Crocs II

Thomas Meaney recounts the story of Nasser’s meeting with Castro in Harlem in September 1960, as told by Simon Hall (LRB, 4 February). Mohamed Hassanain Heikal, Egypt’s pre-eminent journalist in the 1950s and 1960s, and one of Nasser’s key advisers, gave a different account of the visit:

Castro brought Nasser a present, a wooden box lined with crocodile leather. When Nasser opened it, he said: ‘I thought it would be cigars.’ And Castro apologised, saying: ‘I didn’t know you smoked cigars but I will make sure you are sent some. Perhaps I made a mistake in giving you crocodile leather because you have plenty of crocodiles in Egypt.’

‘Yes,’ said Nasser, ‘we have got exactly …’ – he looked at the ceiling – ‘ … exactly four.’

Castro looked at him, startled: ‘How do you know how many there are?’

‘Because,’ said the president, ‘they are all in the zoo.’

— Ifdal Elsaket, “Letters: Harlem, September 1960,” London Review of Books Vol. 43 No. 5 · 4 March 2021

Crocs II

Crocs I

One of the best moments in Hall’s account comes when Nasser goes to Harlem to visit the Cubans. When he presents Castro with a silver tea set, Castro asks whether he couldn’t give him a crocodile instead. Nasser explains that there are precisely four crocodiles in the whole of Egypt, all housed at the Cairo Zoo. For days afterwards, Hall reports, Nasser could be heard to mutter: ‘A crocodile … a crocodile.’

— Thomas Meaney, “But I wanted a crocodile,” London Review of Books Vol. 43 No. 3 · 4 February 2021 (review of Simona Hall, Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s

Crocs I

No such number, no such zone

Panchkula Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wing has launched a committee to provide help and resources to people battling Covid in the district.

Sharma said the BJP Panchkula has also set up a medical helpline. It will be manned by a team of 18 workers, who will work the phone lines from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. The party, however, did not give any number for the helpline…

Panchkula: BJP launches Covid-19 helpline, without number, Express News Service (27 April 2021)

No such number, no such zone

Rattle

Here she is on the bouquet of virtues men prescribe for women: ‘Gentleness, docility, and a spaniel-like affection are, on this ground, consistently recommended as the cardinal virtues…one writer has declared that it is masculine for a woman to be melancholy. She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle, and it must jingle in his ears whenever, dismissing reason, he chooses to be amused.’

Elizabeth Spelman, Assertrix: Mary Wollstonecraft, London Review of Books Vol. 26 No. 4 · 19 February 2004 (review of Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination, by Barbara Taylor)

Rattle

Learned disputation

It has been suggested, typically by Gopal Haldar, that for Vidyasagar, the recourse to shastras for effecting social change was essentially a matter of strategy. At first glance, this appears to draw support from the Pundit’s own admission that his countrymen were unlikely to respond to humanitarian appeals or to the voice of reason, and that locating support in the smriti texts would bring them around sooner to accepting novel changes. Going by preceding history, such a surmise appears neither unreasonable nor unfounded. In early modern Calcutta, it was quite common to secure the arbitration of pundits in matters pertaining to everyday life. When running water in taps was first introduced in the city, learned Brahmin scholars were summoned by a local aristocrat, Raja Kalikrishna Dev Bahadur, to determine if its consumption was ritually polluting for the orthodox Hindu. Pundit Premchandra Tarkabagish (1805–67), one of Vidyasagar’s teachers at the Sanskrit College, was so averse to its use that he left Calcutta for Kashi, only to die of cholera in that city.

— Amiya P. Sen, Vidyasagar: Reflections on a Notable Life, quoted in Re-characterising Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and His Methods of Work, Live History India, April 17th 2021

Learned disputation

Foresight

Austen Riggs was a major intellectual center for psychoanalysis, dedicated primarily to the treatment of dysfunctional descendants of wealthy families. I was allowed into the case conferences, which were normally scheduled on Fridays, usually to evaluate a patient who had spent a month of live-in observation at the clinic. Those attending would have received and read, the night before, a folder with detailed notes from every department about the person in question. There would be a lively exchange of impressions among the staff, which included the fabled Erik Erikson. Then the patient would come in for a group interview, which was followed by a brilliant discussion. On one of those Fridays, the meeting took place and was conducted as usual, despite the fact that the patient had committed suicide during the night. It was a remarkably honest and open discussion, marked by the contradiction between the powerful retrospective sense of the inevitability of the event and the obvious fact that the event had not been foreseen.

— Daniel Kahnemann, Biographical Note, Nobel Prize Awards (2002)

Foresight

Plain music

It is not a book for indologists, not for anthropologists, not for orientalists, not for serious students of Indian thought through primary sources. Is it a good book on middle-class English speaking highcaste Hindus of the Kumaon region? This reviewer is not so sure of it — the attempt is honest and laudable, but it is tinged and weakened by the desire to see great things and great counterpoints when the objects are rather plain, and the music is more so.

— Aghehananda Bharati, review of My Life with a Brahmin Family by Lizelle Raymond, Journal of the American Oriental Society 93.3 (1973)

More on Aghenanda Bharati, aka Leopold Fischer

Plain music

Praiseworthy

Unconditional praise was outside his register; it offended his sense that perfection was an impossibility. ‘Your performance in the “Harp” was so impressive,’ he wrote to Levon Chilingirian, ‘that I shall allow myself a few criticisms of the less impressive moments’…

— Nicholas Spice, The Phonic and the Phoney, review of Hans Keller 1919-85: A Musician in Dialogue with His Times 
by Alison Garnham and Susi Woodhouse, London Review of Books Vol. 43 No. 3 · 4 February 2021

Praiseworthy