And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 February

1901
Isaac Albéniz,
composer

‘Those who search for God, those who discuss him, seem to me like those who wish to find a three-legged cat; they forget that it has four, and that God does not exist except in the here and now, that is to say while we live, think and express ourselves; thus we are God, and everything else is songs!!!’

Albéniz and Liszt (or not)

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1918
Ivan Bunin,
writer

‘Andrei (my brother Yuly’s servant) is acting more and more insane. It is even horrifying to watch. He has served my brother for almost twenty years, and he has always been simple, kind, reasonable, polite, and devoted to us. Now he’s gone completely crazy. He still does his job carefully, but it is apparent that he’s forcing himself to do so. He cannot look at us and shies away from our conversations. His whole body inwardly shakes from anger; and when he can keep silent no longer, he lets loose with wild nonsense.

For instance, this morning, when we were visiting Yuly, N. N. said, as always, that everything has perished and that Russia was flying into an abyss. Andrei was setting the table for tea. He suddenly began waving his arms, his face aflame: “Yes, yes, Russia’s flying into an abyss, all right! But who’s to blame, who? The bourgeois, that’s who! Just you wait, you’ll see how they’ll be cut to pieces!” ’

Flying into an abyss

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1918
Paul Klee,
artist

‘This week we had three fatal casualties; one man was smashed by the propeller, the other two crashed from the air! Yesterday, a fourth came ploughing with a loud bang into the roof of the workshop. Had been flying too low, caught on a telephone pole, bounced on the roof of the factory, turned a somersault, and collapsed upside down in a heap of wreckage.’

Colour possesses me

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1922
Alex Sabine,
writer

‘Robberies of supplies from our trains are so frequent, the transportation so bad, cooperation on the part of the railroad authorities, employees, and the Soviets in general so luke-warm and inefficient, that both Kinne and Cobb feel very much discouraged and want to leave the country as soon as they can. Our town transport agent (a young German-Russian) has been reported as removing, with the connivance and cooperation of the railroad service, supplies from the care of ARA before making out his statements of shortages. He is being watched by Soviet secret service men - who know too well on which side the bread is buttered.’

Jailed for making soap

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1934
Aleksander Rodchenko,
artist

‘I wrote a farewell letter to Zh. Drew a little. The feeling is like I just got home alter the hospital, and I’m not myself. I keep rifling around the shelves looking for something . . . And I’m looking for my certainty and calm . . . I look at magazines, read about painting . . . I want to start everything from the beginning. . .’

Photos to surprise and amaze

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1941
Robert Menzies,
politician

‘Up to London. Snow still lying. First type of balloon barrage - silvery looking “blimps” a few thousand feet up. Not in rows, but singly or in small groups.

So to the Dorchester, where, on the 1st floor, I have the suite which was occupied by Wendell Willkie. As the building is modern and there are seven floors above me, it is considered as good as an air raid shelter. Curtains are closely drawn at sunset: the windows are coated with some anti-shatter mixture. Day raids have for the time [being] been practically discontinued, and the street traffic on the way to the Dept of Information (London University) and Australia House seemed almost normal.

So far I have seen only a few bombed places, including the house in Piccadilly where the Duke of York lived. Sandbags everywhere; barbed wire; the front (to the Mall) of Carlton House Terrace rather battered; King Charles at Charing Cross in a corrugated iron container; police in tin hats; not many people carrying their gas masks; AIR RAID SHELTER, or AIR RAID TRENCHES signs everywhere; windows bricked or boarded up. At Information Dept I have a guard of Honour of the Home Guard (who work in offices and do their stuff as guards so many nights a week!) and some Australians still left here

At Australia House, meet the whole staff and thank them for prompt and devoted work. This timely and much appreciated.’

Churchill grows on me

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Notes and Cautions
In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, usually several every week. The blog has been publishing for over five years, and is the secondary source for the diary extracts in this online anthology.