Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Letter

A while back I found a letter tucked into an old book. It was dated 1944. I love finding old papers used as bookmarks. I love having those strange little insights into other people's lives.




Unfortunately this one was written in some sort of Scandewegian.

Flutty over at Palimpsest.org offered to take a look. He lives in Switzerland and knows all sorts of clever people who speak lots of different languages (possibly all at the same time). He passed it onto a Danish friend called Lone, This is what she made of it:

Valdemar castle, Troense, Tåsinge [an island south of Funen]
27 July 1944
Dear Søren,

How are you? Many thanks for the letter you sent me, I was very pleased about that. I hope you are at "Sättra Hage" [in Sweden?] these days you must have a nice time. These days I am at "Valdemar castle" and have it really nice here. I am paddling a kayak and sailing a dinghy. The other day I stayed too long in the water and caught ear and stomach ache. It was kind that your father and mother wanted to have me over there some time [in the future]. We ride every day and it is very sporty. I fell off a few times when we had to do jumps. The horse I ride is called Tarzan and is a real fellow. Once when my father should [?...?] he fell off and got a concussion and now lies at the hospital in Svendborg [a town on Funen]. We were also at Brahkolleborg [?] and there drove four-in-hand and won a prize – wasn't that good?

Now I will not write any more but will you give my regards to your father and mother and Dida [not a typical Danish name – maybe Swedish?].

With love, your devoted Niels.

Now my father and mother have decided to send me to Stenhus [literally 'Stonehouse'] but will you not want to come during the Autumn holidays to H??? [Hvidovre – a town on Sealand?]

Valdemar Castle, Tåsinge, Funen

Tåsinge, south of Funen

(A few words in Lone's translation were changed by Flutty to a more correct English phrasing or meaning, and I tweaked a couple of bits of punctuation to make it read a little more betterly*. Lone was so kind as to attach a photo of the castle and a map.)


It is weird to think of this young boy staying in a castle having an idyllic summer holiday riding horses and canoeing while World War Two was raging on all fronts. On the day this letter was written: Anne Frank was still in hiding and keeping her diary in Holland, not that she was to write many more entries because she and her family were denounced and arrested by the Gestapo on August 4th, some eight days later. In the Pacific Ocean, The Battle of Guam, in which 20,000 troops were to ultimately die, was raging. In the Ukrane the Russians had liberated the first of many Nazi concentration camps, and in Poland, just across the Baltic Sea from Denmark, the start of The Warsaw Uprising was three days away; 250,000 civilians were to die before it was finally crushed in October.

It is such an incongruous letter. Not what I was expecting at all, not that I knew what I was expecting it to be about - but I am glad I got to read it. Thank you Flutty and Lone.

It also made me think that I don't write to people any more. I can't recall the last time I wrote an honest to goodness, pen on paper letter. It's all PMs, emails and texts with me these days. In 60 years time no one is going to find an out-of-context page of this blog tucked into the pages of a book. I should write to people more often. Apart from from anything else it might inspire someone to write back giving me something to use as a bookmark and loose in the pages of books because, other than around Christmas and birthdays, we never get any real letters from people any more. All our postman delivers these days is envelopes with windows - and whatever we have bought on-line recently. eBay invoices, house insurance quotations, and snotty letters from the bank may hold some interest to future generations but nothing like a genuine hand-written letter.

In July 1944 a boy rode a horse called Tarzan.

I should write more letters.



* misplaced joke.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful!

p said...

This is excellent. I love reading old letters, too. I liked the timeline you provide for background against the letter writer's world, and for mentioning Anne Frank.

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