TIME FLIES: The philosophy of Peps Persson and Bekhterev´s seahorse

05/15/2016 19:42

Today two years have passed since I started writing my blog. It was my sister Annika, who suggested I start blogging and while rain poured outside the train window on my way to the school I was working in, one hour´s ride to the north, I rewrote an article refused by the local press.

That is now an eternity ago. Time is a strange phenomenon. I am sitting on the second floor of our "studio", a converted garage in Rome, listening to an artist who has followed me through life - Peps Persson. He sings about time and when I listen to the words, I find that they are well suited to my present state of mind. They speak, as most that Peps has made, directly to my roots in Göinge´s soil and a host of memories turn up in my mind. So many that this blog will not cover a fraction of them. Peps sings that time is a stretchable dimension:

 

The past is a dream surviving the night,

the future a possible abstraction.

Nothing is certain in this world,

thanks to time that changes everything.

Time is the truth of the journey.

Time heals wounds with salt.

 

Nah - there's something strange about time.

It´s here, but does not exist.

We chase it while we are in the midst of it

and each time we remember, we forget it.

It is as time has a direction,

that a goal might be reached somewhere,

the beginning of some abstruse poetry.

 

It is sung before it can be understood.

Time allows the tree to blunt the saw,

the rings of a trunk know how years go by.

Time is an arrow that has left the bow,

the string is singing - strings do that.

Eternity begins where it ends,

while nothingness rests outside.

No one knows where time is heading,

but we all know what time is doing.

                               Time (tango)

 

 

I have glimpsed Per Åke Tommy "Peps" Persson at the ICA store in Vittsjö, a village just north of our house in Sweden, occasionally at some gas station in the neighbourhood and a few months ago outside the pharmacy in Hässleholm. I was surprised to discover how old and worn he has become and could not refrain from waving friendly to him, although I know that he, like most celebrities, is quite agoraphobic and naturally shuns conversation and contact with intrusive strangers. Nevertheless, Peps smiled back at me, friendly and appreciatively.

He lives with his wife Anita in the woods of Björstorp, 10 kilometres from our house in Bjärnum. I've seen him perform several times, mostly in small places and then during my student years in Lund, in the seventies. Perhaps fifteen years ago, I and my oldest daughter listened to him at the jazz club Fasching in Stockholm. By the drums sat, as so often before, the mighty, bearded Bosse Skoglund. Maybe it was one of Skoglund's last appearances before he suffered from cardiac fibrillation and it would take eight years before Peps and his old friend played together again, this time at a café in Vittsjö.

When Janna saw these peasant looking musicians perform in front of the sophisticated jazz audience in Stockholm; connoisseurs who probably did not fully understand Peps´ genuine dialect, which she knew so well from my home area, Janna said:

-It must have been like this when the great, genuine blues masters from The Deep South performed at clubs in Chicago and New York.

One observation that made me remember what Peps once said about a visit he had made to Chicago, when he discovered reggae:

Yes, well, when I came over to Chicago in 1971 the heyday of the blues was history. The blues did no longer reflect how the black community looked like back then. Gangs and phenomena like that were gaining ever increasing proportions, street gangs were taking over in both Chicago and New York. However, that reality was not at all described by blues musicians. There was admittedly a younger crowd of blues musicians on the West Side of Chicago, but they were very underground. They were really street level and back then “young” for blues musicians meant older guys. They were already over fifty, almost all of them. So the blues did not feel particularly up to date and at the same time - it was still in the middle of the hippie era and it came to be more and more political, progressive rock and all that, the day-to-day reality came knocking on the door, so to speak.

The first time I heard about Peps he called himself Linkin'Lousiana Peps and sang blues in English, nowadays he sings in the somewhat odd dialect of my home county - Göinge. It was the youngest of my two sisters who by the mid-sixties heard him playing at a place called "The Barn", located in the small village of Röinge, just outside my hometown Hässleholm. Annika enthusiastically told me that Peps "did not at all sound like a Swede" and that he played harmonica "incomprehensibly good".

