Part 80: Tuesday 15th August 1961, 9.20 pm

The second day of the third week of the holiday. Concocted a review-article on Der Jüdische Witz by Salcia Landmann for The Jewish Quarterly. Must try to get something for it, and the review I did of God’s Wilderness in the previous issue over the initials PAM (with which I am rather pleased – Peloni Almoni Mechudash).

[For] about a year I wrote a full page or more for The Young Zionist (in 1934/5) under the pen-name of Peloni Almoni. And that since then I have resolved that whatever I write, however tripey it is, will be written over my full name. On the grounds that my name would have been known in Zionist/Anglo-Jewish circles and that I would have been able to exploit the publicity. But would I, even if I could have. I had always had rooted objections to being a Zionist official.

Fritz and Esther Ben Aharon here on a visit. She – her father a Witriol, her mother a Balin (my mum’s dad a Balin). They lost their daughter a year or so ago – Tirza, when Tirza was about eighteen. She had been suffering from – I don’t know the technical term –  but for years she could only walk, talk with difficulty. Esther and Fritz fine Chalutz [ Hebrew for a pioneer] types. Esther obviously shattered, but behaved very bravely here. We have entertained them, so have Mum & Sam [brother] & Lily [his wife]. Very difficult for all of us: we have the two kids, who are now more than a handful, bless ’em; Mum, ken en hora [Yiddish –without the evil eye] is 82; Lily is recovering from an operation, Sam had been looking forward to a fortnight’s respite…on Tuesday he went to M/C to see a manufacturer, on Thursday he took them to the National Gallery – and he has a cold anyway.

Am trying to sell up the old library. Have packed up books for Sulzbacher: a run of Jewish Monthlies, Danby’s Mishna, Friedlander’s Guide, etc; coming to just over £5…. Had I not been in such a hurry I would have kept a few [Jewish Monthlies] with some humorous pieces in them – they might have come in useful if I am ever invited again to lecture on Jewish Wit and Humour. Edith just finished off the ironing, 10pm. This, be it noted, is when we are on holiday. There can be no question of going away until the summer of 1963, unless, which is unlikely, I receive some exceptionally lucrative translating commissions. It’s not too bad for me. At least I got away, travelled, for ten days. And I must go away next Easter too. E. has never, I think, been away from the house for more than eight hours at a stretch. Must try to remember this when the inevitable frictions occur.

Young Michael Youngerwood taken to hospital with virus infection; understand much better now.

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Part 75: Thursday 13th April 1961, 12.15 pm

Sam’s [brother] birthday today – 55. Eheu. A tragic story. An intelligent, studious boy, many sided – violin, chess, art, debating – has been donkey-ving tieing up parcels of bags since he left school. The family breadwinner when he was seventeen. Loves children; childless. I only hope he is spared to see joy from P. and M. who, as far as I am concerned, are as much his as mine ( to obviate misunderstanding I should perhaps explain that all I mean is that S. has as much right, if not more, to the joys of fatherhood as I have).

We took the kids – 38 of them – to Blois and Paris and brought them back alive. A feeling of satisfaction that in spite of all obstacles the operation was successfully accomplished. Blois is a pleasant city. The château country overrated. The picture I had formed was of châteaux nestling by the river bank. In point of fact the castle of Blois is set in the heart of the city traffic, though admittedly once inside the grounds you can then get out and have a view of the river. Accommodation in Blois was excellent, in the girls’ lycée; plentiful showers, wash basins, toilets, cupboards. I volunteered – bona fide altruistically – for the bed in the dormitory at Blois, a curtained-off affair from which I had the feeling I ought to emerge in a Pickwickian night-cap. My altruism paid off – it is pleasant to find virtue is sometimes rewarded here below – when we got to Charenton- Écoles, the dingy suburb of Paris in which we were accommodated, my moral claim to the only separate masters’ room available could not be contested. The Institution Jeanne d’Arc at which we stayed is a private girls’ boarding school, a decrepit place. We ate in the basement. Food was inadequate. It is possible that in term time conditions are better; obviously every inch of space is utilised to cash in on the holiday trade.

