truths are little, some huge, but all of them compelling for the
commonplace can seem as crucial to life as the earthshaking."
The Observer sums up ‘The Assassin's Cloak’, a mind-blowing collection
of diary entries that takes us to the deepest chambers of the minds of 170
extraordinary people spanning centuries. Along the way we meet people like
Leo Tolstoy, Simone de Beauvoir, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Queen
Victoria, Anne Frank and dozens of other diarists, from prime ministers to
prostitutes. The range of humanity is here.
humbling yet exhilarating to be reminded as you dip into this book that
the juggernaut of centuries rolls on, over us, inevitably turning our
desires and bones to dust, that people, whether they are Queen Victoria
mourning over the death of a child, or Leo Tolstoy worrying about money,
are much the same, governed by the impulses of love, brutality, vanity.
ask you to follow a random trail of this mountainous book, where the air
is misty and fresh, the view, long, panoramic, circular. Exquisitely
Sunday night I went to see the Beatles. The noise was deafening throughout
and I couldn't hear a word they sang or a note they played, just one long,
ear-splitting din. Apparently they were not a success. The notices were
bad the next day. I was truly horrified and shocked by the audience. It
was like a mass masturbation orgy, although apparently mild compared with
what it usually is. The whole thing is to me an unpleasant phenomenon. Mob
hysteria, when commercially promoted, or in whatever way promoted, always
sickens me. To realise that the majority of the modern adolescent world
goes ritualistically mad over those four innocuous, rather silly looking
men is a disturbing thought. Perhaps we are whirling more swiftly into
extinction that we know. Personally I should have liked to take some of
those squealing young maniacs and cracked their heads together.
lapse of ages changes all things - time - language-the earth - the bounds
of the sea - the stars of the sky, and every thing "about around, and
underneath'' man, except man himself, who has always been and always will
be, an unlucky rascal. The infinite variety of lives conduct but to death,
and the infinity of wishes lead but to disappointment. All the discoveries
which have yet been made have multiplied little but existence.
Lunn took me to lunch in the Inner Temple. I found him in a little wooden
room, reading old divorce briefs. One contained a verbatim report of a
telephone conversation a husband had overheard between his wife and her
lover. He claimed that it proved adultery because, in this conversation,
she used the same pet name for penis as with him.
in France, it is a misfortune to be a Frenchman. The wing of the chicken
at a table d'hote always goes to the Englishman. He is the only person the
waiter serves. Why is this? Because the Englishman does not look upon the
waiter as a man, and any servant who feels that he is being regarded as a
human being despises the person considering him in that light.
(in Barlinnie Prison)
a.m. I've been wakened for over an hour. Am irritable and restless. Pop
music is blasting in my ears and I marvel at radio and how it must comfort
10, 1920 (Berlin)
the Peace Treaty was ratified at Paris; the war is over. A terrible era
begins for Europe like the gathering of clouds before a storm, and it will
end in an explosion probably still more terrible than that of the World
War. In Germany there are all the sense of a continuing growth of
Count Harry Kessler
Marks and Spencer's I bought a peach coloured vest and trollies to match
with insertions of lace. Disgraceful I know but I can't help choosing my
underwear with a view to it being seen.
brig called "The Agenoria'' arrived from St John's bringing 11 men,
from the crew of a timber vessel. They were capsized in a tremendous
storm. Their provisions were washed overboard and they endured starvation
came to the decision of drawing lots for who should die for his comrades
and a young man of 19 was the victim. After prayers they cut his throat
and drank the blood and devoured a considerable part of the body before it
the Tennis Court and there saw the King play at tennis and others; but to
see how the King's play was extolled without any cause at all was a
loathsome sight, though sometimes indeed he did play very well and
deserved to be commended; but such open flattery is beastly.
home to change hurriedly for the Buckingham Palace reception for the
Commonwealth Prime Ministers. It was an awful nuisance having to dress but
the only way I could see of meeting my old friends during my frantic week.
was nice to see Indira Gandhi again: I warm to her. She is a pleasant,
rather shy and unassuming woman and we exchanged notes about the fun of
being at the top in politics.
now observed how the women began to paint themselves, formerly a most
ignominious thing, and used only by prostitutes.
month ago today Nanking fell into the hands of the Japanese. The body of
that Chinese soldier shot while tied to a bamboo sofa is still lying out
in the street not 50 yards from my house.
are living amid the lice. For months I have not been able to change into
clean underwear, nor had a shower. We suffer terribly from the cold.
Deaths, deaths, deaths. For how long? The persecution of the Jews
continues. Never the less we are a year nearer to peace than on 13 January
my feeling is towards less: less shopping, less eating, less drinking,
less wasting, less playing by the rules and recipes. All of that I want in
favour of more thinking, on the feet, more improvising, more surprises,
with that let's gather up the threads of our own lives.