Dead man walking in Turin, part 2

Franz Overbeck’s diary.

10 January 1889, Basel.
Dr Bettman advised for Nietzsche’s immediate removal from Turin. His situation could only worsen now, he said, and we would want him somewhere safe, where he could harm nobody. I asked whether we should not destroy him, adding that Fritz and I had often discussed this eventuality and that he had extracted a promise from me to end his days, should the disease take over. Bettman stopped me. There was still a faint possibility of recovery, he said. I must not lose hope yet. There was to date at least one case we knew of, a young woman in whom the disease had been significantly advanced, and who was now fully recovered and leaving a productive life in Frankfurt. If we could take him as far as Wille’s Sanitorium, in Basel, he would have chance of getting better. I agreed. The journey turned out  despite my fears to be fairly uneventful, but I could not have managed without the dentist. We injected Fritz with strong doses of bromide and chloral hydrate.  Bettmann was firm and confident in his every move and Fritz, sensing that, bowed easily to his authority. He could still talk a little but there was not the shadow of his former self in his mad discourses. When I dropped him off at the Sanatorium, this morning, I could not but help thinking that my good friend Nietzsche, despite what Bettmann says, is well and truly dead.

18 January, Jena.

Yesterday, having left my family again, I assisted the removal of my friend to a clinic in Jena. His mother, Fransizka, requested the move, so that she could be with him every day, and Martha approved it.  I am concerned that his new surroundings are not secure enough, as Fritz has become increasingly violent. In the train, he attempted to bite Frau Nietzsche’s arm. She had been warned not to let any contact take place and she escaped unscathed. But what will happen if another patient finds himself or herself in Fritz’s path? At least Wille knew what he was up against. He has written to the director of the Jena clinic, to tell him of precautions he must take, but I worry that this will not be enough. The last thing we need is an epidemic of the disease starting among the insane. Lou has promised that she will come to talk to Fransizka about daily routines and caution her more against physical contact. I am glad of it as I do not feel I have the strength to continue in this effort to  keep alive the monster that once was my friend. I return home today, and intend to devote myself to my wife and children and my work at the university for a good long while before I go out on Martha’s business again.


I still really don’t like football.

I wrote this post a year ago. But yesterday, a good friend very nearly did not invite me for dinner on account of a football match. So I feel the need to repeat myself. So here we go again.

So with the good weather the knitting season is beginning. Soon, there’ll be knitting on tv every weekend, and important knit-meets most Saturdays. I don’t knit myself, and unlike many of my friends, I’ve never really enjoyed watching knitting on tv either. My husband is lucky I suppose. Many of his friends end up spending several evenings a week alone because the wives are at the pub watching the knitting. Not to mention the big weekend meets when many husbands end up staying at home with the kids while the wives are out at a mate’s.

Still, it’s hard to see exactly what the men have to complain about. For one thing, it’s just not true that knitting is only for women. Whenever I’ve been at the pub to watch the knitting, (I go sometimes, you know, just to be friendly) there’s been a few men there. They cheer along with us, and we really don’t mind explaining the stitches and yarns (as long as they ask at half time). Also, some of us take the kids knitting sometimes, even the boys. Ok, it’s not great when we meet in a pub, or at somebody’s house where there’s smoking. A lot of the men prefer to keep the kids home for that reason. And I understand. But that’s not really our fault, is it?

So please, don’t bother me or my friends with your arguments that knitting is only for one half of the population. No one is stopping you from joining in.

Dead man biting, in Turin.


Franz Overbeck’s diary.

8 January, 1889, Turin.

I left Basel on the morning of the 3rd, leaving Ida and the children with promises to be back soon. I took the train to Bern and from there waited for the sleeping car to Turin. The journey was uncomfortable but uneventful. It was not the first time I spent the night in a Pullman wagon, so I was prepared for all the shaking and the noise, and I did not wake more than two or three times. In the morning I carried my bag – hastily packed, with a few items of clothing, and the medicines I had saved up for this very occasion – straight to the house on via Carlo Alberto where I was expected. The Finos were friendly and hospitable as ever but – unsuprisingly – greatly over-wrought. Senior Fino had put on weight since I had last seen him, and that, together with the current situation, seemed to have taken its toll on his health. His eyes were not as vivacious as they’d once been, and there was a distinct lack of joy about his demeanour. Seniora Fino was unchanged, her hair perhaps a little more unkempt than usual, her pinny tied a little less straight, but the same smile on her face and in her eyes. Both looked exhausted which I could not avoid putting down to the fact that Fritz’s behaviour had worsened over the past few days, and that he kept them awake most nights with his playing and chanting. They took my bag and sat me down with a cup of dark, oily coffee, and, while his wife went to order breakfast, Senior Fino informed me in hushed tones that on the previous night he had found my friend naked in the corridor, screaming wildly and chasing after the house cat. I understood then that he must want him out, and I begged him to let us stay a few days which he agreed to, provided I brought a psychiatrist to see Fritz and that I followed his advice to the letter. Continue reading

Hollywood and pregnancy.