Our journey was, in point of fact, organised by the Comité d’Accueil de L’Education Nationale –  as M. Chevalier, our guide, and M. Scaeffer, the Charenton directeur, pointed out, General Tours had merely acted as a channel for correspondence. I did have all the C. d’Acc. prices, and it is clear that the travel agencies make £1 to £2 on each boy or girl. If I could act as my own travel agency, I could easily make enough, with a party of 30-40 boys, to take E. and the kids (our kids) with me buckshee, but I can hardly see any head wearing this.

I received half-a-dozen copies of God’s Wilderness, £3-3-0 net. I can’t summon up any enthusiasm over it – Beno Rothenberg found the remains of a Canaanite “high place” (so what?), Yohanan Aharoni writes about the route of the Exodus and the site of Mount Sinai (conjectural), many of the photographs appear to be of no special significance. The Times printed one of a Beduin girl, but what is there so special about a Beduin girl?) The letterpress is printed on a not particularly pleasing brownish paper. However, I did my translating faithfully and Clark did a very skilful editorial job (though only printing one map of Sinai; the second Sinai map in the original, showing most of the places mentioned in the text, was not reproduced in the English version).

Thames & Hudson say they will need me for translating further texts by Beno Rothenberg – I suppose I must hope they will produce at least 50,000 words in English so that I can get the money.

Eichmann is being tried in Jerusalem with, inter alia, the murder of millions of Jews. I’m afraid all I can think of is possible translating work I might have been, be able to get out of it. Richard [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] was duly married yesterday. A Russian orbited round the world yesterday. Writing this at my study desk, with pleasant view of pine trees, trees in blossom. E out shopping with P, an occasional plaintive cry from Max. Acute lumbago on Tuesday, still aches and pains, but birds twittering – Cohen, on the staff at school, is not perturbed at the idea of the world’s destruction, but I must say it seems a pity.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 47: Woodberry Down up; Mount Pleasant difficult

Sunday, 1st November, 1959; 7.40 p.m.

Back to school to-morrow after one week’s mid-term holiday. The rest has done me good. E. [Edith] never gets any rest. Since P [Philip] was born she has had [sic] enjoyed a clear nights’ sleep only once, when P.I.W. went right through to 7.30 a.m. Incidentally, apparently E. is in the family way again. Strordinry! It wasn’t really an accident – E. says people usually say the second one was an accident – but I felt that a considerable amount of limbering up would be necessary before one could clear the bar, but apparently we have already cleared it in the limbering-up process.

To Sam yesterday, just back from Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived] to-day with the Babba. Very irksome, trying, un-gay and un-contemporary — this shlepping Phil on buses. One ought to be able to fling him in his cot in the car and purr along to his Boobbes and uncles. (Masochism dept: I wrote in my translation of Rothenberg’s book that their car – a Land-Rover or something similar – “purred”; Clark wrote in margin: “it wasn’t a Rolls.”)

I think I shall send 5/- to the B.B.C. for a Russian pamphlet & try to listen to their Russian lessons every Monday at 7.10 p.m. Talk about the triumph of optimism over experience! It’s well over ten years since I paid some ten guineas for a Russian Linguaphone course; I think I’ve heard the first record of it perhaps two or three times. Talking of Russian, I saw Vladimir Nabokov on T.V. this afternoon. He has written novels in Russian & English and is a lepidopterist. He spoke brilliantly, fluently & without a trace of accent. He spoke of “what I call Emigravia” (I remember racking my brains – all right, H.L. [my father regularly used this acronym for Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]- at O.C.T.U. to think of fictitious names for countries – the best I could do was Octovia), of his choosing reason when faced with the choice between “rhyme and reason” in his massive annotated translation of Eugene Onegin.