My father worked as journalist at the local newspaper Norra Skåne and was not particularly fond of my sister´s visits to The Barn since he had heard that hashish was smoked over there. A few years later his suspicions were confirmed when a young journalist who he thought was exceptionally nice and talented had begun to hang out with Peps and his friends. I remember how the police phoned home one evening and asked my father to come to the station after the young journalist had been arrested "severely disturbed and in possession of mind-altering drugs". The young journalist was extremely upset and cried inconsolably, he had asked if the police could call my father, who at the time was quite well known throughout the district.

It went downwards for the poor fellow. He ended up at a treatment centre before he came in contact with Narconon, a company run by the Scientology movement, claiming to engage in rehabilitation and outpatient care for drug addicts. He was apparently cured and subsequently employed by the Scientologists. I do not remember his last name and therefore I do not know what became of him.

Of course, my father was annoyed by the drug use around the Peps, but he nevertheless found him likeable and appreciated his musicality. Someone from Peps home village, Tjörnarp south of Hässleholm, once told me that Peps was something of an "outsider" already in high school, and that this could have been a reason to why he took up the habit of smoking hashish. My acquaintance claimed that his sister, who was in a parallel class to Peps, once had bought hashish from him. I did not care about that when I first saw Peps Persson perform in a smoke filled, tiny place in Malmö. Tall, bearded and lanky, he sang the blues and played harmonica with great feeling and finesse. Apparently moved by his own talent he kept his eyes closed. It was a great performance and since then I have remained a loyal fan.

Peps has told how he became bewitched by the blues. There was not much music and culture in the small farming village where his father had a radio repair shop. Though his father was interested in music, the family sang and obviously listened to a lot of radio. Early on Peps began playing drums in a dance band and at the age of seventeen he was in 1963 heading his own dance band - Pop Penders Quartet. In the joint between the fifties and sixties there was not much live music within the district and Peps loved to perform together with like-minded friends. Respect for popular music has followed him throughout life and he has always felt at home and firmly rooted in the forests of his home district.

As a young musician Peps wanted to leave the enclosed village life and escape to the big world and when he heard the blues he knew it was his music, it would be the key to open up the world for him. Pep´s siblings had some jazz and rock records he was fascinated by, but it was in 1963 when he started listening to Olle Helander´s radio series In the Blues Quarters he saw the light. Helander had travelled to the US and recorded blues musicians in their backyards; their kitchens, on their porches, or in any hotel lobby where you could find a piano. "So it was a damn close-up, a really intimate performance of the blues you could feel and listen to, it went straight into the heart in some way."

It is the intimate presence, the personal voice, which lives on in Peps music. When I listen to him the Göinge of my childhood and youth comes back. The place on earth where I find my roots. Meanwhile, Peps music is also world music, though he is far from being afraid of using Swedish pop and country music, which he cross-fertilizes with blues, rock and reggae obtaining a result speaking directly to me. Peps Persson is odd and radical. He never sold himself to anyone, neither the music establishment, or the looney left, in spite of the fact that he always has remained a true radical:

No, I was not at all acceptable in the prog circles, not in those strictly political fraternities. It took such expressions that sometimes when we played at, for example, The Communist Youth and such venues, they came into the dressing room before the jig and wanted to look at our repertoire and suggested that such and such tune had to be replaced by what they meant was necessary for  keeping a politically strict line and such stuff . Not great freedom of expression there.

I remember quite well such totalitarian behaviour. Sometime in the mid-seventies, I sat and drank a beer at the Academic Society in Lund and ended up in a heated conversation with some casual acquaintance who was able to quote big chunks from Marx's Das Kapital, suddenly he began to waffle about how Swedish farmers should become inspired by Mao´s speech about culture for the masses that The Great Helmsman had delivered in Yenan 1942. The leftist fanatic proclaimed that "we intellectuals" had to move into the countryside and “radicalize the country bumpkins". We ought to learn “their” music and culture and incorporate such knowledge into "our intellectual work" and thus foment a "genuine socialist worldview" among Sweden's despairingly conservative farmers.

