Sigrid Undset Crosses Russia: The Remarkable Case of Back from the Future (1942)

Seeing things plain, not lying to oneself, not subscribing to the delusions of others – these virtues, seemingly so simple, prove in life difficult to achieve and tricky to exercise. An inevitable imitative pressure assimilates people to one another so that mere opinion, received but never vetted, comes to function as a surrogate reality, in the cave-like error of which people stumble about their errands in a lurching mockery of witting behavior. The ancients worried about false or second-hand judgment (doxa) or about superstition. Modern people must grapple with ideology. The critique of ideology is the single most important exercise that an individual can undertake who wants to stand in truth and by his own lights against the conformist pressure of public opinion, or what dissenters nowadays call political correctness.

Norwegian author Sigrid Undset (1882–1949), born to a family of Danish freethinkers and raised in Norway in an atmosphere of urbane secularity, confronted the hollowness of that ethos in the aftermath of World War One when she shocked her familiars by embracing Roman Catholicism. If the critical writings of the Dane Georg Brandes (1842–1927) summed up the turn-of-the-century “Cultural Leftist” attitude in Scandinavia, then Undset would have represented the most decisive repudiation imaginable of Brandesian liberalism – atheistic, socialistic, scornful of inherited custom, as it was, and eager to see realized its notion (its vague notion) of a bold new political order toppling every inherited custom and evaluation. Undset championed tradition, remaining critical of any supposed liberation from norms.

Beginning with her vast Nobel Prize winning trilogy about medieval Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter, begun in the teens of the century and completed in 1922, Undset undertook a literary, hence indirect but also thorough, critique of the pervasive liberalism-progressivism of European civilization. Her social novels of the teens and twenties invariably place in the foreground thoughtless people who have given themselves to the emergent consumerism of middle class Western European society entre les deux guerres.

Undset’s novels of the modern scene explore the unhappiness of the “Ibsen marriage,” as it is called, and she records in narrative the way in which new attitudes about casual liaison corrode and destroy marriage. Undset’s representative leading character is an embittered someone in his or her late thirties or early forties, a person who holds a grudge against society because a putative promise of happiness has gone, as the subject sees it, unfulfilled – and a delinquency of fulfillment cannot, of course, be the character’s fault. Images in a Mirror (1917) ranks as the best, and also the bleakest, of these tales, recounting the disappointments of a married woman, formerly an actress, who finds herself in a cul-de-sac of meaningless chattels and, as it seems to her, pointless parental responsibility. Even her self-analysis carries the flavor of narcissism, which is her real and unacknowledged problem.

Undset’s recipients of grace, on the other hand, tend to be the down-and-out but independent minded people who succeed in finding happiness despite the actual impersonality of the consumerist order, and in entirely non-material ways. It is impossible not to see the banal social atomism of modern Scandinavia (the prototype of similar social atomism later and elsewhere) forecast in Undset’s fiction.

On occasion, however, Undset addressed the issue of the modern crisis in ways autobiographical, journalistic, and forcibly, non-fictionally direct. The most poignant and explicit of these instances of direct discourse is Undset’s memoir of her flight from Norway after the German invasion of April 1940 and her four-week trek via the Soviet Union and Japan on her way to political asylum in America.

Operation “Weser,” involving Germany’s air, sea, and land forces, caught Norway by surprise. Sizeable German armies swiftly ensconced themselves in Southern Norway, especially in Narvik and Oslo, before the reserves of Norway’s tiny army could mobilize and before the British had time to implement their unilateral plan to trump Germany by occupying the country themselves. In Back from the Future (1942), a kind of tour of the totalitarian nations in the early days of World War Two, Undset remarks what everyone knew as soon as the German troop carriers started angling up the fjords: “It was our misfortune and stupidity that somehow we could not believe that war… was true,” she writes; and while “Finland’s fight for life first awakened some of us to a more nearly realistic view,” yet many remained complacent, who “should have been awake.”