Mrs Tresiman has had to go to make way for a Miss Myers (not Jewish, I’m told), incoming Deputy Head.

For the record. I take a French class on Wednesdays at Woodberry Down, on Thursdays at Mount Pleasant School, Clapton. The Clapton class down to one student Thursday before last, up to two students last Thursday. the Woodberry class with, I think, 9 students, should last the session, or the best part of it. Difficult, the students – most of them – have no academic background and expect me to chatter in French to them.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 44: The first cut is a set-piece.

Monday 31st August, 1959, 9.0 p.m.

Rentreé des classes to-morrow. I did manage to get a day out, after all. Did the Great Missenden trek very successfully except for the last leg, where building-up has obscured Fieldfare’s tracks [Fieldfare was the pen-name for an Evening News columnist who wrote guides to walks in rural areas of the Home Counties].

More or less resigned to the 6¼% now; my revised calculation shows that I only lose about 4/- a week, I think, on the 5½% offered by the Temperance. I ought to hope that rates of interest on advances, including advances by local authorities, come down generally; but my human nature being what it is — and I doubt if it’s much worse than the average run of human nature —  I find myself hoping that Building Society rates will go up (the rate of the Friern Barnet U.D.C’s advance to me will remain constant).

Also, meno male, I succeeded in getting off a short story for the J.C. [Jewish Chronicle]. I am not at all sure, this time, whether it will even get printed (I would have been surprised had my “What is a Jew” effort not been printed, at least). Lacking imagination, I was forced to write up a chapter of biography —  the story is called “Service at a Circumcision.” It is a more or less straight account of the Briss — for fictional purposes I made it take place during term, at 1 p.m. (The historical event took place at 2 p.m. while I was on holiday). I have no plot-making ability, so I knew that whatever I wrote would have to be a set-piece description. Even so, I failed to rise to the heights of my theme, which was the awful responsibility of bringing a child into the world. I know I lost no sleep about the fate that might befall you, P.I., [Philip Israel] and that I am doing nothing to try to make the world safe for you to live in. That doesn’t mean, of course, my boy, that I don’t pray ( I can’t pray to anyone, unfortunately, but there’s nothing can be done about that now, but I do “pray that”) that you will have a long, happy life. I confess that my motives in begetting you were not entirely pure and lofty, but very few people, I venture to assert, do have children from wholly pure and lofty motives. Please believe me, though, – I don’t know what to say. I love you? But that raises again the question of whether I am capable of love. I don’t know. Admittedly you give me great happiness, now, when you’re seven months old, and I think you’re happy, too, for by far the greater part of the time. I suppose I want to have a built-in guarantee of your happiness. Forgive this pitiful meandering, Philip. Und das hat dichten wollen!  Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for you to show me up. But then, again, I suppose I mustn’t set too great hopes on you. Mustn’t drive you into making up for my failures. Be healthy, be reasonably successful – I think you have a reasonably happy disposition anyway. I think your old man has, too, really; but, without wishing to make too much of a song and dance, he rather had it taken out of him in his early, formative years – up to 20 – and I hope this won’t happen to you.

Saw Clark of Thames & Hudson today. Handed him completed typescript of God’s Wilderness, though I haven’t had B.R.‘s [Professor Beno Rothenberg] corrections back yet. He sounded me out about translating two other books by B.R. I suppose I ought to have said I would want 4 guineas a thou.; instead I just said I would need till September 30th 1960 to do a book equivalent to God’s Wilderness. But perhaps, in spite of my seemingly monopolistic position, I wouldn’t be able to get more. I think T. & H.’s reaction to an attempt by me to exploit my position might have been to say: thus far and no farther. B.R. told me they gave him £100 advance fee to retain the option over each book he wrote; but even so, they might have decided not to send good money after bad, or for 4 guineas a thou, say, they might have been able to get David Patterson [scholar of Modern Hebrew literature]. Or, if I were in their place, I would put an advt. in the J.C. – unusual, but then it’s unusual not to have translators on tap. And I’m pretty sure an advt. in the J.C. would produce some reasonable translators, even if Clark had to sub their text more heavily than he does mine.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 40: Inacceptable specimen

Sunday, 12th April 1959, 9.08 p.m.

