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First posted Wednesday, August 3, 2011

She says: It will be much sooner than that. The next day or two. He is right at the end now. And, I am sorry to say, I soon find that he is.

[Previous Radical's Diary]  

click for origin

Friday, July 22, 2011
Kew, England

Jae IS worried about security on my upcoming trip to Hungary: "Just grow a beard until you get to Budapest and you'll be fine," she suggests, "Tell them you are Santa's helper."

"Lots of women have beards," I remind her facetiously. "I once had a dancing partner called Diana Beard. She was really the best looker in the class, but my mother crushed that with one withering remark when I took her to my last school Speech Day: 'Bit of a flibbertigibbit, isn't she?'"

I am at the mercy of my friends. Hugo has deleted most of what I wrote in my draft Radical's Diary about his good-looking sister Avril and her husband. It took him all day and he could have done it in five minutes on a sheet of paper. A very truncated version finally reaches the website.


1943 photo of the Irving children - David, twin brother Nicky, John, CarolOur parents fought the Huns, we learned to fight
the wasps: a 1943 photo of the Irving children
- David, twin brother Nicky, John, Carol.

Saturday, July 23, 2011
Kew, England

Jae IS plagued by wasps from a lethal wasps' nest in her Indianapolis abode. I dredge forth hints from long-ago memories:

Wasp nest: we fixed those in our garden in Essex when I was a child with cans of cyanide. I guess you go to a garden store and ask them for advice.

We were always getting stung. We made wasp traps: Large glass jars with a lid with a hole, some marmalade inside, and no way for them to get out. I think we had water at the bottom. Can't remember. Try your pepper-spray on them. DO NOT GET STUNG

"We have tried two things so far," she replies, and I detect a note of city-dweller desperation. "One was an actual spray can of wasp killer that came with a straw-like attachment which fit into the crevices of the eaves. Archie said when he sprayed it inside, he could hear them going nuts in there, but none was able to get out. Then we saw no wasps for two days, but they came back as if nothing had happened. We then got a fogger type thing and set it underneath them to go off and that had no effect whatsoever, except that we sweated to death that night because I didn't want the air conditioner blowing the poison into the house, so I said we couldn't run it until the fog dissipated. So, I don't know. Maybe try the spray can again and just keep spraying it over and over?"

I tell her to persevere with the wasp-trap idea: "We call them preserving jars. Don't put it too close to your house. They will find it by the smell of the jam. Make it easy for them to get in, tough to get out." I.e., the opposition of immigration policies.


Sunday, July 24, 2011
Kew, England

RekaERIC Z. is coming on our excursion to Hitler's headquarters sites in East Prussia in five weeks' time. He writes: "Dear God please bring the Hungarian woman with you..."

I don't think Jae would like that. I reply: "When Reka visited me in prison [Vienna, political prisoner, 2005-2006] , all work in the prison stopped. The guards banged on my door and opened it. 'Besuch!' And then, 'Es ist die Reka!' They all eagerly awaited her visit."


Monday, July 25, 2011
Kew, England

I SUGGEST we include the Nazi site at Belzec this year. "There are many actual buildings to see there. I would have preferred Sobibor or Trawniki. Forest site, windswept. Perhaps too far." -- Or even Auschwitz itself.

Jae changes the subject. " -- And I'm not rich. . . I'm better at saving money than you are."

"You have fewer costs," I tease her. "I have several families to support, two warehouses, three cars, not to mention a 'dead' Peruvian model," -- Gabriela.

J is relentless; after all, she is running a big bookstore for us now: "If we sat down and totaled it up, I think you'd find my actual basic necessities are more than yours at present."

"Ah," I respond, "but you can't just count them in money. I need advice, wisdom, a steadying hand, firm counsel, and a good brain with which to commune. You provide all these things free. For all the rest there's MasterCard™."

She has the last word: "Actually, I charge you per day for those things," and adds a Smiley face.


I DO some excellent finished-product writing on Himmler today. How Marga scooped up Heini. All my anti-feminist instincts poured into brilliant prose. Tee hee. "What would I do without you," I ask Jae


Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Kew, England

Out to Gatwick at 8:30 pm to pick up Jessica who is returning from a week in Malta.

She texts me almost at once that she has carried her bag onto the plane and is early. I get to Gatwick in fifty minutes. She now relates that she got to the airport late, the gate was already closed, they were going to deny her boarding. Floods of tears did the trick. They relented and walked her through the terminal to the plane. A real horror-story, that could have cost us hundreds of pounds. She explains that it took three hours to get to the airport, which may be true. Hope she has learned her lesson. We sit up talking with Hugo until one a.m. Full of praise for Malta, this lovely English-speaking island.