There were young, radical ladies present and the leftist guy tried unabashedly to impress them, especially by quoting long-winding extracts from the Yenan speech. I could not help burst out laughing and choked on the beer. After I had calmed down I stated that I hardly considered myself to belong to such a group as "we intellectuals" and that if I quoted Mao's speech in Yenan to any farmer in Göinge he would consider me ripe for some mental institution. The enraged Maoist emptied the content of his beer glass all over me and said he that he would smash the glass right into my face if I did not shut up with my fascistic insults.

Much better than the violent thug Peps understands the value of absorbing "popular culture" into his artistry, not to induce some farmers to become communists, but because it is inspiring by combining your roots within a living culture with cultural expressions from other parts of the world. After visiting Chicago in the early 1970s Peps deliberated:

For sure, I am not a black person living across the sea. I am a white guy from Skåne. I have some musical roots of my own and like the roots of a black guy over there my kind of music is also working class stuff, old time popular songs, religious tunes and so on. In my own musical background, coming from my part of the world I found parallels with reggae and in a different way with the blues as well. Because Jamaica had been impregnated with English culture for so many years, there was an awful lot of European music influence in reggae as well. You can hear it in the early reggae. To my ear some early reggae sounded just like schottis [a kind of polka that has been very popular in Nordic countries] and they had the same instrumentation, with clarinets and violins and so on. [...] For me it was pathetic to stand and sing in some bogus Jamaican dialect about Jah Rastafari and Haile Selassie. I did not understand much of that, it did not make any sense to me.

It is music's intimate way of addressing our feelings that fascinates Peps. He needs the proximity to those he encounters through his music. Peps has always been a live performer. As a musician he is dependent on his listeners, his fellow musicians. According to him, a musician depends on his environment, the emotional echo that music creates when we find ourselves close together in a cramped room. Peps does not like to play outdoors, on stage, or in a recording studio. Outdoors it feels "as if everything just goes off into outer space," and in the studio, or concert hall, there is no sufficient human presence, according to Peps "you do not have time to take in people's faces and bodies, to feel that specific presence" he needs for inspiration. As the old musical fox Bosse Skoglund, who has played with many of the truly great performers, has observed about Peps:

- He's so incredibly genuine. Genuine right down to his heart roots. And he is a truth-teller. One who is not afraid of criticism. Though there has never been any problem for him since everything he has sad has been quite reasonable.

Peps has reciprocated the praise:

- It was enough when I and Bosse were playing together, there was no need for anything else. We did not have to talk about anything particular, no need to explain anything at all.

Peps does obviously not limit himself to playing as if his music was an extension of his autonomic nervous system. As his song about the enigma of time seems to allude to, he enjoys sitting in his house in the forest and think about the mysteries of human existence, just like other rural eccentrics I sometimes visited in company with my with my father, or whom I met when I in my youth  when I with my friends was cycling around in the Göinge forests.

Peps describes his everyday life as being laid back and easy going:

- I take it easy and enjoy life. Sometimes I play and fool around here in my own little studio, but everything is done in a comfortable slow tempo.

When I studied at Lund University I lived in a student dormitory, there I for a short time had a nice neighbour who played the drums, though I have forgotten his name and what he studied. I think his name was Hasse. Well, when I late at night was sitting alone in the common kitchen and drank a cup of tea Hasse turned up. He seemed slightly intoxicated, obviously he had smoked bananas, what hashish in those day was called in Lund, probably due to a brand named Yellow Leb, which was bought in Copenhagen. Hasse knew and was a great admirer of Bosse Skoglund and had through him come in contact with the gang around Peps. Now Hasse threw himself into a chair across the kitchen table and sighed:

- Whoaw, I'm completely gone, my brain matter is swirling around.