A rather bad day, didn’t get up till midday after staying up till 2 a.m. As a result, headachey, irritable, taking it out of E., [Edith] who was on the go continuously from 7.30 a.m. On Sundays now the routine is for the family to come round for tea: the two boobbes [i.e. my grandmothers Yetta and Esther], Sam & Lily [his brother and sister-in-law], Alf [mum’s brother]. It means a certain amount of work, though I suppose it’s churlish of me even to mention it – after all we have been guests often enough of the “family.” But on top of coping with Philip…Though here again I am being unfair: first of all, I have very little coping to do myself; Edith does it all, except for an occasional turn I take with the bottle, and secondly Philip, touch wood, gives very little trouble, really. He can be left alone for 4 to 5 hour stretches by day and by night. At the moment complete silence while I write this in the front-room. E is ironing, P is sleeping, the next door’s are quiet so is Mrs F.D. E. has just said: “Bet you’re writing ‘Real Look-back-in-anger’ -set-up.” Actually, it’s a picture of domestic bliss – oh,sod it, I’m to blame, I know.

I have had a rather trying time with T & H. They sent me a contract which left me with the feeling I might deliver a 50,000 word TS & find them sending it back to me and stalling the payment. I’ve had the contract re-worded, and whatever happens I shall get £50, but – I’ve made a number of errors, I think. First – I should have asked a fee of 4 guineas a thou, not 3. I think they would have paid 4, or at least 3½. Secondly, I said that if I delivered 20M words by May 22nd, and they didn’t wish me to go ahead with the translation, they should pay me £50 in full settlement – I should have said 25M, & asked for £75 in full settlement (of the work I would have completed). However, I’m fairly sure I shall be asked to complete the commission and be given a pro-rata payment for the text I shall have delivered by 22nd May, which will amount to 30M words.

I am faced by a moral dilemma – “with” surely – why am I so shaky on prepositions? Why, at my time of life, is my English not impeccable? I wrote to Clark saying his contract was inacceptable and talking about a specimen translation; he wrote back saying he noted I found the contract unacceptable and agreeing to my suggestion about a sample translation. I looked it up in Fowler — he recommends unacceptable. I had already sent T&H a specimen translation, what I should have referred to was a sample of the actual work I was delivering.

Although my contract says I am to translate Rothenberg’s book & to be paid 3 guineas a thou English words, Clark told me orally that if the translator’s fee came to £250 it would make the book commercially impracticable. Also, I have to submit the complete TS by Sept.30th. I have done 30M words & now could do another 20 – 30M comfortably by July 31 – Aug 31. But my feeling is that these subsequent 20 – 30M words cover ground already covered. Should I advise Clark to limit the English version to what I have already done? Or should I go ahead regardless, and do another 20-30M words & get another 60-90 guineas? I feel rather inclined to the latter. If I limit my translation to 60M words (actually, without any cuts at all, it would go to 90M words, but I couldn’t get it done in time), Clark will have no cause for complaint, and if he decides to cut the extra 20-30M words, he will have saved himself the cost of the extra paper and composition.

School to-morrow. E. says she’ll be sorry because in a way, in many ways, I’ve been a help; in a way, glad because I shall be out of the way.