A good day's writing done, and another Himmler chapter sent out to The Gang for their varied expertise. I have started processing the reference photos of the Himmler album pages at the US HMM.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Kew, England

Emails at 9:31 a.m. One headed "donation" from a Patricia reads: "Dear Mr. Irving,

Please accept an IOU. I thoroughly enjoy your website but this month I'm spent.

I reply: "That's very kind Patricia, and we are all sometimes in that position. It's the thought that counts."

I am not normally so even-tempered. Ask anyone. A guy who has sent me pages of queries about Hitler and the Holocaust, to which I initially replied, now writes angrily:

Your lack of response has been very disappointing. I assumed, given your long period of research, that you would be able to answer this question easily, especially when it deals with the core aspects of your work.

I reply:

I am writing every day, all day long, and do not wish to be distracted. Nor would you. When you are a writer you will understand. I draw your attention to the fact that I do not know you, you are anonymous, and that is really rude enough. So please stop

Bad news comes from my sister-in-law: My older brother John has gone very much downhill over the past few days and things have now moved into a terminal stage. "I presume you are still in Spain, if so please let Paloma, etc., know for me. Thanks."

I reply at once: "I am in Kew, back from Spain, and will let Paloma know. I will bring Jessica down with me to see John if that is not inconvenient this Sunday afternoon."


Thursday, July 28, 2011
Kew, England

UP at six a.m. and I drive Hugo to Heathrow's beautiful Terminal Five for his weeks away in Germany.


Friday, July 29, 2011
Kew, England

I CHECKED last night, as I regularly do, on the status of the Piranha [Gabriela, the Peruana] and I see that her photos have vanished from her model agency page, unless I am mistaken: The photos were there about two months ago, shortly after I received news of her apparent death.

I have hired Dawn's son Terry for three hours for this afternoon to dismantle much of the storage locker, and look for Goebbels stuff with me. NOT optimistic. If it is on Zip cartridges, I have to find somebody who can still read the damn' things, unless I can also find my ancient black laptop and its slot-in Zip drive.

We need a much more powerful lamp for the Wolf's Lair bunkers in September. I put it to Jae "I have the two small lamps still (torches). Any ideas? Should I look in Budapest, or leave it until Warsaw, or you can find something in a DIY store?"

At two p.m. I pick up Terry and we go to the storage and slave for three hours shifting the stuff to get at the archive boxes I need. I find five-sixths of what I was looking for, and the missing £750 British Airways compensation voucher.

Jae has replied:

Probably for the bunkers, you need some kind of industrial sized flood light. But I am not going to haul flashlights over in my luggage, so probably better to find some on your side of the ocean.

Your expert K. has agreed to guide our group at the Wolf's Lair.

I reply: "I have some Wolf's Lair documents as a gift for her, from the Moscow archives."


UNFORTUNATELY I find during the evening that every version of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich on the hard drive I have retrieved is the original uncut version; and so I have no alternative but to re-edit it down to size, matching it page by page, or the Index will not work.

The only explanation is that I sent the final edited version to the first printer, Butler & Tanner, and they never sent it back. I did not bother before, because we have their original standing film, but CPI's [printer] David Browne said on Tuesday when he called here that that film will no longer be of use to printers, as everything now is PDF and digital, and the colour films will have shrunk a bit. A shame, but there it is. At least the version on the HD is a Word version, with embedded source notes and no PC line-ending problem, which will save several day's work.


Saturday, July 30, 2011
Kew, England

NICE email from a New Zealander, Jack Alexander C:

Hello Mr. Irving, I have recently come across your work and I find it very interesting. I live in New Zealand, in the last few years i have found that almost all of my education has been nothing but opinion and propaganda, my grandparents who fought and died in WW2 were not heroes but helpless victims in a war that they did not need to fight.

I find it astonishing how people can look at accepted history and not be suspicious, why does nobody notice that for all the 10s of millions of European lives that were lost, we gained almost nothing, and lost everything? I think the biggest giveaway is the fact that everything you see on television, books and media all constantly remind us that Mr. Hitler was a big evil man who killed 6 million Jews, I think that if that were true it wold be self evident and there would be almost no threat of people following what he had to say. Thanks for your time.