Why were people not “awake” to the obvious threats against the civilized order? The answer lies in the implied social diagnosis of Undset’s novels. Even the tentative consumerism of 1930s Norway had made citified, “cosmopolite” Norwegians self-absorbed and oblivious of evil, at least as Undset saw things. Trouble happened elsewhere, in Poland, perhaps, or in Finland. Trouble could not possibly afflict me, in the secure precincts of my world, which existed to respond to my needs. The ego saw its challenge in career, status, sex, and the acquisition of material chattels. Many people, quick to sense a trend, wanted to assimilate to the Brandesian model of the “Good European,” whose careless liberalism precluded any belief in actual evil. In the 1920s it was the “Good European.” Today it is the “Good Globalist” or the “Good Green Citizen.” In Norway sixty-nine years ago, Nazi bullets shattered the narcissistic dream.

Undset’s first-born son Anders fell in action 27 April 1940 near the family home Bjerke-Baek. Undset herself kept active organizing aide for refugees until late in May 1940 when – fearing arrest by the Gestapo – she crossed the border into Sweden. If Norwegians had lived too blithely, the Swedes seemed to Undset to have succumbed to pessimistic delirium, expecting to be crushed between the USSR and the Third Reich, and meanwhile living in a spirit of one’s forcing his enjoyment tonight because tomorrow he expects to die.

The two contrasting national-psychic moods, complacency and fatalism, lack a doctrinal character and do not quite qualify as ideologies, but, as cognitive distortions, they serve for a preface to Back from the Future’s long central chapter, “Fourteen Days in Russia.” For Undset the Nazis were one evil among several others and she had the foresight to recognize that one of the others might be, in the long term if not immediately, a greater threat to civilized order than the rampaging armies of the Hitler regime.

Well before actually visiting the Soviet Union, Undset understood that ideological allure exceeded ideological achievement by several magnitudes and that for the Cultural Leftists the USSR had long served for an eschatological symbol of the ideological future regardless of that nation’s actual condition. Believers, who had seen nothing of the experiment, “could… predict that the development of capitalistic bourgeois society would inevitably end with all the wealth gathered in a few hands,” with all others become “propertyless proletarians,” whereupon “the whole middle class would crumble away little by little and become one with this proletariat.” When Undset had the chance to gaze on the future during her trip by the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok, she saw, not the workers’ paradise of rumor, but rather poverty, neglect, and filth. “I constantly got the feeling,” Undset writes about Moscow, “that the new Russia is built, not upon the ruins of our time, the ideas of our time, but on the world of our grandparents.”

In Moscow, Undset found herself overwhelmed by the pervasive aroma: “The fetid smell of cotton goods which had been washed again and again, but without soap… the smell of bedrooms closely packed with dirty beds,” and “the smell of urine and excrement from the dirty yards.” All this disturbed Undset greatly, but the local people took it for granted, so much so that they had ceased to notice it. In a bookshop, Undset looked for books in German or French, but the most that could be found was a badly produced pamphlet called Wer lebt glücklich im Sovjet-Russland?

Undset records the disillusionment of her son. Young Hans had, “like most Norwegians… been much occupied with the Communistic experiment and was ready to accept all of it which as a Catholic he could.” Yet, “his indignation over the reality, as we saw it, was almost comic.” Communist suppression and vilification of Orthodox religiosity particularly angered Hans; but so did officialdom’s appalling indifference to poverty and disease. Undset observes that, “Russia apparently is trying to build the new on the foundation of ideas which the democracies have long ago discarded as unsuited to their purposes.”

On the Trans-Siberian, although Undset and Hans occupied a first-class compartment, they could get no hot water. They had access to tepid, non-potable water only at intervals. For ten days, the passengers got dirtier and dirtier and some fell sick. “The totalitarian states,” as Undset writes, “do not care a damn about our ideas of the minimum of cleanliness,” which, for them, lies in the inevitable but indefinitely deferred future. What obsessed the regime was, not exactly equality, but a fiercely mandatory likeness, always in thought, but also in pure squalor where some higher form of physical likeness could not otherwise be practically enforced. Despite their attempts to maintain at least a shred of joy in their lives, the Russians that Undset met all knew what hung over their heads should they let down their guard and succumb to even the most trivial impulse to complain or dissent. The shadow of oppression blighted all lives.