 

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 39: Facts and figures

Thursday, 19th March 1959, 9.35 pm

I have been unable to keep up the spate of entries, but can’t think what precisely has kept me so busy. I see this is the first entry since Edith and Philip have been home. For me, the much-advertised trials of fatherhood – up with baby all night – have hardly materialised. Edith does all the feeding; I am wakened once in the night when E. takes him out of the bedroom to feed, and once when she brings him back after the feed. Philip, imbeshneer, thrives. I feel I ought to write a set piece about him, but well ( I visualise him reading this in about twenty-five years time wondering whether he can get an article out of it and perhaps saying, “jolly interesting, Dad” in an insufferably patronising tone). To the facts: E. breast-feeds him with a large complement of macheraikki [ I only knew dad’s use of this word to describe food such as my mum’s ratatouille type dishes!]. Things have proved more or less manageable as we have been using a nappy service and a Mrs Frankel has been doing cooking, etc. (She supplied by North London Chevrat Bikurim [lit. Society for first fruits] @ 4/- per hour). Also E. has had her once-weekly woman in, though not this morning and she will not have her for the next three weeks as she, the w.w. (Mrs Holleran) has her baby ill with whooping cough. At the moment, Philip has set up an all-time record by going 5-6 hours without a murmur.

I have come home from Mum (to whom I went from a school football match, we won 3-1, the first round of our cup competition – the first time in Hargrave history we have got through the first round). Mum can’t remember when the war ended – neither can I, I can’t remember which month of 1945 VE day came in, and am not sure whether VJ was in 45 or 46! – or when she first came to Moresby Road. I suppose it is things like this for which a diary is useful.

I was not recommended for a second interview at County Hall (see p.157). I also went for an interview at County Hall on Wednesday evening but for an instructorship-in-charge (55/- for three hours) on one evening a week at Stoke Newington Evening Institute. Chairman of the interviewing trio was Dr. Plummer, former Director of Forest Emergency Training College, of which I am an alumnus. I don’t really know whether I wanted the job; I suppose it would be prudent to take it if it were offered me, as the net remuneration (before tax) would be at least as much as that from the NLJC Sunday mornings (though I suppose I needn’t declare the NLJC – however, we won’t start discoursing on that now) and I could do more with a free Sunday evening, probably, than with a free Monday evening. However, it’s quite likely I won’t be offered even this one-evening-a-week instructorship. There were other candidates and I don’t suppose Dr. Plummer will do an “old boy” act for me. If he remembers me at all – the name, at least, had stuck – he probably thinks of me as a slightly shady character – can’t go into that now, either. Have applied for job of Hebrew Programme Organiser at BBC, £1255 – £1735 p.a. I doubt whether I have the necessary drive for it. But still, applying for it is not as saugrenu as it might seem prima facie for a primary school teacher to be doing (shocking English, so what).

Ian Clark of Thames & Hudson & he agreed orally to my suggested fee of £3-3-0 per thou words English text. I had a letter a fortnight or so ago from him telling me he would be dealing with points in my letter (in which I told him I was going ahead with the translation without waiting for his formal confirmation of the commission), but so far I have not heard from him again. I suspect dirty work at the crossroads (Sonntag of the Jewish Quarterly, said on the phone that Neurat [Neurath], Director of T & H was a “difficult” man), but what I’ve done, at any rate, T & H will jolly well have to pay for.

Translations from German and Hebrew

The penultimate part of Journal entries relating to Hasmonean are here.

As well as his personal Journal,  unpublished autobiography and Yiddish book,  he also had two significant translations published.  These are two sites which a quick and unacademic Google search brings up:

http://openlibrary.org/works/OL8655749W/God’s_wilderness

God’s Wilderness Discoveries in Sinai
Beno Rothenberg ; in collaboration with Yohanan Aharoni and Avia Hashimshoni ; [translated from the Hebrew by Joseph Witriol].

and

http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/2384871

Heinrich Heine : the artist in revolt / by M.Brod. Trans. from the German by J.Witriol

Serendipitously I spotted the latter book in a Magg’s catalogue of books for sale from Yehudi Menuhin’s library – see also here. It’s worth a look at their site – they are one of the most renowned antiquarian booksellers in the world.