Friday, January 28, 2005

This week - not unlike the three previous ones - has been very productive. Yesterday alone I made 1585 digital photocopies of French-Jewish periodicals of the years that I am working on. I had to stop because I ran out of memory cards ( 4 x 256 MB ). After taking such pictures I download them to my laptop, give each photo a name specifying the periodical ( or archive, file etc. ), page number and - if known - a date, and in a very systematic way I organize everything into folders, which I put on CD-ROM. This week I worked on different archives at the Alliance Israélite Universelle, the Musée de la Résistance and the Archives Nationales. Working at the AN is still a bit complicated but I just decided not to give up and with the help of some of the archivists I finished a large number of files this week. This morning I also worked there, and after having had a photocopy place for two hours this morning I made a reservation for another hour in the afternoon. Tomorrow morning I will have another two hours, which normally should mean that I will be able to finish almost all of the files that I am allowed to work on with my digicam. Among the documents collected this week there are some true gems, which will be of vital importance for my research. Three more weeks like this and I am going back home, via my parents in Holland, where I will spend one more wonderful weekend before seeing my wife and our children again. Next week my brother will come over to Paris. That will be the only weekend that I will spend - partly, on Saturday I will work at the AN, to optimally use my time - as a tourist. I hope the weather will be better then than today. For the first time since I arrived in Paris it has been drizzling all day. By the way, I am reading right now "Friend or Foe", an "Anglo-Saxon history of France" by Alistaire Horne. In spite of its flaws I very much liked Horne's classic on the Algerian War ( A Savage War of Peace ), which is why I bought his latest, so prominently displaced at the W.H. Smith English bookstore in the Rue de Rivoli. This book is very badly written, and its editors should be fired immediately, with all the mistakes and the many bad sentences the book contains. All the time Horne makes unnecessary, unhistorical and sometimes totally wrong comparisons between different historical periods, his comments are often off the mark. A passage such as the following would be forgiven if the rest of the book was brilliant, but - you already might have guessed - it is not, at least not in my humble opinion: "Apart from the eyes, and the sensual lips, Louis' ( i.e. Louis XIV ) most striking feature was his long, beaked and powerful nose. Some historians reckoned that, through his Aragon ancestors, he had both Jewish and Moorish blood."

Friday, January 21, 2005

Na mijn vorige posting keek ik even op de website en zag dat Theun de Vries is overleden. Nooit geweten dat die naam een pseudoniem was, voor Theunis Uilke.
Ik heb met verbazing en woede de berichten gelezen over de vrouw die de tasjesdief doodreed. Om de een of andere reden kan ik vanaf de computer waar ik nu werk geen links naar andere websites plaatsen, maar ik heb gelezen wat o.a. Verbal Jam, Hanneke Groenteman en Zacht Ei er over schreven. Ik zou graag commentaar, indrukken e.d. van lezers krijgen. Zonder al te veel details van het gebeuren te kennen moet ik zeggen dat mijn eerste sympathie naar de vrouw gaat, en dat ik me erger aan de onverdiende slachtofferrol die - als ik de media mag geloven - veel Marokkaans-Nederlandse jongeren zichzelf en de tasjesdief zaliger aanmeten.
Today I am having what I would almost consider to be a typical day of work in an official French institute. That I have time to spend more than an hour in an internet café in the middle of the day is a result of it. Most of the files in the National Archives ( AN ) that are relevant for my research are sous dérogation, i.e. I can consult them but am not allowed to photocopy any part of them. I plan to come with my laptop, go over the files and typewrite/summarize the most relevant parts of them, a waste of precious time but I have no choice. Some files are 'libre' so you can come with your digicam and make photocopies yourself. The thing is, you have to make a reservation in advance for one of the very few photocopy-places. I reserved a place for this morning, from 9 till 11 AM. Yesterday I ordered online one 'libre' file for this morning. Since I had been working all week in other archives I had failed to notice that there was a strike yesterday, in the AN among other places. When I arrived extra early this morning to be sure to get a good place ( there are only 80-something regular places available at any one time; I arrived at 7.45 even though the place usually opens at 9 AM only ) I was among the first to arrive, but there was a note saying that the AN would open only at 10 AM because of a protest meeting. When after waiting outside in the cold for more than two hours finally at 10.15 I arrived at the desk I was told that my file had not been delivered yet because of the strike. Of course my photocopy-reservation would not be relevant anymore in the afternoon, when the file was supposed to arrive. A whole bloody day wasted: I did not bring my laptop ( they do not allow you too bring any bags into the reading room, so I thought i would concentrate only on at least one of the photocopiable files today, and to come back tomorrow with my laptop to deal with the dérogation files that are already waiting for me. Pissed off is not an exact description of my mood right now. If I had not extended my stay yesterday I would already have a serious time problem.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