- Maybe too many bananas? I wondered, who neither smoked cigarettes or hashish.

- Maybe, but I do not think so, rather it was all the talk at Pep´s place that made me dizzy and light-headed.

- What were you talking about?

- Astral Bodies, parallel worlds and alternative time.

- Sounds confusing. What did they say?

- It is that which has made me lost. I am vain trying to clear up my mind. It´s all so confusing.

Hasse´s bewilderment made me think about Pep´s ideas about memory, time, existence and music:

The nervous system is built according to our experiences. The brain and the nervous system are intimately connected so the latter definitely has to be affected by experiences gained during our life time. Especially what we went through in younger days. This means that a swing musician's nervous system is built up in a different manner than a reggae musician´s. If you should be so drastic.

When Peps is talking about musicians' nervous he might be moving in the sphere that Ludwig Wittgenstein called "language-games", meaning that each and every one of us lives in a world divided into spheres influenced by our activities and our use of language, by the specific environment of our existence, which determines our way of thinking. An existence akin to what biologists call a biotope, the ecosystem of certain plant and animal communities. The distinctive character of a biotope makes some organisms thriving better there than others, a context that eventually characterizes their entire existence, and probably as Peps asserts - their nervous system and manner of socializing with other creatures.

This way of thinking may be compared to the Pythagorean view that a friend is your equivalent, a second I - allon heautón, which the Romans translated as alter ego. It may thus be possible that within Peps Persson´s language-game, his habitat, i.e. the musical environment that to such a high degree has characterized his existence, Bosse Skoglund might be described as his alter ego. When Skoglund was hit by poor health Pep´s musical creativity suffered:

It's damn hard. The whole situation has changed completely. I experience playing and touring in a completely different way than before. It's hard to explain in a comprehensible manner ... I may state, if I'm exaggerating a little, that before I had generally never considered music playing as a job, as a profession, it was just a great incredible adventure! But now when Bosse is not around anymore it has in some strange manner suddenly become serious. Right now, how shall I'll put it? It's not so much fun anymore?

Skoglund, who is ten years older than Peps, initiated his career as a professional musician in 1951. He has played with some of the jazz's greatest, people like Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Don Cherry, Lucky Thompson, Kenny Dorham, Oscar Brown Jr. and Shirley Bassey. During eleven years he played with the brilliant Lasse Gullin, Sweden's greatest saxophonist. Gullin died in 1976. I remember how I in 1972 found myself on a ferry to the big island of Gotland off the Swedish coast, when my friend and art professor Aron Borelius pointed to a thick-set, somewhat mushy looking, square-bearded man in a state of deep, not particularly appealing, state of slumber. He was slumped across a table in the café of the ferry:

- It may not look like that, but that man is a genius. One of Sweden's greatest musicians ... Lasse Gullin. He's probably not so fit and vigorous right now, but remember that few Swedes have been blessed with so much talent.

It was drug abuse that took the life of Lasse Gullin at the age of forty-eight years of age. A drug addiction that probably was not improved through his dealings with Chet Baker. It is noteworthy that a musically talented person like Bosse Skoglund, with a long life among the greatest musicians in Sweden and abroad, is such an earnest admirer of Pep´s skills:

- He is special. Unfortunately, he never made a record as good as he really is. During some of our gigs, he has been so incredibly good that I almost fell off the chair.

It is quite possible that Skoglund appeared in Pep´s life through his contacts with a musical collective a few kilometres from our house in Bjärnum and which my father was well informed about. The same year as Peps began working with Bosse Skoglund, Moki and Don Cherry moved into Tågarp´s old school in the little village of Farstorp. Bosse Skoglund often played drums in various settings conducted by Don Cherry.Moki Cherry, who originally was named Monika Karlsson, had in the early sixties come to Stockholm to study art and then spent much time in the city's avant-garde circles, where she met the already legendary Don Cherry, a giant in the world of jazz. He played with, inspired and was inspired by great musicians such as Gato Barbieri, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Lou Reed.

