedicated this painting to his teacher.  Sergei Alexandrovich Rachinsky is depicted in his classroom with his pupils in a village school. Although he was an aristocrat and already famous botanist and mathematician and a professor at Moscow University, he dedicated lots of his time and effort to “educating unwashed masses.”

 Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky (1868–1945) Mental arithmetic

Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky (1868–1945) Mental arithmetic. In the Folk School of S. A. Rachinskiy. (1895, Tretyakov Gallery)

On the blackboard, written in white chalk, there is an arithmetic problem. 11 pupils are trying hard to solve it. It seems that only one boy found the solution, and he quietly whispers into the teacher’s ear. 1266234111_ustnaja-zadacha-2-foto_2If you were taught square numbers up to 20, it is likely that the solution will come easy. This expression is equal to (100 + 121 + 144 + 169 + 196) divided by 365, with the result that equals 730 divided by 365, that is 2 .

Or else, one can use the knowledge of what in Russian is called Rachinskiy sequence (and must be known elsewhere under some other name):

  • 32+42 = 52 (both sides equal 25)
  • 102+112+122 = 132+14(both sides equal 365) –- the one in the painting
  • 212+222+232+242 = 252+262+272 (both sides equal 2030)
  • 362+372+382+392+402 = 412+422+432+442 (both sides equal 7230)

Happy World Teachers’ Day!


Physiognomy Of Money

Interchangeably, bankers, financial industry in general and Wall Street in particular never fail to take one of the first 5 places on the podium of most hated “entities” in the opinion of a wide cross-section of the U.S. population. bankersNearly 3 years since Occupy Wall Street first encamped just feet away from Wall Street, for many people the OWS slogan “Shit’s Fucked Up And Bullshit” still rings true.

But this post is not about banks too big to fail or the unimplemented Dodd-Frank regulations. It’s about sentiment toward moneylenders, bankers, tax collectors that seem to be as constant as love and death, as expressed and masterfully depicted in art of days bygone.


Quentin MASSYS. The Moneylender and his Wife (1514) Oil on panel, 71 x 68 cm Musée du Louvre, Paris

 Quentin Massys. Suppliant Peasants In The Office Of Two Tax Collectors.

Quentin Massys. Suppliant Peasants In The Office Of Two Tax Collectors.


Marinus van REYMERSWAELE, Flemish painter (b. ca. 1490, Reymerswale, d. ca. 1567). The Tax Collectors

Marinus van REYMERSWAELE. The Tax Collectors 1540s Oil on panel, 94 x 77 cm Louvre, Paris

Marinus van REYMERSWAELE. The Tax Collectors. 1540s, Oil on panel, 94 x 77 cm, Louvre, Paris

The counters of money (around 1575-1600); This table shows an anonymous composition after Marinus Claez. van Reymerswaele representing Antwerp loan sharks. Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Anonymous composition after Marinus Claez van Reymerswaele (around 1575-1600) Antwerp loan sharks. Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Gerrit DOU,  The Moneylender (1664) Oil on wood, 29 x 23 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Gerrit DOU, The Moneylender (1664) Oil on wood, 29 x 23 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris

And, of course, the redemptive calling of St. Matthew.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). The Calling of St. Matthew, c.1598-1601 (oil on panel)

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). The Calling of St. Matthew, c.1598-1601 (oil on panel)

The painting depicts the story from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9): “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed Him.” Caravaggio depicts Matthew the tax collector sitting at a table with four other men. Jesus Christ and Saint Peter have entered the room, and Jesus is pointing at Matthew. A beam of light illuminates the faces of the men at the table who are looking at Christ. (Wikipedia)

Where are the great masters of the past to breath life onto the canvas and preserve for posterity these distinguished faces:

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To Kill The Iron Lady


A brilliant – and rather transgressive – collection of short stories from the double Man Booker Prize-winning author of ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’. (The Guardian)

The only new, unpublished story in Hilary Mantel’s new book is its  titular short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th 1983. It was published online by the Guardian, immediately noticed and stirred up some passions. Disdain and outrage, mostly. UK politicians were especially verbal. In that very spirit, The Daily Telegraph, having bought exclusive rights for a hefty penny, wisely or otherwise, decided against publishing it. 

