Sverige på 1920-talet

The website of Swedish national television has an archive of historical film clips, among them a lovely collection of fashion shows and programs from the 1920's to the 1960's. That's what I call public service.

Journalfilmer från Småland i SVT:s arkiv! Se bl.a. när Värnamo blir stad 1920, köp grisen i säcken på Jönköpings marknad 1908, och bevittna ungdomens förfall på folkdansläger i Tranås 1925...

(från historia.ainurin.net)


Brideshead Revisited

I find it sad, but also somewhat amusing, that contemporary Hollywood producers are more conservative than British upperclass Catholic converts in the 1940's; compare the current film version of Brideshead Revisited with Evelyn Vaugh's novel from 1945.

In the original, Charles is fascinated by the aristocratic Marchmain family, especially the younger son Sebastian. In the movie, focus is shifted from their ambiguous relationship to a kind of triangle drama between Charles, Sebastian and the latter's sister Julia, who enters Charles' life much later in the novel. According to the producer, this was done because "the theme of love across a religious and aristocratic divide has contemporary relevance".

Poppycock, I say. It is threatening to mainstream Hollywood that a relationship between two men (regardless of the sexual content) could be of equal worth to a relationship between a man and a woman; the heterosexual romance has been elevated to the highest possible fulfillment of a plot (a relatively modern development; see Jonathan Ned Katz's brilliant The Invention of Heterosexuality).

The novelist himself, with a deeply religious message to boot, lets Charles state: "Charles's romantic affection for Sebastian is part due to the glitter of the new world Sebastian represents, part to the protective feeling of a strong towards a weak character, and part a foreshadowing of the love for Julia which is to be the consuming passion of his mature years." Thus, I see his view of love between men as rather pre-modern; an introduction to love, a rite of passage perhaps, but not the ultimate fulfillment. However, in contrast to the hegemonic narrative of modern Hollywood, heterosexual love does not bring this ultimate fulfillment either. Vaughn's goal is love divine, in the selfless act of forgiving and letting go, not in the selfish act of possessing another human being.

Even though I cannot call myself a theist, I don't think much of this current idolizing of romantic love as the magical cure of all evils; as anyone who is or has been in a relationship knows, dreaming of love is easy, living with it is hard work.

Luckily I discovered the ITV series from 1981 first, with a young Jeremy Irons as Charles. Just as you think it cannot possibly get any campier, enter Anthony! (I wish I could be there.)


From the LIFE photo archive

Google has made the incredible photo archives of LIFE magazine digitally available to the general public. Many of the photos have never been published before and include works by celebrities like Alfred Eisenstaedt, less-known photographers like Hugo Jaeger (colour photos of the Third Reich, a creepy experience), and unknown illustrators. Here are some of my favourites in no particular order, perhaps they give an impression of my main interests :)

Helsinki; in front, the Russian Orthodox church, in the back, the Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral. I bet the photographer chose this angle because of the "red scare" during the general strike in Finland in 1949. An anecdote about Ronald Reagan tells that the President during a visit in Helsinki quipped, "I can see Russia from here!"
Date taken: August 08, 1949 * Photographer: Mark Kauffman

Ella Fitzgerald at "Mr. Kelly's" nightclub in Chicago, 1958. Photographer: Yale Joel

Jesuit novices contemplating their breviaries at Los Gatos Novitiate a.k.a. Sacred Heart Novitiate, San Jose, California. There are many more beautiful photographs from their vineyards and the varied work of the novices by Margaret Bourke-White. Date taken: October 1953

Carl Mydans, who also documented the Winter War from the Finnish side, took beautiful colour photographs of Venetian life in the 1940's.

This is adorable. A man is combing his girlfriend's hair in Italy, 1963. The photograph Paul Schutzer clearly enjoyed documenting Italian masculinity since there are many charming photographs of men doing nice things like dancing, mountain-climbing, relaxing or just goofing around. It is nice to rest one's eyes on those pictures after an overdose of full-colour Nazi and Fascist parades...
Tragically, Paul Schutzer was killed while covering the Six-Day War.

From peace to war, and to yet another war: This photo was taken in Khe Sanh, Vietnam, by Larry Burrows in 1968. The American soldier under siege is gently holding a native puppy. I hope they both got away alive; the photographer himself died while covering the invasion of Laos in 1971, when the helicopter he was flying in was shot down by North Vietnamese forces.