Cherry had during the sixties, in collaboration with Ornette Coleman, develop the American free jazz movement. Later, Cherry became a pioneer in what has been called world fusion, and mixed his jazz playing with influences from the Middle East, Africa and India. In New York, Don Cherry had, for example, met with Vasant Rai, master of a variety of classical, Indian instruments and had before he settled in Farstorp studied with him in India. A year after moving to Göinge Don Cherry collaborated with the famous, Polish composer Kryszfof Penderecki.

Moki Cherry felt that there was no clear boundary between life and art and together with her friend Anita Roney she converted the Tågarp school into a Gesamtkunstwerk, with large textile applications inspired by voodoo, punk and Indo-Tibetan art. The two friends ran a theatre group they called Octopuss, engaging local children while Moli´s and Don´s home served as one of the various artistic collectives that during that time were established in different parts of the Swedish countryside.

Anita Roney, who as well as Moki was a skilled artist, was married to the Englishman Steve Roney, who had been the owner of an "alternative" music store in Stockholm and they had, in the hippie manner of the time, been travelling around the world together. Anita and Moki declared that they jointly tried to turn their homes into a stage for their world view and their children all became musicians, actors and writers. For Moki Cherry there was no clear boundary between life and art. Within the old school of Tågarp there was a constantly ongoing artistic production. Moki and Don were not working alongside each other, they worked together and integrated their art into new, unique expressions. Talking about Moki Cherry's art, is to talk about her life.

Don Cherry was divided between the art scene in New York, with its jazz, rock, drugs, its hippie creativity and the much simpler country life in Farstorp. Neither Moki nor Don were isolated in Farstorp, guests from afar frequently turned up and when Don Cerry toured with his Organic Music, which he described as a "platform for ideas, a creative outlet" rather than a particular style of music, he used to decorate the venues with Moki´s large, colourful applications and they constantly interacted with various, influential protagonists in music and art. Moki was, for example, a good friend of Niki de Saint Phalle.

From the late seventies the family shared their time between an artist's loft on Long Island in New York, while Don Cherry taught music at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and Farstorp, where they lived during summer. Don Cherry died in 1995 and Moki in 2009. Currently an exhibition with Moki Cherry´s art runs at the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art, it will be taken down 8 January 2017.

My father occasionally mentioned Don Cherry. Even if he did not want to get involved with the more or less strange collectives around Hässleholm, he was fascinated by odd personalities and befriended some of them. For example, he was fairly well acquainted with Jørgen Nash, brother to the more famous Asger Jorn, both influential members of the avant-garde movement the Situationist International. Nash lived in the artist collective Drakabygget outside the village Örkelljunga, a strange place I once visited with my father.

Well, I heard more about the Cherry collective in Farstorp around the beginning of this century when I on behalf of Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) participated in an initiative called Sweden in the World. We were a group travelling around to different schools in Sweden, where I gave a lecture on Swedish development cooperation. The other group members varied, but every time I attended there was an actor who performed a piece called Water out of a Gourd and the musician Ahamadu Jah, who told the students about West African music culture and played on different drums.

Ahamadu and I got along quite well and talked at length during evenings at various hotels throughout Sweden. I especially remember one evening at the Park Hotel in the town of Luleå, in the far north of Sweden. Ahamadu originally came from Sierra Leone and had been very active in the Stockholm music scene and played with famous Swedish artists like Cornelis Wreeswijk, Bernt Egerbladh, Benny Andersson from ABBA and Bob Marley. He seemed to have been in every city hotel in Sweden.

Ahamadu told me that he in the beginning of the 1960s had been with the Moki Cherry, who at that time was Monika Marianne Karlsson and with her had a daughter named Neneh, who now is a famous musician. It was apparently Ahamadu who introduced Moki to his friend Don Cherry, whom she later married.

