The weird arc of history

The difference between then and now is not subtle.

Listen to this episode: “The weird arc of history”

Now and then, my grandfather’s friend Yves sends me translated journals that my grandfather kept throughout his life. My grandfather wrote the originals in French and Latvian.

Many of the journals come from the years when my grandfather was fully engaged in his art-making (from the early 1950s to the early 1990s), and the journals reveal my grandfather’s influences and what he was thinking about and experiencing as he made each piece.

But a few weeks ago, Yves sent me translations from journals my grandfather kept immediately after World War II. These were a little different.

When he wrote them, he was living in a refugee camp in Germany along with my grandmother, mother, and uncle. They couldn’t return to Latvia because it had been taken over by the Soviet Union, which meant it wasn’t safe for them to return. 

I read many entries about rations, work assignments, diseases, and overall lack. Some entries only account for what had been received that day - maybe half a bottle of vodka and some cigarettes for a day’s work.

A life I don’t know anything about aside from what I’ve read or seen in movies.

So it feels so bizarre to read these journals 70 years into the future, on an iPad, living a relatively stable existence compared to the one my family experienced.

History has such a weird arc sometimes, and I am sure many of you feel it, too, when you think back on what your previous generations were like. That which isn’t deleted seems to take on a life of its own.

That’s what I’m talking about this week. I hope you get something out of the exploration.

Listen to this episode: “The weird arc of history”

PS - Click through on the links in the text, and a story unfolds - especially if you’re new here or haven’t been staying up. 🖤