Gotthard Günther

Was ist der Mechanismus, der den Schein produziert, der unser Denken immer wieder irritiert? und zwar in einer Art des Betrugs, der „unhintertreiblich“ ist, wie Kant wörtlich sagt. Der Schein entsteht, wenn ich über das Subjekt rede, denn ich kann nicht anders über das Subjekt reden, als dass ich es als Gegenstand nehme, das heißt, indem es Objekt für mich wird, und damit nicht mehr das ist, was es ist. Das Reden, Urteilen über ein Subjekt verkehrt es in sein Gegenteil. Selbst wenn ich diesen Schein für mich aufgedeckt habe, unterliege ich ihm weiter, kann nicht heraus aus ihm.

Claus Baldus, Gotthard Günther: Phaidros und das Segelflugzeug: Von der Architektonik der Vernunft zur technischen Utopie, Aus Gesprächen mit Gotthard Günther, aus: DAS ABENTEUER DER IDEEN, Architektur und Philosophie seit der industriellen Revolution, Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin 1987, S. 69-83


Berlin & Paris


Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt, 1927 (see DrMabuseDerSpieler for more)

A rather more conservative travel film of Paris in the 1920's (part 2; see travelfilmarchive for more).

I've been to Paris once; to Berlin, at least 5 times. Some people claim that you have to choose between France and Germany, you can't keep both (as lovers??), but it would be lovely if Paris could give me a chance again. I'm sure Berlin won't mind, she loves Paris, too.


Unknown Finns with Dogs


Found here: Tuhat tuntematonta (1 000 Unknown People)
An online exhibition of old photographs by The National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

Salvation Army?

My favourite, she reminds me of all women in my family...

This dog looks like our Priska (1973-1989).


Serious family.

Finally, not a dog, but a kitty and her elegant owner.



Between Seasons


Farewell summer...

Welcome, winter.



Strike Is Begun In Paris Theatres

News from Paris 88 years ago, found in The New York Times (October 18, 1920)

Actors and Stage Hands follow the Example of the Opera Personnel.
Actors Espouse the Cause of Young Playwrights, Who Say Managers Have Boycotted Them.

[Being a bit of an anarcho-syndicalist at heart, I find the French tradition of strikes somehow endearing and encouraging. Here in Scandinavia, workers on all levels tend to take their rights for granted, and do not always realize that they are the result of blood, sweat and tears of many generations before us.]

The decision to strike was take at a secret meeting of the State Federation Committee yesterday, but it was then too late to put it into operation at more than one or two theatres. At one, the Dejazet Theatre, notice was received early, and the curtain never rose. The audience waited for a quarter of an hour and then became impatient. Behind the scenes hot discussion and argument were going on, and, seeing that there was no other way out of the difficulty, the manager announced to the audience that there would be no performance and that money would be returned at the door.

[One can only imagine the response he got from an average crowd of disappointed Parisians. Of course, the drawback of striking is the public inconvenience, which is (in France's case) almost proverbial in Europe.]

At the Cluny Theatre matters were more advanced when the strike began. The play was in the middle of the second act when the order was received, and at one, disregarding the audience entirely, actors, stage hands and the whole personnel decided to quit the theatre. Immediately the curtain was rung down, and for some minutes the audience was left wondering what had happened. Soont he playgoers grew restless [...] Men brandished their sticks at the stage, on which the manager stood alone trying to explain what had happened, and the shrill criticism of women deprived of their pleasure drowned his words. It needed several police officers and a speech from the Police Commissioner to clear the theatre, and some actors and actresses were subjected to a good deal of rough treatment.

[Oh lala, "shrill" women deprived of their "pleasure"... can't have that, can we? This was a strike in support of a union of authors, which had been treated unfairly by the leading organization of dramatic authors, probably an older, guild-like organization. Andy would approve this kind of solidarity between unions. I wonder if he would try to persuade Mayann and Lou to join the strike. He certainly wishes that they would join a union, maybe the IWW, where all kinds of workers are welcome, or start their own.]


Kohtalon kolmas hetki

1920's nationalist science fiction...

