Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 5: Wiseman’s Sacrifice

12th July 1957 – 7.45 p.m.

With Richard [Stern] on Wednesday evening (10th) to see Kind Hearts & Coronets at the Everyman. Exquisite. Remembered: the artist-hangman’s (I mean: the professional hangman who regards his profession as a high art – as always I labour to be brief and become obscure – I’m not certain of the Latin, soddit): “I shall never be able to go back to hemp after silk.” Sholem Ash’s death reported. The only work I remember having read of his – in English – was Three Cities, which made a profound impression at the time, though I can’t recall anything of it now. I wrote to him twice trying to get something by him to translate, but he did not reply. Perhaps had I been able to send him my Heine translation at the time he would have played. Even so, I suspect he wouldn’t have given me much scope to get any fancy translating fee – and I’m not in translating for my health or for the sake of a graceful intellectual exercise.

13/7/57 Janáček 2½ hrs; 15/7/57 Janáček 3 hrs 17/7/57; 3¼hrs Janáček [red text at the end of entries indicates time spent on writing/translating work]

2nd August 1957 – 3.30 p.m. (1)

The infrequency of the entries make it increasingly doubtful whether it was worth while to embark on this diary (journal? what is the difference – “diary” can be used in a literary context too, I think). We broke up on Friday 26th July – schluss mit jubel, as my old boss Sperling used to say. Sam [brother] “sprang” on me at last moment that Blatts [tenants living with their mother] were away, hence would I stay the week at Mum’s, which I am grudgingly doing. I am a sod, wish I weren’t – poor Mum, at 75, asks little except to smother me with food, dilate on her apple troubles (owing to the non-occupation of the house next door the scrunching – I mean scrumping – plague is worse than ever – Mum rigged up the hose in wonderful Heath Robinson fashion to drench raiders, but ‘shelft nisht  –  nor did the barbed wire defences erected by the yok for a ridiculously low sum — zey delenggern ins dooss goolless, [they lengthen our exile] as mum observed) and retire early to bed with the Evening Standard, to read the social gossip and longevity items therein. But – I can’t come back late, because she can’t stay up worrying – I invariably have to re-make the bed, and in the heat yesterday in picking up the apples I lost my temper. However, an apology seems to have restored tolerable relations, Mum merely remarking it was extraordinary how one named after her saintly father could have such a vile temper. I: But he didn’t translate Max Brod. Mum: Pfu! (literally spitting, or going through the motions at any rate) Allevai vosst de geveyn a shnahder vee er (Blatt, the upstairs tenant). What can you do?

28th July Janáček 2 hrs; Cumulative April – July: say 105 hrs, of which say Janáček, 65.

2nd August 1957 – 3.30 p.m. (2)

Chores and commuting between Avenue and Moresby Road decreased amount of work done. Finished reading The Sacrifice by Adele Wiseman. Written by a girl of 27 it shows extraordinary  maturity and ability to make the words behave. I find it extraordinary too, that a young Jewish woman can use words like balls, arse with complete verisimilitude. Merton [Sandler] knows Adele. Would like to meet her myself, although I don’t know whether there would be any point. If I think of unmarried Jewish women, I think of them as potential wives for J.W. – being perfectly aware, of course, that nine out of every ten I so think of would not think of themselves as potential wives for J.W. even if they did not know my whole story, and that it is extremely doubtful whether anyone who did know my whole story would consider marrying me –  and I wouldn’t ask anyone to marry me unless I’d shown them all my divorce dope. In any case, even if and even if and even if, etc. – I still can’t see myself as brilliant novelist’s husband – I know, brilliant novelist wouldn’t want me as her husband.

Saw Titus Andronicus with Richard in brilliant Peter Brook production. Managed to read first two acts, no bell-ringing lines, but “easier” than much of Shakespeare and on a consistently high level of mediocrity. Also a film – The Bachelor Partyby the “Marty” man. Good – humanity in the shadow of the skyscrapers. The final message:

…By love subsists

All lasting grandeur, by pervading love;

That gone, we are as dust.

Shit hot, Witriol, shit hot. (But I must check the quotation – it should be capable of rendering yeoman service)

Aug 2nd 1957 and preceding days: say 10 Janáček

Monday August 5th 1957 – 4.30 p.m.

Plaintiff in a Pretty Hat at Golders Green Hippodrome on Saturday evening. Excellent innocuous comedy on the theme of the landed aristocracy are pretty decent chaps really and taking their reversal of fortune on the chin. Yesterday led ten Senior Ramblers. Although I had thought that this, the third bite of the cherry, would go without a hitch (ugh! but it’s hot) I managed to lose the track. However, we got from our starting point – Great Missenden – back, managed to have a midday rest at a pub and tea at another; all things considered, a successful day. To-day didn’t get up till midday,. over to Mum to pick up my things, relaxing.

 

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