Thus, “one morning in the gray dawn we stood at a station a little east of Lake Baikal,” when “a train came in on the track beside ours, large ironclad cars, with tiny iron-barred windows” and “behind every window… a soldier with a poised bayonet.” A day later came another such train: “The prisoners had been allowed to open the large sliding doors a little” and Undset could see “men, women, children… packed together in the cars.” In Vladivostok, conditions showed no improvement over those in Moscow or on the train. The whole city struck Undset as being in the process of rusting away. The only new things were the wall-sized portraits of Stalin and his henchmen painted on the sides of the decayed buildings.

Another of the totalitarian states, Japan seemed to Undset less squalid and terrifying than Russia (this was July 1940), perhaps because its revolution, the bushido government, was more recent and had not yet had time to squander the inheritance of the country’s recent, industrious past. Still, as in Russia, beggars everywhere held out their bowls for alms, indicating acute economic dislocation; and although the bushido government was not yet systematically brutalizing its own people, everyone knew of its “totalitarian-state brutality” as directed against foreigners in its Chinese endeavor. Shoppers, however, had begun to complain of a scarcity of goods. “So in Japan also little by little we got the feeling that here too the living-conditions of the populace were subject to the same law which seems to operate in all totalitarian states: the standard of living sinks surely and steadily… the people are required to submit to more and more restrictions.”

Nothing being more spontaneously human than the market, the ideological regime, insistent on imposing its second reality, will always seek to shackle or annihilate the market: Hence the propensity of totalitarian states to kill off large groups of their own people by starvation.

In Back from the Future, Undset reminds her readers that in the constitutional nations, too, ideologies have begun their work of distorting the vision of reality by making vague but sugary appeals of a utopian variety and lodging infantile complaints against the necessary imperfection of earthly existence. The market is wealth producing and equalizing, but the very equalization makes people more prone than ever to petty but corrosive resentments, despite their wellbeing or their affluence. This situation has not changed in seventy years. Undset addresses “Cultural Leftism” (which has its counterparts to this day in every western society – which is, indeed, at this moment triumphant) when she notes a pervasive conviction that, “social progress from ancient times to our days was determined by economic problems.” This is what the narcissistic characters in her social novels think. If only they had “more” of something – something material – they would be happy. It is sadly what neo-conservative “free marketers” in the Western nations of our own day, think. A formula – a mantra – reduces the human to mere “economics.”

A short gap only separates that seemingly benign but reductive opinion from the “hate-consumed” Marxist position that identifies “future goals” with “dreams of revenge against everything that happened to awaken [its] enmity.”

As in Russia – so too in Japan: Before its defeat in 1945 and during its period of Axis cooperation, Japan would, like its enemy the Soviet Union and its ally Nazi Germany, impose a totalitarian police-state on its own people, socialize industry, and institute an absurd but imitatively wicked anti-Semitism. Japan would intensify its brutality in China, Korea, and other victim-nations of its aggression. Undset hopes that the cataclysm of the war will provoke her contemporaries to reevaluate the merits of that old dispensation according to which “people thought of themselves as souls, beings which never cease existing,” for whom “all conflict was at bottom a conflict between faith which led to salvation and faith which must lead to perdition.” In contemporary terms, one might say that all conflict is at bottom a conflict between those who believe in life, robust and independent, and those who believe in death. Every ideology is ultimately a form of nihilism whose adherents worship death – of the body, of the community, of the culture, and of the tradition. Our world, the world of Anno Domine 2009, stands under indictment by the power of Undset’s pen.

Back from the Future should be set against those remarkably fatuous travel books about Russia that sprouted like mushrooms in the 1930s (Lion Feuchtwanger’s Moscow: 1937 provides a good example) and the servile Western journalism, like Walter Duranty’s for The New York Times, that helped Stalin to cover up the atrocities that he and his Communist Party were then busy inflicting on the captive peoples of the USSR. Back from the Future should be set against all complacency, anytime and anywhere, including the deadly complacency of the present moment.

Thomas F. Bertonneau teaches English at SUNY Oswego.