Tory MP Conor Burns told the Sunday Times that the story represented a grave offence to the victims of the IRA. “I also never cease to be amazed by the disordered psyche of some on the left,” he said, and more:

“Mantel’s contribution is peculiarly damaging because, while she appears so mild-mannered, her message is interpretable as a deadly one. If you don’t like your democratically elected leaders, who operate within the rule of law, you can always think about assassinating them.”

Lord Timothy Bell, a friend and former PR adviser to Thatcher, told the Sunday Times, “This is in unquestionably bad taste.” He has condemned The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher and called for the police to investigate.

What was so “damaging” in Mantel’s story that appalled the MP? Was the distinguished and indisputably clever writer so obvious and straightforward in creating her tidbit of alternative history to call for such reaction?

hilary mantelWas she?  Mantel’s story transports us back in time — although not quite as far back as her Thomas Cromwell novels — to the year 1983, August 6. In her Windsor apartment, a woman is expecting a plumber. Disguised as one, an Irish assassin shows up. He is cool and presentable. Calmly, he sets up his implements of assassination at the apartment’s window — a perfect spot to carry out his mission: to kill the Iron Lady. The view from the window overlooks the hospital entrance. Margaret Thatcher is expected to appear shortly for a minor eye surgery. Rifle on his lap, the IRA assassin waits. A woman-narrator, now a hostage, engages her intruder in conversation about politics.

Eventually, Thatcher emerges: “The bag on the arm, slung like a shield. The tailored suit… the glittering helmet of hair… like a gold coin in a gutter.”

Mantel’s protagonists become unlikely allies conspiring to kill the prime minister. The writer succeeds where terrorists failed.

Iron Lady

Hilary Mantel admitted that her story was inspired by a fantasy, a wicked reverie: At noon on Saturday, August 6, 1983, she caught a glimpse of Margaret Thatcher near her Windsor apartment, similar to the one in the story. The former Prime Minister  wandered into her view, unguarded. Mantel described how she used her finger and thumb to form a gun.  ‘Immediately your eye measures the distance, I thought, “if I wasn’t me, if I was someone else, she’d be dead”.

Hilary Mantel never had any warm feelings toward the Iron Lady, and it shows in her writing.

I thought, there’s not a tear in her… Not for the mother in the rain at the bus stop, or the sailor burning in the sea. She sleeps four hours a night. She lives on the fumes of whisky and the iron in the blood of her prey.

In an interview with The Guardian, she said Baroness Thatcher was an anti-feminist and ‘psychological transvestite’, who did ‘long-standing damage’ to the country.

Critics and readers alike agree that the remove between the story’s protagonist and the author in this narrative is all but disappears.

When asked about the backlash on BBC Radio Mantel said:

I think it would be unconscionable to say this is too dark we can’t examine it. We can’t be running away from history. We have to face it head on, because the repercussions of Mrs Thatcher’s reign have fed the nation. It is still resonating.

The writer admits that the former Prime Minister was a ‘fantastic’ character to write about about and that ‘as a citizen, I suffered from her but as a writer, I benefited.’


криорусPhotographer Murray Ballard, among many things he found interesting and took pictures, got interested in cryonics.

From Greek κρύος ‘kryos-‘ meaning ‘icy cold’, cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of animals (including humans) who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future.

The project combines photographs of the technical processes involved, alongside portraits of the people engaged in the quest to overcome the ‘problem of death’. Whilst members have often been ridiculed for their views, I take an objective stance, allowing the viewer to consider the ethics of the practice, and to decide whether members are caught up in a fantasy world of science fiction, or genuine scientific innovation. (M. Ballard)

Here is a few images from Murray Ballard’s series The Prospect of Immortality (as curated for Impressions Gallery, Bradford, England 2011).

Robert Chester Wilson Ettinger was an American academic, known as “the father of cryonics” because of the impact of his 1962 book The Prospect of Immortality that gave birth to the idea of ‘cryonics’ – the process of freezing a human body after death in the hope that scientific advances might one day restore life. He died in 2011 aged 92.  After several days of preparation, Ettinger’s body was frozen, placed in a cryonic capsule, and cooled to −196 °C (−320.8 °F). Ettinger was the institute’s 106th patient.

