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Haiku at Seventy
Parkinson's of Southport
Hitler the Bookworm
Hitler's Reading - A Correction

Haiku at Seventy

HAIKU AT SEVENTY is a further, substantial collection of haiku following on from Alexis Lykiard's previous HAIKU OF FIVE DECADES (2008), also published by Anarchios. The author describes in his Introduction some of his own very personal and eclectic approach and methods; several pages of engaging and informative Notes are also included.

HAIKU AT SEVENTY offers a wide variety of playful yet thoughtful poetic contrasts. Alongside some lyrical observations, there are a number of found pieces, offset by barbed and witty satirical commentaries on world politics, together with contemplative reflections on time and mortality. With this second comprehensive book of haiku, Lykiard proves himself as alert, perceptive and enjoyable a poet as ever.

"That grand old troubadour Alexis Lykiard has had the excellent idea of collecting his haiku, and this book is a delight. He is funny, serious, witty, morose, irreverent, angry, flippant — and cheeky, all within that deceptive 5,7,5 syllabic form which flourished in Japan from the late sixteenth century and which has, in the last hundred years, been adopted throughout the world... but the best poets adapt, and Lykiard is an adapter....The last of this marvellous collection is: No option — one attends/that dreadful Clearance Sale where/ everything does go. Don't go yet, Alexis, we need you."   

(Barry Cole, Ambit- on HAIKU OF FIVE DECADES)

Parkinson's of Southport

Parky is an affable geezer, a graduate in Chemistry and a fluent speaker of German, always ready for a chat (in English or German). He’s also religiously inclined (well nobody’s perfect) and has a vast stock of theological books although his complete Thomas Aquinas in Latin is in the philosophy section. 

St Thomas - Summa Theologica - Book of the Month?

Yes Parky sells books and has a shop just off Lord Street. If you trek north you’ll see his entrance, opposite the cenotaph, just before you get to the Natwest bank and Waterstones. Such explicit directions are necessary since the opening is a narrow tunnel you could easily miss. Once or twice in the early days I did miss it and thought he’d packed up. 

Parky's Entrance

There are other, possibly better, bookshops in Southport – the magnificent Broadhursts on Market Street and the almost equally superb Kernigan’s in the Wayfarer’s Arcade. More on these establishments in a later Oiklet. They both have rooms roped off with a plush red hawser (like the Duchess’s bedroom in some stately home), with bookshelves on every wall floor to ceiling, discreet lighting and posh chairs. Bookish old farts (and I am one) would no doubt swoon; but I don’t swoon. I’m more impressed by the vast array of volumes obviously gathered by a lunatic. Which is why I begin my survey with this curiosity. 

Parky’s is a vast emporium on three floors but has no frontage on swank Lord Street so I guess his rates are low. His great supply trawls seem to be in public libraries, Liverpool particularly, where he buys huge runs of bound journals. These are magnificent to behold and being municipal property they’re bound like brick shithouses such that even the attentions of snot-nosed scousers eating a big Mac and drinking a beer leave no trace. One suspects he throws nothing away. Why would he? He’s a book nut – he’s not in the business for mere cash. The profitable side of the operation probably comes from the large collection of shells, minerals, fossils and coins which take up half the ground floor. He seduces punters with an expert description of a trilobite or a sliver of fluorite – but booknuts head upstairs.  

I won’t go into detail it’d take too long. The second floor is lit, history, economics, music, theatre and film. You might go for a set of Warburg and Courtauld Institute Journals 1944 to 1965 (only £26 / vol) or Goya Revista De Arte in Spanish or Oud Holland 1955 – 1958 in Dutch (how is your Dutch? Does anybody speak Dutch? Even the Dutch don’t speak it) or the Journal of the Society or Architectural Historians. On the other side of the room lies a stack of West Africa and The Canadian Geographical Journal. Yes, you’d have to get rid of the television to make room for these, or buy a large garden shed. But just think how they’d impress your friends! Although, then again, if you do have such friends you’re probably already in an institution in a small room with only a bed and a toilet. 