KO, 'Tao' and Mao


During my graduate studies at Georgetown in the late 80s, early 90s Fr. G. Ronald Murphy,S.J. came out with : "The Saxon Savior: The Germanic Transformation of the Gospel in the Ninth Century Heliand" Oxford University Press 1989 and a translation "The Heliand" (Oxford 1992).  His work led me to rethink and appreciate The Heliand in a totally new light. He deals with the issues that you allude to and even those Kappert's reading list alludes to.


Thank you for the suggestion, I appreciate your comment ;)


Quoting Mao in defense of someone who trashes free speech? I guess that fits.




Thanks, Capo'. I have the second and look forward to reading it. I had the first one too, having ordered it thinking it was the second, but ill-advisedly returned it. My best recommendation re Beowulf: Benjamin Bagby's performance of it on DVD in Anglo-Saxon on a reconstructed harp with reconstructed music. If you are a Germanist as appears, you already may know his settings of medieval texts. His Beowulf is superb. (We are not talking about Undset, but at least this is on the subject medieval Germanic. Am I right that our Flemish and Dutch friends speak the closest thing there is to the language of Charlemagne? Frankish is not French!)

@ KO

Dutch and Flemish are the same written language.
The sounds and the used vocabulary, though the same, are quite differently used.
The use of the different words in different ways is due to the separate evolution of the same language.
The Flemish were living in a cluster of walled cities for a long time. This lead to insular dialects. My native small city was industrial and commercial. 7 km further was an agricultural smaller city. The dialects were so different that it was difficult for both to clearly understand each other. The strength of the Flemish for 1000 years was their insular development, which created also problems, like there was no unified voice for the general representation of the Flemish people.
Today through easy transport, communication and an open society, those language differences disappear, but still, for a foreigner, Dutch and Flemish sound still different.
Yes, German, Dutch, Flemish have the same roots. Dutch and Flemish are the same, German is much more different but an educated Flemish or Dutch person can easily understand most spoken German, like all Slavs understand more or less the Slavic languages.
Written German is a whole different ballgame. I speak fluent German but I don't risk writing it anymore. Reading yes, fluently, but not writing.


So you are divided by a common language, like the Americans and English. Oddly, I believe it is easier for an English speaker to learn French than any of the Germanic languages, because of the Romance vocabulary, word order, and loss of inflections English absorbed with the Norman invasion.

I understand Flemish and Dutch are the sole survivors of Low Frankish, the language of the Karlings. So--by a leap of speculative logic--the Flemings should be determining the character of the EU, not the Walloons!

@ KO

The Flemish should be out of Europe, full stop. More precise, out of the European Union.

Out of the EU

Amen to that! Let them exercise self-determination and sovereignty and control their own currency, immigration policy, labor policy, and trade. À bas le Troisième Empire!

@ traveller

Place my name, or should that be my "X", at the top of your prospective  buyers list.





A Thought Occured to Me That...

@ traveller


Perhaps the finest tribute you could pay to your childhood hero and family friend, Piet Schepens, would be to publish your own travel memoirs, interspersed with relevant Schepen quotes and dedicated to the memory of the great man. I'd certainly purchase a copy.

@ Atlanticist911

Yes, yes and yes,
But no time for the moment. It's all planned and I hope one day I will be able to start really working on it.

@KO, The German Problem

"I would vote for Beowulf over the Heliand as the Ur-statement of medieval Germanic virtue."

@ The great thing I have found on Kappert Isle is that one is free to say and vote for anything one wants, however, whether Beowulf or Heliand is a better example of medieval Germanic virtue is not really relevant to why I recommended Heliand.

The 'Germanic', or more accurately Saxon, conversion experience in the 9th century as captured in the epic poem is what I was recommending modern day Germans to reacquaint themselves with and to experience within themselves.

But, by all means hold a vote I expect Kappert will vote for both, or neither. 

Meanwhile, in the most respectful and hushed tone I can muster: How does "No Comments" turn into six paragraphs? A six paragraph lecture on character, no less. A six paragraph speech against free speech, no less. What an absolute

To traveller, capo'

Traveller: am I right that most Russians laughed at your joke?