“Would you like to live forever and ever, here on earth? In the near future this may become a real possibility. The Prospect of Immortality is a sober, scientific, and logical argument founded on the undeniable fact: that a body deep-frozen stands a better chance of being revived than of one rotting in the ground; and that many people who died fifty or a hundred years ago of ‘incurable’ diseases would today be cured.” Robert Ettinger, The Prospect of Immortality

MURRAY_BALLARD_2009_001Aaron Drake prepares equipment for cryogenic preservation at Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

Operating Room, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Phoenix, Arizona, USA 2007

Operating Room, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Phoenix, Arizona, USA 2007


This cryostat stores several “items”: four human bodies, one human brain, two dogs, one cat and 40 DNA samples.


A young man is consoling his beloved dog Saber on the lawn of the Cryonics Institute near Detroit. Saber will be euthanized and cryogenized.  MURRAY_BALLARD_2009_009

Flower box at the Cryonics Institute (CI) in Clinton Township, MI. The institute was established in 1976 by Robert Ettinger. The Cryonics Institute has 1,165 members in total. 164 of those funded members had contracts with Suspended Animation, Inc. for standby and transport. 126 humans,  188 human tissue/DNA samples and 103 pets and 57 pet tissue/DNA samples are cryogenically preserved in liquid nitrogen storage. MURRAY_BALLARD_2009_003

No adult human has ever been revived from temperatures far below freezing. Cryonics patients are cared for in the expectation that future technology, especially molecular nanotechnology, will be available to reverse damage associated with the cryonics process.


John, future patient (client?) take notes of the instructional video about “after death” procedures at the all inclusive cost of $28,000.MURRAY_BALLARD_2009_0092

KrioRus (Russia) is the first and only cryonics company in Eurasia with its own storage facility. A body of a dog arrived from Slovenia. KrioRus boasts having clients/patients from Italy, Holland, Israel, Estonia, Ukraine.MURRAY_BALLARD_2009_006

This portable liquid nitrogen cryostat contains the head of 79 year old math teacher from Saint Petersburg, Russia. White-on-black inscription says NITROGEN DANGER.

And this, below, is KrioRus storage facility. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d feel apprehensive about spending my frozen-after-death-before-thawing 100 years in a place looking like a dilapidated outhouse.

KrioRus cryogenic storage (or so they say)

KrioRus cryogenic storage (or so they say)


Experiment in the home laboratory of Alexander Pulver of Voronezh, Russia. Tests and experiments, in addition to mice, are carried out using pigs.MURRAY_BALLARD_2009_0091

Dr R. Michael Perry, author of  Forever for All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality.

Die under supervision, be refrigerated and — sometimes in the future — thaw and live again, that’s the idea of cryonics in a nutshell. Sounds good for those who have grown really attached to their mortal flesh, I suppose. No holograms. No super-brains or cyber-twins. Some like the idea of this “gamble” expressing cautious optimism:

“This gamble involves the value of life, the cost of (cryonics), the odds that the technology will work (which seem excellent), and the odds that humanity will survive, develop the technology, and revive people.” — Dr. K. Eric Drexler (originator of molecular nanotechnology), from Engines of Creation, Chapter 9,”A Door to the Future“.

Others are apprehensive and ironic:

Cryonics is an experiment. So far the control group isn’t doing very well.” — Dr. Ralph Merkle (inventor of public key cryptography), an observation made during public talks about cryonics.

While still others are of the opinion that cryonics enthusiast dismiss as “ugly”:

“When defrosted, all the intracellular goo oozes out, turning your strawberries into runny mush. This is your brain on cryonics.” — Dr. Michael Shermer (historian and founder of Skeptic magazine), “Nano Nonsense and Cryonics,” Scientific American, Sept. 2001


“I smell blood and an era of prominent madmen.” ― W.H. Auden

On this day, September 29th, in 1973,  W.H. Auden has diedWystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet and one of the leading literary figures of the 20th century, best known for The Age of Anxiety  which won him the Pulitzer Prize.

W. H. Auden

Born: February 21, 1907, York, England Died: September 28, 1973, Vienna, Austria

In 1935, Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann. It was a marriage of convenience to enable her to gain British citizenship and escape Nazi Germany – Auden was himself homosexual.

