Maybe Keats needs some rehab, or maybe I need some sleep… On this week’s tour of the world, one of England’s greatest poets faces drug abuse allegations, our Norwegian translator faces some difficulties with ‘famlande’ and the municipal government of Baghdad faces bravely up to some unarmed and not particularly dangerous booksellers.
Corrupt governments with strange priorities, # [insert worryingly high number here]: in Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street, ‘bulldozers guarded by armed soldiers… smashed the wooden stalls used by booksellers’ under the pretence of ‘removing “violations” from the street.’ In a country where hundreds of civilians are murdered every year and one fifth of the population has to survive on under $2 a day, well done to the politicians for getting their priorities right and dealing with the enormous threat posed by booksellers.
This week saw the publication of the latest novel from Per Petterson, master of narratives about middle-aged men with bleak prospects wandering around in bleak landscapes. ‘Jeg nekter’ (I refuse) has yet to be translated into English, but is described by Norwegian critics as a ‘famlande’ novel. Bafflingly, our Norwegian translator describes ‘famlande’ as ‘that thing you do in the dark when all the lights are off and you *waves arms like someone sinking into several fathoms of icy water*’
The drugs don’t work, unless you’re looking for ways to promote a new biography of Keats. Professor Nicholas Roe, trying to find anything new to say about Keats and doing that thing you do in the dark when all the lights are off and you wave your arms around, reckons that Keats was an opium addict, which ‘helps to explain his jealous and vindictive mood swings regarding Fanny Brawne.’ ‘Nick is making assumptions…’ says fellow Keats biographer Andrew Motion, diplomatically.