In a future world, set in the 1960's but strangely similar to a steampunk version of the 1910's (airships! duels! evil emperors! damsels in distress!), Finland is overrun by the reborn Russian Empire. A brave Finnish officer goes undercover and succeeds in defeating the Empire with the help of superior Finnish technology - with just a bit of help from the descendant of Genghis Khan and his countless Mongol hordes...

What could have been a great pulp story (with unusually positive roles for Tatars and Mongols) is unfortunately marred by a racist and antisemitic subplot. Karimo didn't want to depict the Russians as noble and worthy enemies. Instead, he pre-echoed the Nazi argument that Russians were a slave race, led by evil Jewish leaders, destined to be destroyed.

Still, it's a unique piece of work, one of the sources that inspired me to draw Goldenbird.


Veli Giovanni Rotundassa

Jos olette Helsingin tienoolla, käykää, hyvät ihmiset, Kansalliskirjaston Rotundassa ihailemassa Veli Giovanni-näyttelyä.
Veli Giovanni (synt. Hillari Johannes Viherjuuri, 1889−1949) oli muun muassa pakinoitsija ja pilalehtitoimittaja, mutta hänen suurin saavutuksensa on nerokas keksintö, itse sana "sarjakuva". Veli Giovannin ansiosta suomella on neutraali sana tälle paljon parjatulle taidelajille. Hupisarjakuvien lomassa hän käsikirjoitti myös parisuhdetarinaa Junnusta ja Allista 1920- ja 1930-luvulla, jota Suomen Kuvalehden lukijat seurasivat innolla kuin televisiosarjaa ikään. Veli Giovannin sarjakuvat olivat sopivia koko perheelle, kuten myös oheiskrääsästä käy ilmi. PopuLaarilla (hieno blogi, jota valitettavasti ei enää päivitetä) on myös vähän raflaavampi kansikuva Veli Giovannin "Pilajuttuja ja piirroksia"-lehdestä. Miksi kansalliskirjasto mainostaa näin hauskaa materiaalia tylsillä ja huonolaatuisilla kuvilla?
Näyttely on esillä 1.8.−5.11.2008. Vielä ehtii!


Celebrating my soon-to-be Ph.D.

- Dad, I got my degree now.
- Well done! Now you can start looking for a man who can cook, tend to the children and keep the house in order.
From the satirical magazine Kurikka, Finland 1926


The Race to Shambhala

Buddha the Conqueror (Nicholas Roerich, 1925)

What is Shambhala? A prophecy? A spiritual state? A war cry?
Ancient Buddhist texts of Mongolia predict a time when the whole world will be consumed by suffering - war, injustice and cruelty. Only in mysterious Shambhala will the Buddhist tradition be preserved. A barbarian overlord will attempt to subjugate the world, and the female Buddha, Arya Tara, will reincarnate as his queen. When he imagines to have achieved supreme dominion, the queen will reveal the existence of Shambhala to him. Unable to resist his desire to conquer, he will attack, and face the meritorious reincarnated Shambhala warriors in a final battle.

"Shambhala Rising" by Konchog Norbu (my summary)

mother-of-genghis-khan1933Mother of Genghis Khan (1933)

We raised the yellow flag
For the greatness of the Buddha doctrine;
We, the pupils of the Khutuktu,
Went into the battle of Shambhala!
(Mongolian song from 1919)
Gesar Khan (1941)

Let us die in this war,
To be reborn
As horsemen of the Ruler of Shambhala.
(Mongolian song heard by Nicholas Roerich in 1924)
The Command of Rigden Djapo (1933)

Near Karakorum and on the shores of Ubsa Nor I see the huge multi-colored camps. ... Above them I see the old banners of Jenghiz Khan, of the kings of Tibet, Siam, Afghanistan, and of Indian princes; the sacred signs of all the Lamaite Pontiffs; the coats of arms of the Khans of the Olets; and the simple signs of the north-Mongolian tribes. .... There is the roar and crackling of fire and the ferocious sound of battle. Who is leading these warriors who there beneath the reddened sky are shedding their own and others’ blood? ... I see ... a new great migration of peoples, the last march of the Mongols … (Ferdinand Ossendowski in 1924)

song-of-shambhala1943Song of Shambhala (1943)

There is a lot of weirdness about Shambhala...
Foreign Myths about Shambhala by Alexander Berzin
The Heir of Genghis Khan, a.k.a Storm over Asia, a Soviet silent movie with themes from Mongolian myths and Western ideas about Mongolia
The art of Nicholas Roerich


Ein Sturm weht vom Paradies her

(previously published @historia.ainurin.net June 13, 2007 at 5:40 pm)

paul klee, angelus novus 1920

"Es gibt ein Bild von Klee, das Angelus Novus heißt.