I write Himmler during the morning, and now start intensive work on the Goebbels revival project in the afternoon and evening. Each chapter in Word (and there are over sixty) has to have the footnotes changed to endnotes, the single spacing checked, then the text reconciled with the book and then imported into InDesign and reformatted, and the notes transferred to the end of the book. When that job is done I shall have to check that the pages in our new standard font Minion have flowed page by page correctly, so that the original Index is still accurate.

Talking of which, I still have to find the Index file, or scan it from the book and check that. Hey-ho. However I can catch errors that have been spotted and put in an appendix about Arlosoroff. Then - the picture sections. . .


John Irving, April 2003  

Sunday, July 31, 2011
Kew - Dilton Marsh - Kew, England

TODAY I take Jessica down to see my brother John in Wiltshire, for what I know will be the last time.

Only spam emails so far this morning. How many hours one wastes each year wiping those out! But I suppose it happened with regular mail in the old days too. Only when letters were inscribed on tablets would there have been a disincentive.

The same disincentive could be applied now: a .01 penny tax on each email sent. Hardly a tablet of stone; nobody would object, the servers would effortlessly collect this tax, and it might stop the billion-email spammers in their tracks for a while.


LUNCH with Jessica in Dorney, then a fast trip down the M4 in warm, gorgeous sunshine to Dilton Marsh to say farewell to brother John -- using fittingly the ancient van he sold me, the Pigmobile, as transport. Several family members have gathered there: his youngest daughter, very calm and collected; her new husband. Maggie, and another daughter of John's. His wife of course, who asks whether I really want Jessica to see John like this. I reply that since she may well have to go through this again one day, I want her to be steeled. I tell Alison I am currently leaving for Hungary on the eleventh for a month.

She says: "It will be much sooner than that. The next day or two. He is right at the end now." And, I am sorry to say, I soon find that he is.

I take Jessica into his darkened room with me and rather awkwardly find another female there, one of the daughters -- I cannot recall which. I wanted to be alone with him. The bed is buzzing gently, from some kind of pumping mechanism. A drip is attached. I am very shocked by the change since I saw my brother last, before Madrid. He was able to get up then, and hobble across to his desk -- setting his tax accounts in order, he said -- and Alison said she sometimes saw him sitting there for hours, slumped in pain or asleep.

The drugs no longer kill the pain, as the curse has spread to his bones. The bones no longer produce the marrow. They just hurt, and hurt. His skin seems paper-thin and yellow, his body seems drained of blood. He seems much smaller, and coiled up, and Alison has warned me he may not speak or recognize me.

The daughter says loudly, "John, it's your brother David," and as I speak I can see his hand move toward me slightly, and I take it in my right hand. His arm is covered with dark brown blotches from the radiation. It is a surprisingly firm clasp, the hand he gives, and I hold it for two or three minutes while I talk to him, but talk is almost impossible as I am choking.

Jessica at my left is in tears, and cannot speak at first. Her face is flushed and red. She has never seen a dying person before, she says later. As I speak, John's thumb presses into my hand several times as a sign that he can hear me, even if he cannot speak. Alison says his brain is now destroyed - a few days ago he awoke and murmured that he has invitations to a funeral (he saw about it on television apparently, and takes things in); perhaps he has funerals on his mind. He has spent months preparing his own with one of his sons. I stand there at his bedside, mumbling to him.

I go back outside. It is a dull, cloudy day down here in Wiltshire. Two of his daughters are at the table outside, and I chat with them. Was I there when my father died? Yes, in the Bangor General Hospital, and I describe how I held his hand on the last day too, and he smiled once and said, "Look, I can still smile just like a little boy."

His wife comes out and says she has given him his medals to look at, as he wanted to see them again. They are going to try a new painkiller. This morning she asked John if he wanted to have morphine and sleep, or be conscious and awake despite the pain, and he murmured audibly one word, "Awake." Awake - and in pain. She then says . . . .

Before leaving for London, I go in to say goodbye to him. I wanted it to be alone, but somebody comes in again. I am not good at emotions. I hold his hand, and say, "John, I always looked up to you. You have been an example to me, all my life." His hand feels lifeless, but one eye, his right eye, slowly opens and looks at me. "Goodbye," I said.

 Right: Investiture at the Palace, 1965
with wife Elizabeth, and mother

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Kew, England

SOON after midday, there is a phone call. John died at about five or six this morning, very peacefully. She sounded calm, though quiet. I inform my daughters in Spain and Australia, and in the afternoon I drive into Knightsbridge with Jessica and she buys a black dress. Seems a very short dress to me, but I send her round to B. in Sloane Street, and B. texts me, to my surprise, that "the dress is okay."

[Previous Radical's Diary]  


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