Saturday, 24 August 2019

Forced by a disobliging new world to shift on to the shoulders of an alien organization

[Lord Sackville] did not see himself in the role of a willing benefactor of the National Trust to be accorded grateful thanks on a public stage. He saw himself as the inheritor of a glorious palace the burden of which he had been forced by a disobliging new world to shift on to the shoulders of an alien organization while retaining, as far as it were possible, the status granted him by the old world.

J. Lees-Milne, People and Places: Country house donors and the national trust (1992), 181-2

Friday, 23 August 2019

For others the problem is the weather - for us it is war

He [Michael Rayment] went and looked at the ancient vineyards Gaston Hochar had revived in 1932 when he sent his son Serge to be trained in Bordeaux as a wine maker. He remarked later: 'You cannot have a vintage every year: for others the problem is the weather - for us it is war.'

J. Arlott, 'Battlefield vintage [March 1984]', ed. D.R. Allen, Arlott on wine (1986), 187

Thursday, 22 August 2019

If you are an Alsatian winemaker you change your nationality and lose your market every 25 years

Halfway up the picturesque cobbled main street of Riquewihr are the shop, offices, and cellar of the family Hugel who have made and sold wine there for twelve generations, since 1636. In their main cellar they have the oldest wine cask still in use in world; made of oak in 1719 and elaborately carved, it contains 8800 litres - a thousand dozen bottles - and was acquired by one of the family after the French Revolution. They are realists - 'if you are an Alsatian winemaker you change your nationality and lose your market every 25 years' - as well as idealists about their wine. 

J. Arlott, 'Wines of Alsace [April 1973]', ed. D.R. Allen, Arlott on wine (1986), 137 

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

he English, he said, were so spoilt and awed and besotted with writing that they saw the plastic arts as secondary

I once interviewed a very short-tempered Howard Hodgkin, and he erupted with a paean to the inability of the English to see, or make, good artists. The fault, the insurmountable fault, was apparently Shakespeare's ... him and the Book of Common Prayer ... and the dictionary. It was the English language itself, so voluminous, logorrheic, sinewy, subtle, pugnacious and duplicitous (my words, not his). Only English could describe the gallimaufry and the cornucopia of itself. The English, he said, were so spoilt and awed and besotted with writing that they saw the plastic arts as secondary, a charming craft or self-expression. the best those not blessed by the word could hope for would by to become licensed illustrators of poetic insight. 

A.A. Gill, Pour me (2015), 73

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Why would you drink like a prissy prancing mellifluous child of Dionysus in the vineyards of antiquity

We [the British] drink like this because we can, because it's our birthright, it's our heritage, our history, our myth and legend. Why would you drink like a prissy prancing mellifluous child of Dionysus in the vineyards of antiquity when you could bellow obscene songs in the mead halls of Asgard? We are the chilly, sweaty drunks of the north, of the long nights. We drink in the dark of the flickering shadows, not in the sunny, blue-hued shade of the south. We drink like this because we fucking can.

A.A. Gill, Pour me (2015), 16-17

Like a lot of A.A. Gill's memoir, this doesn't really stand analysis, but it's a great passage.

Monday, 19 August 2019

The worst was in the ruins of Warsaw, or the fields of Treblinka, or in the marshes of Belarus, or the pits of Babi Yar

The American and British soldiers who liberated the dying inmates from camps in Germany believed that they had discovered the horrors of Nazism. The images their photographers and cameramen captured of the corpses and living skeletons at Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald seemed to convey the worst crimes of Hitler. As the Jews and Poles of Warsaw knew, and as Vasily Grossman and the Red Army soldiers knew, this was far from the truth. The worst was in the ruins of Warsaw, or the fields of Treblinka, or in the marshes of Belarus, or the pits of Babi Yar.

T. Snyder, Bloodlands (2010), 311-2

There's more on this around 382f. He is very good on uncovering our historiographical bias on this.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

This cannot be said of any other European country

A rough estimate of two million total mortal losses on the territory of present-day Belarus during the Second World War seems reasonable and conservative. More than a million other people fled the Germans, and another two million were deported as forced labour or removed from their original residence for another reason. Beginning in 1944, the Soviets deported a quarter million more people to Poland and tens of thousands more to the Gulag. By the end of the war, half the population of Belarus had either been killed or moved. This cannot be said of any other European country. 

T. Snyder, Bloodlands (2010), 251