Capo': You have motivated me to take another stab at the Heliand and to jot down some random thoughts. My first impression of the poem was of a curious retelling of the Gospels set in the cultural world of 9th century Saxons. Commissioned by the Franks, n'est-ce pas, to solidify the conversion? Did you mean that that transposition reflects the conversion experience in some fashion? As for that, I am not aware that the epic of Charlemagne's eight campaigns against the Saxons, with devastations, forced conversions, massacres, rebellions, and relocations has been written, though maybe it is in the mostly lost verse life of Charlemagne or in the pages of the Poeta Saxo, who praises the emperor for rescuing his people from darkness. I have read that it was our great English scholar and poet, Alcuin, who eventually persuaded Charlemagne not to pursue conversions at sword point. That is consistent with the views of Bede, Alcuin's greater predecessor, but Augustine felt that in some circumstances coercing orthodoxy was a benevolent act. (Admittedly that is not the same as forced conversion.) Alfred the Great required the Danes to convert after he defeated them at Ethandun. That must have contributed to the ultimate conversion of the invaders. By contrast, after King Odo crushed Oskytel's army at Montpensier in 892, and Oskytel accepted baptism, Count Ingo killed him as he emerged from the baptistery. "Never trust a Dane," he said. (See Oman, The Dark Ages.)

In response to your last remark, permit me to quote Chairman Mao: "Dog meat is tasty, but we don't serve it to guests." Or St. Paul: "Everything is permitted, but not everything is useful." Mr. Seiyo has an acute sense of the mission of this web magazine and the gravity of its cause. Most of us share that sense which is why we are here. He does not think barroom manners or familiar private silliness are useful or appropriate to the purposes of this forum. That is not unreasonable.

@ KO

Let me qualify my last comment.
Akademgorod is the biggest general research facility in Novosibirsk, it's a university city with 100.000 participants, at least when I was there. They had a constantly leaking nuclear reactor, which made me sick thinking about it alone. The researchers did not receive a salary for 2 years at the fall of the Soviet Union. I lived in a hotel nearby or in a guest house of one of the faculties and I paid mostly 100 dollars for food of the whole faculty for a day. When I asked why they stayed, they looked at me as if I was crazy:"what about our work, our research?". Meanwhile they changed a bit and tried to go to the States if they could go for a research job. If they couldn't get a serious scientific job they preferred to starve. When we discussed endlessly every night their ideas and dreams were beautiful, but unobtainable for
99% of them. So the next day they went back to their research, stubborn and brilliant. They are the very best theoretical researchers in the world. They are minimum 10 years ahead of the rest of the world.

@ traveller

Our current epidemic of wealth destruction will foster more of that saving craziness in the West, when we re-learn contempt for useless ideological lies and luxuries. Then we will see if we can compete with the Russkies after we have been beaten up for a few rounds.

@ KO

Both, laughing and angry, depending on the circumstances. I told them when we were joking and also when I was angry with them.
With Russians there is a steady quarrel going on who is the smartest, the best, the strongest, the biggest drinker etc. etc. That's why chess is a religion, I have never seen a relaxed game in Russia.
A philosophical dispute is extremely serious on the very moment. The next day they don't remember anymore.


Before you get lost in Walhalla, some books for you:
Allan A. Lund: Zur Deutung der Taciteischen Darstellung des Orts der Varus-Schlacht. In: Gymnasium 116 (2009) Heft 2.
– Germanenideologie in Nationalsozialismus. Zur Rezeption der 'Germania' des Tacitus im "Dritten Reich". Heidelberg 1995b.
– Die ersten Germanen. Ethnizität und Ethnogenese. Heidelberg 1996.
Annelore Engel-Braunschmidt et al. (Hrsg.), Ultima Thule. Bilder des Nordens von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Frankfurt a.M. u. a. 2001, S. 29–45.
Rüdiger vom Bruch / Brigitte Kaderas (Hrsg.), Wissenschaften und Wissenschaftspolitik. Bestandsaufnahmen zu Formationen, Brüchen und Kontinuitäten im Deutschland des 20. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart 2002, S. 324–338.

"Little Gems"

@ traveller


Every so often you 'hit' us with one of your personal snippets of personal history, what I refer to as traveller's "little gems", and I thank you for them. 