Lloyd George, Millerand, and doggy

At Hythe in May 1920, these two gentlemen raised the war repair payments for Germany by yet another few billions.

From Illusionernas årtionde by Rütger Essén, Bonniers (Stockholm 1940)


Interesting Blogs

Added some new internet friends to the blogroll:

The Flapper Girl - Feminism, fashion, 1920's, music, culture... In Croatian.

Modärna Tider - Style, events, literature, moving pictures... In Swedish.

How come those people 80 years ago still seem so terribly ahead of their time? For I assure you, I and my friends are not love with the original modern times because we are nostalgic (well, maybe a little), but because we are the very opposite of conservatism...

Though, what's wrong with conserving the good stuff? Maybe it won't taste as fresh... but it will cheer up long winter nights.


La minute heureuse

Lyckans minut, originally uploaded by punalippu.

Another discovered French Art Deco artist from Kjell Strömberg's nostalgic "Paris i närbild" (1934).

Jean Dulac (1902-1968)

Born in Lyon, France. Worked as a painter, sculptor, and illustrator. Studied at the Beaux-Arts, Paris. As a printmaker, Jean Dulac produced copper engravings, etchings, and pochoirs. For erotic works, Dulac used a pseudonym, Jean de l'Étang.

A l'ombre du Sacre Coeur

I skuggan av Sacre Coeur, originally uploaded by punalippu.

In the shadow of Sacre Coeur, drawing by Roger de Valerio (1886-1951).

Petit curriculum vitae d'artiste (because it is almost impossible to find info on the net):

Né à Lille, il fait des études d'architecture aux Beaux-Arts à Paris.
1911-1914 : directeur artistique du journal
Le Matin
1917 : Il entre chez l'éditeur de musique Salabert, où, jusqu'en 1924,
il réalise plus de 2 000 couvertures.
1926 : conseiller artistique chez
1932 :à la tête du journal
Le Rire
1936-1940 : directeur associé des Editions Perceval
1933 : Il donne des cours à l'Ecole technique de publicité
1940 : Il se retire à Belle-Île et se consacre à la peinture (nus et fleurs), puis à l'illustration de livre (le Surmâle de Jarry)
Picture from Swedish author Kjell Strömberg's Paris i närbild (1934)


Edith Södergran

En fågel satt fången i en gyllene bur
i ett vitt slott vid ett djupblått hav.
Smäktande rosor lovade vällust och lycka.
Och fågeln sjöng om en liten by högt uppe i bergen,
där solen är konung och tystnaden drottning
och där karga små blommor i lysande färger
vittna om livet, som trotsar och består.

"En fången fågel", ur Dikter (1916)


The Pomeranian Menace

It is a little-known fact that humanity was entirely at the mercy of small fluffy canines after the disastrous First World War. Weakened and disillusioned, mankind was an easy prey to the fuzzy but lethal persuasive powers of the Pomeranian. Jean Harlow, above, happily accepted her fate.

The Pomeranian takeover did not proceed as smoothly as their silky little ears between cuddling fingers. Here, brainwashed Pomeranian slave Harold Lloyd is trying to smuggle a secret agent of the conspiracy into the United States. Do not fear - no uniform, no mustache makes a man immune to the hypnotic skills of the cunning canine.

Now who's the femme fatale? As we can see from her smug smirk, this Pommie has Pola Negri completely under her spell.

"Now repeat after me, Norma sweetie; liver paté for breakfast, then walkies, a pig ear to nibble on, then chicken breast for lunch, a siesta before afternoon walkies... do I need to write it down for you?"

Norma's sister Constance Talmadge awaiting orders.


Parisian Hat

Just had to add this portrait to the series of Yosano Akiko posts. Yosano bought the hat in Paris in 1912.