West Africa in Southport

Next floor up is Theology, Foreign Lit, Philosophy and Science. Here you might come across a Pleiade for next to nowt (surely the finest books ever printed) – last visit I picked up Gide’s selection of French Poetry 750pp for a quid. In the intro Gide describes meeting Housman at Cambridge and is asked by the cheeky sod “Explain to me M. Gide why there is no French poetry” Har har! This is where you could get the complete works of Ortega y Gasset in Spanish, Schiller and Josef Roth in German or a long run of Le Francais Moderne. Aquinas in Latin looks rather fine but who, except in Latin America of course, speaks Latin anymore?

You stagger downstairs reeling from a cultural overload. But don’t forget to check out the passageway as you leave. This is Parky’s salon des refusées. He doesn’t throw things away but flogs them dirt cheap. I found four of the seven volumes of Littré’s French dictionary. Littré was madder than Parky. He makes his English equivalent, Dr Johnson, look like a pamphleteer. Littré takes 2000 pages to cover Ce to De. Parky was flogging this incomplete classic for £2. It was a fine 1960s Gallimard edition. I soon became overawed by its scope. Back home, reading a chunk of Flaubert’s Salammbo, I come across: L’eau, qui valait au début de siege deux kesitahs le bathle bath? What the fuck?! Checked my Petit Robert – nothing, except a slang word from English meaning great. Obviously not that. But in Littré. I hump down vol 1 and read “mesure des liquids chez les Hébreux, valent 18 litres” Christ! The first bit would have been enough but then old Littré adds 18 litres! Wot a polymath! He worked right up to the end being carried from his bed to his desk in the morning and back again at night. How can any household consider itself complete without Littré? I grilled Parky on the missing vols and even checked the place a week later. Nowt. But I did find vols 4 and 6 on abebooks.com and they’re coming from a shop in Montreal as I write. Only vol 7 to complete the set. 

But here’s something even madder. On the same dingy shelf in that windswept tunnel I find a Russian Dictionary (see pic below). I don’t speak or read Russian and have no plans to learn but I remembered Oik contributor Keith Meredith is a scholar in this language so I picked up A-N, a vast doorstop, all in Cyrillic and therefore incomprehensible, published in 1957. There were more and Parky tried to get me to take them all. Then, being an upright merchant in whom one can have absolute trust, he didn’t fail to point out a white splash on the upper text block. Emulsion paint? Whitewash? I guessed. “Pigeon shit” explained Parky suggesting I took a more pristine example. I declined. It could have been a pigeon from the Winter palace.


Parky is computer literate – perhaps even a geek. His website contains a virtual tour of this paradise – give it a go on http://www.parki.co.uk/


Hitler the Bookworm

Post Parky's I paused in my review of a recent Engels biog (to appear soon) to flip through an odd book on Hitler - Hitler's Private Library by Timothy Ryback. We know he liked films - particularly westerns and Gunga Din but how much did the mad carpet-chewer actually read? Perhaps more than you think:

In his essay on book collecting, Walter Benjamin suggests that most bibliophiles have read at best 10 percent of their collections and claims to base his estimate on good authority. "Suffice it to quote the answer which Anatole France gave to a philistine who admired his library and then finished with the standard question, 'And have you read all these books, Monsieur France?' " Benjamin recalls that the grand old man of French prose and Nobel Prize laureate deftly replied, "Not one tenth of them. I don't suppose you use your Sevres china every day?"

Book collecting is an art, Benjamin insists, that matures with time. "For years, for at least the first third of its existence, my library consisted of no more than two or three shelves which increased only by inches each year. This was its militant age when no book was allowed to enter it without the certification that I had read it." As time passed, Benjamin came to appreciate books for other reasons: a particularly handsome binding, enchanting illustrations, a rare antiquarian volume offered at auction, a memory of a particular book on a particular day in a particular bookshop. "Suddenly the emphasis shifted," he says. "Books acquired real value." Possession became an end unto itself. Without this "inflation," Benjamin observes, he would never have acquired enough books to dignify the term library.

With Hitler, we see a similar acceleration. During the decade Hitler resided at his modest Thiersch Street apartment, his library grew incrementally, filling first one bookcase, then another, and when both of these had reached capacity, accumulating in random and precariously pitched stacks on top of the bookcases, as evidenced in the photograph taken in early 1925. That year, his book collection was among the few notable possessions he recorded on his tax declaration. Among a meager inventory that included his writing desk and a chair, he listed "two book­cases with books."