Pregnancy is often portrayed either as a blessing, the promise of future happiness, life-giving energy, or, on the other hand, as an inconvenience, a difficult few months, or few weeks, an impediment to one’s life projects. Put this way, it’s not hard to see how the so-called ‘pro-life’ side of the abortion debate can lose. They are on the side of the angels, on the side of the positive, whereas the abortionists, the ‘pro-choice’ people, are on the side of management, five-year plans and time-tables. Of course, anyone who has been pregnant, or known someone who has, will know that this is bollocks. Pregnancy is never, or at least extremely rarely, just an inconvenience. Unless you are blessedly young and immature an unwanted pregnancy is an emotional and physical burden, something you cannot take a break from, until it is terminated – one way or another. I’ve seen two films recently, both Hollywood movies, that made this point rather nicely – if very differently. Continue reading

Mothers and philosophers.

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about motherhood and academia on the web. There’s Amy Allen’s discussion of Badinter’s book about whether stay-at-home motherhood poses a threat to feminism. There’s Rose Wood’s argument that even though being a mother is often perceived by a colleague as a threat to her career as an academic philosopher, in fact, it positively contributes to it in a number of ways.

Then, there’s the latest findings, in Spain, which show that there is a bias not just against women scientists, but against mothers, so that with equal qualifications and achievements they get fewer jobs, and lower salaries. Curt Rice has a nice discussion of that here.

It’s tempting to try and find a connection between all these findings and opinions. After all, they share a conclusion: women, whatever they do, cannot do well at work and be mothers. The evidence seems overwhelming. It’s not even that you can’t be a good mother if you work, because you can’t spend enough time at home with your children, it’s that even if you’re the worst mother a conservative newspaper could dream up, you still won’t be as successful as if you’d never reproduced. Continue reading

How Rougeville nearly lost his face, and the Queen her head.

London, September 1795.

Last week I saw my friend Rougeville again – though I dread to call him that, now I have heard the rest of his story. But the poor man will not live long, I can no longer restrain him from harming himself. I fear I cannot blame him and even must admit that I would be tempted to do the same were I in his place.

Rougeville wanted, before leaving this world, to recount in full his last encounter with Marie-Antoinette, and the circumstances of her death. He does not beleive these will be properly recorded for posterity, and tells me already that a certain drawing of the Queen going to the scaffold has been falsified. He has entrusted me with the original, by a man called David and I am reproducing it below, following the Chevalier’s express wishes.

Continue reading

How to have fun with the bathroom cabinet.

You’d think that in this day and age, if you wanted to do something a bit creative and disreputable, you’d do something that involved an electronic device, or designer drugs. But it seems that we’re turning back to simpler times, when people didn’t have access to toys beyond everyday household goods.

Here it is in the news…

First, if you want to get a very culturally trendy high, just ingest some bath salts. Ok, the drug wasn’t actually bath salts – it’s called that but you wouldn’t want to put it in your bath: it’s a fertiliser. On the other hand, it can turn you into an actual face-chewing, bullet proof zombie. And you can buy it at a convenience store.

If that second piece of news is correct, there’s no need to spend any money on taking your autistic child to expansive therapy anymore. You can just force him or her to drink Miracle Mineral Solution, otherwise known as household bleach. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work. It’s still child abuse, though.

Please don’t try these at home.

Now back in the fifties, people turned to their bathroom cabinets for contraception. Women would wash their vaginas with Lysol, a well-known disinfectant, with the aid of a douche bag, prior to intercourse. Unsurprisingly, this method not only killed fetuses, but caused their hosts some hefty damage too! Still, in days when contraception wasn’t readily available and abortion not an option, this may have seemed like a viable solution.

Far be it from me to want to put the name of any head of state in the same sentence as the words ‘douche’ and ‘bag’, but one has to wonder what the women of Turkey will do, if abortion is made illegal there.

They may well have to try this one at home. Let’s hope they don’t.