Auden’s political sympathies inspired him to go to Spain in 1937 to observe the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Auden and Isherwood emigrated to the United States. This was a controversial move, regarded by some as a flight from danger on the eve of war in Europe. In New York, Auden met poet Chester Kallman who would be his companion for the rest of his life. Auden taught at a number of American universities and, in 1946, took US citizenship.

The poet as a young man… WH Auden in London in January 1938, 18 months before the recently unearthed diary was started. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

The poet as a young man… WH Auden in London in January 1938, 18 months before the recently unearthed diary was started. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty

He continued to publish poetry including his Pulitzer Prize winning ‘The Age of Anxiety’ (1947)  He collaborated with Kallman on the libretto for Stravinsky’s opera ‘The Rake’s Progress’ (1951). From 1956 to 1961 he was professor of poetry at Oxford University.

Such a beautiful evening and in an hour, they say, England will be at war.” (WH Auden,  September 1, 1939. An unpublished diary that sheds light on the composition of one of his most famous poems.)

The journal was one of just three kept by the British poet. It had been in private hands since Auden’s death in 1973, but was recently unearthed and sold earlier this month at Christie’s in London to the British Library.Christie’s called it “the most substantial and significant Auden manuscript to have been offered at auction“, and said it offered “an incomparable insight into the poet’s activities and reflections at the turning point in his life”.

War declared this morning… a page from the journal. Photograph: Christie's/PA

War declared this morning… a page from the journal. Photograph: Christie’s/PA

The journal records Auden’s thoughts on topics from women (“My hatred of women is such that if I am not afraid of them … I am cruel“) to politics. “The problem for a democracy is how to get rid of the pitiful vanities of partisan talk and voting and the corruption of party machines without silencing opposition criticism,” he muses.

That unmistakable voice: grey, shambling and covered in ash, Auden the man found it was the effect of his words that mattered. Photo: Jerry Cooke/Corbis

That unmistakable voice: grey, shambling and covered in ash, Auden the man found it was the effect of his words that mattered.
Photo: Jerry Cooke/Corbis

Among Auden’s highly regarded skills was the ability to think in terms of both symbols and reality at the same time, so that intellectual ideas were transformed. He rooted ideas through creatures of his imagining for whom the reader could often feel affection while appreciating the stern and cold outline of the ideas themselves.

He nearly always used language that was interesting in texture as well as brilliant verbally. He employed a great variety of intricate and extremely difficult technical forms. Throughout his career he often wrote pure lyrics of grave beauty, such as “Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love” and “Look Stranger.”

In 1972, with his health declining, Auden left America. He moved to live in Oxford, in a cottage belonging to his old college, Christ Church. In the late 1950s, Auden had bought a house in Austria, where he spent six months of every year. He died in Austria on 29 September 1973.

The multivolume Complete Works of W. H. Auden was published in 1989. Auden is now considered one of the greatest poets of the English language.
свеча“Let me see what I wrote so I know what I think”

― W.H. Auden

“I will love you forever” swears the poet. I find this easy to swear too. “I will love you at 4:15 pm next Tuesday” – Is that still as easy?”
― W.H. Auden

“All we are not stares back at what we are.”
― W.H. Auden

“I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.”
― W.H. AudenCollected Poems

“We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.”
― W.H. Auden

What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.”
― W.H. AudenThe Dyer’s Hand

“Let all your thinks be thanks.”
― W.H. Auden

“There is a great deal of difference in believing something still, and believing it again.”
― W.H. Auden

Desire, even in its wildest tantrums, can neither persuade me it is love nor stop me from wishing it were.”
― W.H. Auden

“A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us. ”
― W.H. Auden

“Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation.”
― W.H. Auden

будъ свечей“Those who will not reason, perish in the act. Those who will not act, perish for that reason.”
― W.H. Auden

“Drama is based on the Mistake.”
― W.H. AudenThe Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose, Volume III, 1949-1955

“We are all here on earth to help others: what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.”
― W.H. Auden

“Words have no word for words that are not true.
― W.H. Auden

“Music is the best means we have of digesting time.”
― W.H. Auden

“The surest sign that a man has a genuine taste of his own is that he is uncertain of it.”
― W.H. AudenThe Dyer’s Hand