During the 1930s Hitler's collection expanded dramatically. Once again, the tax record testifies to the intensity of Hitler's bibliophilic inter­ests. Hitler's single largest tax deduction after personnel costs and political travel was for books: 1,692 marks in 1930, with similar amounts in the two subsequent years. When insuring the contents of his Munich residence in November 1934 with the Gladbacher Fire Insurance Company, Hitler calculated the value of his possessions at 300,000 marks, with half the amount allocated to his art collection and the rest to books and other valuables. In a typed addendum to the standard policy, Hitler has added the provision "einschliesslich Bűcher," "including books."

Word of Hitler's book collection was such that when Janet Flanner wrote a profile of the Nazi leader for The New Yorker in 1935, she reported that he possessed a "fine library," which she estimated at six thousand volumes. A few years later, Frederick Oechsner, the Berlin correspon­dent for United Press International, calculated the Hitler collection at 16,300 volumes. In more recent times, two scholars, Philipp Gassert and Daniel Mattern, studied the remnant Hitler books as well as archi­val materials, including the acquisition lists for the Reich

Hitler's Private Library Timothy Ryback Bodley Head 2009 p94

Kershaw, in his monumental two volumed biog, says the Fuhrer was a lazy sod who rarely got out of bed before noon, even when he was supposed to be running the country. This doesn't sound quite in the same street as Walter Benjamin but he did like to drop names even if he couldn't spell them. His claim to have carried Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation in his pack during four years in the trenches is somewhat undermined by his inability to spell "Schopenhauer". Leni Riefenstahl got a lot of brownie points when she presented Adolf with a superbly bound complete works of J.G. Fichte. Yes the bloke was a book nut and would have had a good time in Parky's. He sounds to me like a true crazy oik - aspirational, obsessively driven, vaguely aware where quality lay but never quite understanding the nub. If he was a voracious reader this surely undermines any simplistic endorsement of that activity's civilizing influence. And he didn't do much for vegetarianism either.

Hitler's Reading - A Correction

Further on in Ryback's book I found more on Hitler's reading methods. Yes, it was true he never got up before noon - but that's because he was reading his bleeding head off ALL NIGHT! Not wishing to be sued by the late Fuhrer's estate (represented by solicitors Cohen and Finkelstein of Munich) I add this corrective addendum:

As Hitler told Riefenstahl, he read nightly, a habit that appears to date back to his early years in Linz and Vienna, where August Kubizek observed his intense passion for books. "Books, always more books! I can never remember Adolf without books," Kubizek recalled. "Books were his world." Another early Hitler associate, Rudolf Hausler, who shared quarters with Hitler in Vienna and later in Munich, recalls his roommate reading dense tomes until two or three in the morning. According to Kubizek, this passion for books had nothing to do with leisure or pleasure. It was "deadly serious business."

From my own conversations with surviving Hitler associates, it appears that Hitler's nocturnal reading habit was still in place decades later. Margarete Mitlstrasser, one of Hitler's longtime housekeepers, recounted a nightly regimen that included his reading glasses, a book, and a pot of tea. Hitler read intensely, even fiercely. The Berghof estate manager, Herbert Doring, recalled an evening when Eva Braun intruded on one of these late-night reading sessions and was dispatched with a tirade that sent her hurtling red-faced down the hallway. Doring himself exercised extreme caution. Each night before closing the Berghof, he would walk outside to wait until Hitler's reading light was extinguished. On more than one occasion, dawn was breaking on the horizon. Anni Plaim, a Berghof maid, remembered a sign outside Hitler's second-floor study that read ABSOLUTE SILENCE.

In the summer of 2001, when I spoke with Traudl Junge, Hitler's last surviving secretary, she mused on the morning breakfasts when Hitler would reprise his previous night's reading in extensive, often tedious detail, a habit that was insightfully observed by Christa Schroder, another of Hitler's secretaries, when she explained in her memoirs that he would discuss "a topic that he had read about numerous times in order to anchor it more permanently in his mind." Schroder noted the "compartmentalized" nature of Hitler's mind, which permitted him to recall complete passages from books.

Hitler's Private Library Timothy Ryback Bodley Head 2009 p116