@ Atlanticist911

Just to be complete.
This was in the late 90's.
When I learned about this Norwegian "accident", I decided to take a look at that border from close up(open eyes and ears) and went by car, to my eternal regret in wintertime, over snow and ice to the Russian/Norwegian border.
I was back in the cold war with triple heavy chicken wire on both sides of the road, meandering through the high ice loaded hills.
At arrival in Kirkeness, the Norwegian bordertown, I went through a police check, unique in my European travel experiences. Absolutely everything was checked, papers copied without asking and when I objected the border police man told me:" You have no business in Murmansk, that territory is ours!!!"
I had difficulty controlling myself, having just heard the war story. He saw that I was angry and added:"Yes, you have no business here".
We have our own European Arabs to content with, with apologies to Fjordman and others.

@ Mr. Bertonneau

I am, again, going to be a traveller here.
I crisscrossed Siberia South to North, West to East, East to West in the Trans Siberian since the early '90's.
First class had samowars, on burning wood. I provided them with my own mineral water, which I had to share of course.
I absolutely loved it, notwithstanding the obvious poverty.
I shared my sausages and bread, cucumbers and butter and they offered me their deadly home brewn wodka which I fought to refuse since I stopped drinking in 1985.
This created a chill for at least an hour.
All this for telling you that I love Russia and the Russian people, the most sentimental bastards, the most cruel out of their mind drunks you can meet. Anybody telling that he knows the Russians is an idiot, the brightest minds, the most sentimental friends, the biggest murdering gangsters and the most devious strategic thinkers. Pure nationalists with a crazy love for their country. Once they are fed up with Putin he will be toast, and he is coming close.
I didn't see anything of that in the article you wrote about the trip Undset made, and since I never read this book, please tell me, did she refer to the Russian soul, she was very apt at catching such things.

@ Atlanticist

We have eyes and ears, why not use them, no matter what anybody tells us


"She was a marvellous human being, that's all."

'That's All' - how marvellously ambiguous. Works for me :)

Where can 'Back From the Future' be purchased from?

Disregarding all the whaffle that came before this comment, I wanted to find a retailer that sells English translations of Back From The Future.

Ebay only seemed to have Sigrid Undset's novels of medieval Norway. My local booksellers and old faithful Foyles in London did not have it either.

Finally I remembered Amazon and found that they stock 'Return to the Future: The Passionate Journal of Undset's Courageous Flight to Freedom During World War II (Paperback)'

Let me also recommend 'Hunted Through Central Asia' by Paul Nazaroff, for a different journey in the 1920's.


Defend Christendom. Defend Jewry. Oppose socialism in Europe.


Siegetower: There are 10 copies of Return to the Future available on

Traveller: There are 54 books by, or translated by, or containing works by, Piet Schepens, including "Yslandse Sprookjes."

@ KO

Thank you very much. I appreciate this information, I couldn't find it.

Available 2

Traveller: You're welcome. If that was of interest, you might also enjoy searching Schepens, Piet on, or specifically at

Your remarks on Russians make an impression. From the literary point of view, they seem to exceed anything the Russians have cared to disclose about themselves. Only Sienkiewicz's blazing, explosive portraits of Cossacks in With Fire and Sword are in the ballpark.

Capo: Thanks for the article on Undset. Worth following up. However, I would vote for Beowulf over the Heliand as the Ur-statement of medieval Germanic virtue.

@ KO

Thanks again, Schepens is a sentimental reminder of my youth. As a child I never understood why such a brilliant man had to peddle his own books for a small amount of money. I sat open mouthed listening to him in our living room while he talked about his travels, perhaps he gave me the bug, who knows?

Russians are a different kettle of fish. I travelled through the Moscow Oblast during approx. 20 years before I had the chance to travel all over Russia. I took many risks for going to places which were closed. It was not necessary for my business but I still couldn't resist.
If you want to learn about Russia you must start with Dostojevski, otherwise you will never get the right feeling. The second one to read is Pasternak. Dr. Zhivago is a masterpiece covering the revolution and the war like no other book did. The movie killed the book.
It took me approx. 30 years to visit Novosibirsk, Yekaterineburg(Sverdlovsk), Nizhny-Novgorod(Gorki), Rostov, Azov, Murmansk, Lipitzk, Brijansk, Magnitogorsk, Samara etc. etc. and meet people in their own private environment. Scientists, philosophers, writers, workers, engineers and they all had the same soul, totally different from our Western societies.