Utsusemi is a beautiful manga serial by Visual Kei artist Nheira, inspired by Yosano Akiko's tanka collection Midaregami (1901).

Yosano Akiko was a feminist poet, daring to ascribe passionate emotions to women, spurring them to act in matters of love and politics. While the modern comic is very beautiful, it switches the woman's position from subject to object - the stepsister seems unaware of her older brother's feelings. I doubt that this was Yosano's intention. Her accompanying poems sound, to me, written from a specifically female perspective, daring to approach the lover (of indeterminate gender) fully aware of hope and danger.

Hot blood flows underneath my soft skin.
But you only talk of morality and do not touch my flames of passion.
Are not you lonely?

Translation from the Utsusemi site.

Incidentally, I wonder if it isn't the same poem as this one, from Mike Lidgley's blog.


Having never felt
the hot tide of blood that throbs
beneath this soft skin
even you who seek the Way
must know what you are missing.

It is interesting to compare the translations, and both make me think of Falco, of course. But the poem ends with the pronoun "kimi" - a form of honorific "you" that is mostly used by young men. This would seem to undermine my theory of an active female voice! Perhaps Yosano felt that a change of grammar was necessary to empower a new female voice - perhaps an "anata" was too deferential. "Kimi" is used by young men to men and women alike, if they are of the same status. "Anata" refers to a husband or a lover. But I don't know enough about early 20th century Japanese to argue this.

Yosano Akiko

与謝野 晶子

The day the mountains move has come.
I speak, but no one believes me.
For a time the mountains have been asleep.
But long ago they all danced with fire.
It doesn't matter if you don't believe this,
my friends, as long as you believe:
All the sleeping women
are now awake and moving.

Published in the women's magazine Seitô, 1911


Top 3 Swedish Poets


Dan Andersson (1888-1920)

När de gamla såren heta tära,
när din kind är vätt av ensamhetens gråt,
när att leva är att stenar bära
och din sång är sorg som vilsna tranors låt,
gå och drick en fläkt av höstens vindar,
se med mig mot bleka, blåa skyn!
Kom och stå med mig vid hagens grindar,
när de vilda gässen flyga över byn!

"Gässen flytta", ur Kolvaktarens visor (1915)

Harry Martinson (1904-1978)

Har ni sett en koltramp komma ur en orkan -
med bräckta bommar, sönderslitna relingar,
bucklig, stånkande, förfelad -
och med en skeppare som är alldeles hes?
Fnysande lägger den till vid den soliga kajen,
utmattad slickande sina sår,
medan ångan tynar i pannorna.

"Har ni sett en koltramp..." ur Spökskepp (1929)

Joe Hill (1879-1915)

My will is easy to decide
For there is nothing to divide
My kin don't need to fuss and moan
"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone."
My body? - Oh. - If I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again
This is my Last and final Will
Good Luck to All of you

Joe Hill


Paolo Garretto

More of a 30's guy than 20's, but nice to look at...
Paolo Garretto was an Italian artist who became famous for his stylized caricatures of famous people in the 1930's and 1940's. His career started in 1928, and he was published in the British Caricature of Today magazine and the Italian satirical magazine Pasquino. He was recruited by Vanity Fair as cover artist (the portrait to the right was taken for VF by Lusha Nelson). The New York Times tells in its obituary from 1991 about his life's trials:
When World War II broke out, Mr. Garretto, an Italian citizen living in the United States, was interned as an enemy alien and deported to Italy. He was approached by the Nazis to produce caricatures of President Roosevelt and other Allied leaders. When he refused, he was interned as a political prisoner in Hungary from 1942 until the end of the war.

Interestingly, Garretto did several rather nasty caricatures of Roosevelt while in the USA. As a cartoonist myself, I find the principle sound. As long as he was not allowed to lampoon Mussolini, why should he attack the president of a state that granted him the freedom to do so?
Here are some of Garretto's portraits of my 1920's favourites, more at cartantica.it

Comrades & mortal enemies, Trotsky and Stalin

Marinetti and Marconi, bringing in the machine age

Former subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kafka and von Stroheim

And finally my top picks, d'Annunzio and Atatürk! I love that bald owlish head and those lynx eyes.