On The World and World Events:
East and West Berlin
My Berlin experience is coming to an end. I am leaving tomorrow at 6 o'clock in the morning, and will land in Paris three hours later (the plane stops in Frankfurt). I pray the Gods that I can find a hotel where to take a most deserved rest.
I have spent eight full days in Berlin. This is a vast city, with many emptyspacesit had been almost entirely destroyedand many new, impressively modern buildings. I am talking of Berlin West. As to Berlin Eastwhich we visited astouristsit provides the most appalling contrast. Berlin West is rich, bustling, active, modern; Berlin East is gray, shabby, miserable, provincial. There is no better way of becoming a rabid anti-Communist than to visit the two zones. The difference is not only appalling; it is truly indescribable. I now understand why the West Berliners want to defend their city at all costs.
I attended the sessions of the Congress (Kongress für kulturelle Freiheit), and various official receptions. Like all Congresses, this one will lead nowhere, but people usually make friends on such occasions. I made some. When the tasks of the Congress began to subsidethe last threedaysI decided (with the help of a nice young German intellectual) to have a taste of the Berlin night life. It's wild. I have had, as a matter of fact, more than a taste of it. During the last three days I have slept intermittently only a few hours, but I have seen more than most people do in months. You find here and there incredible things . . . A pair of lesbians, sitting in some fancy bar, waiting for some man to share their ébats; pretty young girls, supposedly belonging to the best society, who are ready to go to bed with any man they happen to meet and like; cute, little prostitutes who do not share their bed with any man, but only with the ones they think are handsome enough. And so forth, and so forth. It's rather wild. It is also exhausting. The only thing I now want is to sleep, and to desintoxicate from the too many drinks I had. It is much more restful, not to say healthy, to lead a tranquil philosophical life. At this particular moment I want to be a pure spirit, similar to the one Porphyrius described when he wrote on Plotinus, "He seemed ashamed of having a body." I suppose this wish will not last long.
[Barcelona, June 22, 1960]
How anyone can not prefer Stevenson to any other candidate is still a mystery to me. I like his mind, both realistic and aristocratic, but intelligent realism and aristocratic turn of mind do not seem to be too appealing nowadays (if they have ever been).
[Barcelona, July 20, 1960]
[Ferrater worried about finding enough time] "to write (or rewrite) the thousands of pages that will be needed to make [the Dictionary] a decent fat thing." [He then added,] " I am worried; perhaps I should not be, for it may well happen that some super H bomb settles the problem once and for all. Have you noticed how excitable the great statesmen of the world have become during the last two weeks? Maybe it's the heat. I propose a world-government of philosophers in which I would gladly play an inconspicuous role. Philosophers are not better than anybody else, but they are too timid to let loose atomic bombs."
[Paris, Sept., 1961]
The French Outlook
Have you seen this morning's papers? Aside from Kennedy's press conference via Telstar, and further talk about possibilities of wiping out the human race in a surprisingly speedy manner, there was some talk about winter femalefashions.
The morning press (see above) has also informed the readers that, aside from the train accident you probably have heard of, France is facing another possible great disaster: Miss Bardot may be sun-burned after the summer, and be unable to produce another movie, an event, (or lack of it) that will dangerously reduce Foreign Exchange deposits in the French National Bank. Fortunately, she is likely to become a candidate in the municipal elections ofSaint-Tropez. On the other hand, the aforementioned press has vigorously pointed out that since Miss Bardot has been talked about daily only during the last six years, there has been scarcely any opportunity to say anything worth mentioning (which I certainly believe). It is quite obvious that in this country insistentialism has definitively replaced existentialism.
[Paris, July 24, 1962]
The Bible Belt
Did you know that the place I temporarily inhabit is called "the Bible belt"? Well, I suppose you know, but I certainly didn't. Drinking is frowned upon, which means that people are drinking heavily, but have, or claim to have, feelings of guilt. Smoking is considered sinful, so the only way of consuming tobacco is by puffing with awe. As to other possible sinful acts, I have been inquiring, and have been told that they are not encouraged, but are considered less offensive than either drinking orsmokingwhich, in a way, makes sense. A very puzzling area.
[Emory University,Atlanta, April, 1963]
The Death of President Kennedy
Friday afternoon I heard in City Center people saying such things as "It happened just ten minutes ago," "It happened just 20 minutes ago," and so on. I duly inquired, and later spent a considerable amount of time listening to so-called "mass media of communications." Since such words as "grief," "shock," etcetera have been used rather abundantly (and excessive use wears out terms and meanings thereof), I will abstain from using them again, but I will say that I felt rather disheartened and depressed, and very sorry, indeed. I liked K.; of course, I liked his politicalaimsfor, as far as politics goes, besides being a philosopher, and thus somewhat metapolitical, I seem to be just a plain, ordinary, bourgeois liberal, or something like thatbut I also liked the man as man, I mean his energy, and vigor, and all that sort of thing. Verysadwhich is a term also abundantly used, but whose meaning looks rather irreplaceable. Verysad.
[Bryn Mawr, Nov. 1963]
I will attend a soccer game in one of the most modern soccer fields in the worlda real beauty, architecturally speaking. Talking about architectural beauties, I must say that Barcelona looks nowadays as one of the finest cities I have ever seen, with a surprising balance between the ancient and the very modern; you may perhaps believe that the fact of having been born in the aforementioned city causes me to praise it, but I am judging with the cold eye of the artist.
[Barcelona, March 19, 1964]
We spent a few days in Munich, under cloudy, chilly and rainy Bavarian skies...most of the time was devoted to visiting artistic and scientific institutions including the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, where, by the way, there was not a single book of mine in stockŠAll things considered, it was a worthy trip. As a city, Munich is far from being impressive; it can even boast of possessing the ugliest buildings in the whole wide world, as duly testified by a monster called "Deutsches Museum". Yet, it has a few points, like the Rathaus...
[Paris, April 3, 1964]
I am catching up with the international news. As it happens every summer, things seem to be boiling up, particularly in the warmest and hottest spots (Africa et alii). I have noticed that in this country, despite the pro-Arabic stand taken by the Government (or perhaps on account of it), people are almost invariably pro-Israel. Intellectuals are confused because the left wingers (which are the vast majority) tend to be "anti-imperialist,' "anti-American" and so on; yet, they are sympathetic to Israel, and so they must be critical of the Soviet union. I read that people in Jerusalem, Arabs and Israelis alike, were quite happy to be able to circulate freely through the city, so it seems that everyone was against the unification of Jerusalem with the exception of the inhabitants themselves. A political paradox. I don't know what is happening in France from the political point of view, because most of the magazines received here go on talking about Brigitte Bardot, but the most "serious" ones seem not to be too happy about DeGaulle's "coat-turning" (I don't know whether this is the proper expression to use); furthermore, it would seem that some people are a little tired of oracular and prophetic pronouncements. Oracles in Greece made their pronouncements once in a while, but said DeGaulle is making them at least twice a day, so they are likely to lose their effectiveness.
[Barcelona, July 11, 1967]
Vietnam War Protests
"When I saw, and read about, the silent March [in Washington, D.C. against the Vietnam War] and the immense gathering I was truly moved. I should have been there. . . .People responded. It was beautiful, like a great symphony."
[Bryn Mawr, 1969]