Well, before getting too lyrical, let Capo tell you some more, if he wants to.

To traveller

Thanks for the recommendations, traveller. I hope you will preserve and pass along your recollections. I have an acquaintance with Dostoevsky, but have not spent any significant time in Russia so do not know the reality first-hand that he would have us grasp. One week on the Trans-Siberian in 1986, viewing the country entirely from the outside, was my only time there. I really garnered only two impressions, one geographic--that Russia is a vaster Canada--the other economic--that the countryside went hungry so Moskow could eat. Almost no contact with Russians, more's the pity. Did you see Prof. Bertonneau's earlier piece on Ouspensky's memoir of the Revolution?

Huntington sees the Orthodox world as a separate civilization, as he does Latin America. What you say of Russians supports that, for what it's worth. They may look like Westerners, but they're not, God bless 'em--as Dostoyevsky never tired of saying.

@ KO

My personal joke with my Russian friends was: "if I scratch your skin off your face I will find a Mongolian."

@ capo

Sigrid Undset had the advantage of a very sharp female intuïtion.
I could easily classify her as a timeless Flemish Mysthic if I wouldn't be afraid to use the word classify in her case. She had an amazingly sharp instinct for unravelling complex human behavior and go to the spiritual source of that behavior.
In short, something our modern "authors" have absolutely no clue about.
She was definitely no liberal, nor a conservative. She was a marvellous human being, that's all.

Japanese NO play (no more)

"Will it be a multi-part joke?"


Now that is a Thorn(e)y question, better left unanswered. Or, in the words of that great Irish-Japanese mystic and part time wordsmith, Cy[rus] O' Nara, "let's not speculate for fear of what we might accumulate".



Japanese Joker (3)


The same Rick O'Shea who use to bounce around with Deng Xiaoping?

No, I live a rather secluded life on Kappert Isle. I read very little that has yet been written.  Maybe Kappert has a heads up on it?

Will it be a multi-part joke?

Japanese Joker in the Suit

@ Capo'


No, not that one. The joke I have in mind hasn't been written yet. But when it is, it must surely make reference to the Japanese Ambassador who, while on a visit to Saville Row to be measured for a suit (Sebiro), decides to take a detour to visit his old Irish friend, Rick O' Shea, who just happens to live on a mysterious island called Thorney...


That joke.


Back to Hiroshima?

@Capo' Have you never heard the one before about the Englishman, the (Jewish) Irishman and the Yank, stuck on an island...?

Not the Bikini AyaTOLLah joke?

Prisoners of Naga-shima




Have you never heard the one before about the Englishman, the (Jewish) Irishman and the Yank, stuck on an island...?


@ Kappert


This is no joke. Really, I need to know...


Is Deng Xiaoping the Chinese equivalent of ricochet? And where, I might hasten to add, has everybody else got to on this island of yours?

Yitzhak, where are you? 

Come back Amsterdamsky, all is forgiven...

In Defense of Kappert


As an exile on the Kappert Isle, I can attest to Kappert having a very firm grip. How else do ya think he gets his head up his silly....?

As to "What on earth has an obscure Irish Jew got to do with a debate on "The Origins of the Specious"? "

Surely one of the  the finest sample specimen of the specious that one could hope to find on the Kappertian Isle?

re: ricochet



What on earth has an obscure Irish Jew got to do with a debate on "The Origins of the Specious"? 

Get a grip man!

Feuchtwangered # 6


So let me rekap:

1.)So you are ruling out any connection to the Japanese river monster passing gas? (He no Kappa sa)

2.)You do see a direct link to the mythical illegitimate son of the Handsome Barber of Brabant? Technically the Handsome Bastard Barber of Brabant.

Based on:

" Knappe Kappers Kappen Knap, maar ... Kappert Kapt nog Knapper dan de Knapper Kappen Kan.
That sounds like our Kapper( to a ) t."

Upon Peer to Peer review : "The Origins Of Kappert" is ready for the Royal Society.

