August 4

Amber pages

Knut Hamson, the other famous Norwegian writer, the one who wasn't Ibsen, born today in 1859 

The first satellite launched from a manned spacecraft - Apollo 15 - took place today in 1971

Walter Pater, the Vasari of the modern world, born today in 

Supplementary to my June 12 page, today in 1944 was the one on which the hidey-hole at Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, ceased to be effective: the arrest of Anne Frank and her family

And today in 1962, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, in those days just a pain-in-the-zitvlak kaffir lawyer who needed to be taught a lesson, was arrested, and began a long, long stint on Robben Island.

I asked this with Lenny Bruce, just a day or two ago - which is the right date on which to commemorate somebody? Mandela's birthday is the one most likely to get the tribute events, public holidays, etc, or maybe his deathdate, but these are random, arbitrary events, none of his making in either case, and not in his power to control them. The day he became President would work for me (May 10th 1994), or even the day that he was finally released from custody - officially February 11th 1990; except that, in his case, that was a slow process of staged releases over a period of time, while he was negotiating the surrender of apartheid, so it would be quite difficult to pin it down to any specific. But not the day of his arrest... at the moment I don't have anything on Feb 11, beyond the fact of his release...

Whereas Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg, Swedish architect, born today in 
1912, can only be this date, in part because we still have no idea if he is still alive or, if not, then when or how or where he died; but we do know what he did, again and again, on any of very many days of his life, again too many to pin down, but why need to, when what we have to (have to, obligation, have to) commemorate is the fact that such a man lived at all, that in the realm of human blind-eye-turning, passive complicity, responsibility-denial and victim-collaboration, here was a man who simply got on with the business of saving human lives, and didn't expect the world to care or notice, certainly didn't expect awards or honours, just did it, because that is what a decent human being should, but alas we rarely do. And why not? Why not?

(1964, start of the bombing of North Vietnam by the Americans; a negative event about which I have no intention of writing any more than this; but it needs to be here, as one of the answers to the question suspended like a man from a gallows at the conclusion of the last paragraph).

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