This morning I changed my train and plane tickets so that I can stay in Parisd for one more week than originally planned, leaving me here until some time in February. The collection of primary sources is going great, but at some archives the work takes more time than expected ( because of red tape and also because in some places I found some sources that i could not have known about before ) so I decided to extend my stay, which should give me enough time to make this séjour de recherche into a real success. My wife obviously did not like the idea very much, but she understands that I did not have much choice. Since my last posting I saw another good movie ( Der Untergang, about the last days in Hitler's bunker; a wonderful movie if you possess the right background information about the main characters. Especially the characters of Joseph Goebbels and his wife are convincing and chilling ), read three more books ( Finale Kwijting by Hans Dorrestijn, both amusing and very sad; Occidentalism by Ian Buruma & Avishai Margalit, a convincing and - sometimes too - concise synopsis of an interesting thesis; a Traveller's History of Paris, nice, nothing more or less ), and yesterday I started reading Mystic River, by Denis Lehane. This book is excellent, I am looking forward to watching the movie which Clint Eastwood made, based on it.

Friday, January 14, 2005

This week has been the most productive that I can remember ever since I started my PhD research. While Mister LePen is saying his despicable things about the Occupation in France, Palestinian extremists are continuing their efforts to make any normalization of relations between Israel and the Palestinians impossible, and people all over the ( western ) world are horrified by the suffering of and donating millions to the victims of the Tsunami, I am working as never before, and it is bearing fruit. Again, except for missing my wife and our children, I am having the time of my life. I am sorry and feel slightly guilty for not letting all the bad things happening in the world spoil my excitement, enthusiasm and - yes - fun.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Instead of following the Palestinian elections, Sharon's coalition and party troubles or Hezbollah attacks against targets in northern Israel I have been keeping myself busy searching for, photocopying and buying primary and secondary sources for my PhD research. On the only day off that I allow myself here - Sunday, when all libraries and archives relevant for me are closed - I read a lot and watched two of the best movies that I have seen in recent years. One of them is a classic ( Fargo, by Joel and Eitan Coen; I took some of my brother's DVDs with me and watched this one last night, it is brilliant ), the other is fairly new and Israeli: Walk on Water, by another Eytan, Eytan Fox. Both movies made me a little homesick: WoW because of the landscapes, the Israeli characters and the Hebrew, Fargo because seeing Marge Gunderson and her husband together made me long for my wife. Whenever I see children here I am reminded of the five months I spent in Paris with my wife and kids last year. Although it is much easier to work here when I am on my own, I miss the three of them very, very much.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

While the main Israel-related news items that I have been following on the website of Ha'Aretz this week have to do with the ( threat of a ) civil war between settlers and their sympathizers on the one hand and the rest of the country, including most of the security forces, on the other, here in Europe media still dedicate most of their front pages/prime time to the Tsunami disaster in South-Eastern Asia. Today at noon people all over the EU were supposed to observe three whole minutes of silence - more minutes than I can remember to have been silent in remembrance of anything, ever -, an idea apparently suggested by the Dutch government. Dutch prime Minister Balkenende considered the acceptance by the other member states of that idea as a real achievement for him and his cabinet, whose chairmanship of the EU ended last Saturday. Anyway, I found myself at noon today on the Champs Elysées, inside the Virgin Megastore ( it was raining ). Although the store management turned off the music for three minutes I felt really stupid for standing still for 180 seconds: virtually everybody else continued shopping, talking on cellphones, asking salespersons what was going on, etc. Really, quite an achievement for JP Balkenende and for the EU.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Nog even een korte posting in het Nederlands. Alhoewel ik van vrienden en familie begreep dat wie dagelijks met de trein reist regelmatig te maken heeft met situaties die een gelijkenis vertonen met de cartoon die ik ruim een week geleden postte moet ik zeggen dat van de 15+ treinen waarmee ik de afgelopen week gereisd heb er niet één niet op tijd reed. Het was voor mij puur genieten op de rails. Gisteren in Rotterdam heb ik, in afwachting van de Thalys, bij de Bruna nog een boek(je) gekocht dat ik inmiddels al verslonden heb: Tralievader van Carl Friedman. Prachtig en heel warm aanbevolen!
Sorry for having neglected you all for more than a week. Last Tuesday I flew from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam. I spent five wonder- and fruitful days in the Netherlands, being with my parents, brother and sister and their families, meeting some very good friends and colleagues whom I got to know directly or indirectly through my blog, or at least through the internet. With one of them I had an excellent diner and a very pleasant and 'gezellige' evening in a Chinese restaurant. A fellow-blogger, whose work I admire and enjoy very much, turned out to have more with me in common than I imagined. In a way the same goes for the foreign editor of a newspaper which has published some of my articles and with which, it seems, I will cooperate even more in the future. I bought some books and spent New Year's Eve with my family. Seeing my two nieces slightly made up for not seeing my own children for almost seven weeks. Yesterday I arrived in Paris. The apartment that I rented for the period is perfect for me. Today I did some shopping ( mostly groceries ), tomorrow I will get organized and start working. Do not expect many postings the coming weeks, I am not sure how much spare time I will have ( probably not much ) and when I will be online. The e-mail address that appears on this blog will be checked once every couple of days, so those who want to reach me will be able to. A happy, healthy and - hopefully - peaceful 2005 for my readers and for anyone else!