God Save the Queen.

Feuchtwangered # 5

@ Capo'


Funny you should mention Kappert Isle...


Btw: I do believe I have finally got to the bottom of the mystery concerning the 'origins' of our mutual friend. I believe he is the direct descendant of the illegitimate son of the mythical "Handsome Barber of Brabant". You know the story.



Knappe Kappers Kappen Knap, maar ... Kappert Kapt nog Knapper dan de Knapper Kappen Kan.


That sounds like our Kapper( to a ) t.


Do you think I might be on to something here?

Feuchtwangered # 4

The Missing Link? You've done it Watson.

I knew Intelligent Design couldn't produce a Kappert.

"And guess where dear old Lion eventually received asylum."?

The Kappert Isle? And now for the chorus line...

"Feuchtwangered and Bewildered are oui."

@Thomas B. You spend your time well in the winter wonderland of Upstate NY. Easy to imagine a trek across Siberia in Oswego. Do they still have ropes along the walks on campus so one doesn't get blown into Lake Ontario?



For the general information of the Flemish readers here:

The books by Sigrid Undset were translated in Flemish by a marvellous translator, absolutely unknown to most Flemish readers, Mr. Piet Schepens. He was a linguist of exceptional talent who translated Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian authors into Flemish.

My father bought his books to help him to survive. He was caught innocently  in the "Anti-Flemish Repression after WW2" and couldn't sell his books through the normal channels. The intellectual Flemish people bought his books directly from him. His books opened the world of Scandinavian and Russian authors for me as a teenager. Undset was one of my favourites.

Undset 2

Thanks to Prof. Bertonneau for this very interesting essay on conservatism vs. liberalism of nearly a century ago. The more things change... Even then, liberalism was apparently a form of parasitism, forgetting and denying the necessary elements of prosperity and security, in order to destroy reality and replace it with man's own creation.

Thanks to traveller for an interesting historical sidelight. Did Mr. Schepens perchance translate Icelandic literature as well?

@ KO

On the subject of Piet Schepens, I could not find anything at all worth mentioning about him.
He wrote a fantastic biography of Strindberg, was friends with Undset, knew the whole scandinavian modern literature , translated a lot of them, and wrote his own travel books about his trips through Scandinavia.
Since he was blacklisted and ignored by the "belgian" "publishers", everything was lost about his work. That's Flanders for you.
We have the 2 best orientalists in the world in our little country, both blacklisted.
We are ruled and taught by idiots, screwed to the bone by immoral corrupt gangster-politicians and we are still paying for them, believing against belief that this also will pass , perhaps in another 1000 years.

@ Mr. Bertonneau

Thanks for the article, it made me remember my youth.
Anyway, a small word of caution: Norway really didn't put up a fight. Their country is perfect for guerilla, but they really had no fighting spirit.
What disgusted me even more was that during one of my trips to Murmansk, where I spent approx. 2 years total, I came upon a monument to the North of Murmansk where the militia of Murmansk had stopped the "regular Norwegian army, fighting with the German command" to catch the North of the Kola Peninsula.
Since I didn't know anything about this I inquired some more and even met Russian soldiers who had fought those German/Norwegian forces, the Norwegians in their own winter uniforms and the Germans in their uniforms but with Norwegian winter overcoats.
Not everything is common knowledge about that very covered up period in our recent history.

@ KO

I can't remember anymore if Icelandic books were involved. I am sure he translated from Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Russian, but Icelandic, though close to Danish, I am not sure anymore.

Feuchtwangered # 3

I feel a Rogers & Hart song coming on here. What was it called again? Ah, yes, I remember now:


Feucht, [w]Angered and Bewildered


"Lost my faith, but what of it?

 My mistake I agree

It's a laugh, but I love it

Because the laughs on me...


Feuchtwangered and Bewildered am I".

Well and truly F...

Lion Feuchtwanger, indeed. (What a wonderful name for the average native English speaker to 'conjure' with). And guess where dear old Lion eventually received asylum? In the 'asylum' that is modern day La-La-Land, that's where. It would appear that, as each day passess, we are all in danger of becoming well and truly "Feuchtwangered"