- It was quite turbulent at that time and relationships were, unfortunately, exceedingly irresponsible. I still have contact with Moki, and do occasionally visit them down in Tågarp.

Through Ahamadu I learned more about life in the Farstorp community, though I never got to ask him about Bosse Skoglund and Peps Persson, nonetheless I am convinced that he knows them.

When I think of Peps Persson, who lives not far from us in Bjärnum and Farstorp which is even closer, I understand how different worlds we humans inhabit, in spite of the fact that we may be quite close to each other in space and time. Being part of another biotope than the one where Peps exists I can never become part of his habitat, where music constitutes the main ingredient in the lives of his fellow organisms.

When the symbiosis within an enclosed system is disturbed it is possible that plagues occur, often in the form of uncontrollable stress. Like when a harmonious marriage begins to falter. For examples, Peps suffered from the onslaught of Bosse Skoglund's disease and oddly enough a few years later he also began to suffer from similar troubles – cardiac fibrillation:

- Sometimes it passes after one day, but it happens that I have to go to the hospital and receive electric shocks to get the heart beating as it ought to do. When that occurs, it takes a while for my body to recover, then I cannot play at all.

Maybe stress is the main culprit. I have never suffered from fibrillation, though as many others I may sometimes feel how stress cuts into the heart and when that happens I may come to think about another song by Peps, inspired by a reggae by Toots and Maytals´ Pressure Drop

Up to you!

Oh-a-a!

Up to you!

Oh-a-a!

 

I said: - Stress, Brother.

Stress, stress.

The stress, Sister.

The stress can break you!

 

And when it breaks you

you realize

that you have lived badly!

                  Stress breaks

 

 

I initated this essay with a memory of how I started blogging on a bleak day exactly two years ago. I came to think about Peps Persson and have now ended up with stress and its possible influence on our wellbeing. Is there a connection between memory, stress and of how our body functions? Probably these three factors converge in one very specific place of our brains.

 

Like so many other anatomists, Giulio Cesare Aranzio searched for the place where the soul dwells inside the body. In the dissecting theatre of the University of Bologna, he cut in corpses; opened foetuses, hearts and eyes. He made one discovery after another, but did not fined the soul's abode. As scientists often do, Giulio Cesare relied on his intuition. When he one evening in 1564 had sawn through the skull of an executed criminal and carefully cut into the grey matter, he found deep in the temporal lobe a small organ resting like a tiny foetus imbedded almost at the very centre of the skull. He called it the hippocampus, seahorse, and surmised it had some connection with the soul and like so much within the brain it is a bipolar body, there are two identical hippocampi opposite one another.

We now know that the hippocampus somehow controls our learning and memory functions. The hippocampus is the first organ affected by Alzheimer's disease. It seems to receive and process what is stored in the amygdala, the almond, the oldest part of the brain, known as the "reptilian brain". That part of the brain stimulates fear, aggressiveness and sexual desire; feelings that seem to control every living being. The hippocampus takes amygdala´s primitive emotions and transforms them into narrative memories. The little seahorse is the brain's storyteller. It refines and gives meaning to our primitive emotions.

In humans that are stressed out for a long time the seahorse shrinks. Stressed and depressed persons often have problems with their memory. Depressive and destructive thoughts drag us around in suffocating circles - day in and day out. As the black-clad, old women who every day enter Rome's gloomy churches and place  themselves in front of a blackened altarpiece, depicting how some saint is tortured to death.

Recently it has been discovered how various chemical substances may stimulate the growth of hippocampus´ cells. And not only that - a good mood and a positive attitude may also stimulate cell regeneration in the hippocampus. Neurologists now believe that a continuous turnover of cells of the seahorse probably is necessary for achieving intellectual flexibility, maintain the memory and stimulate our learning ability. Depression attacking the cells of the seahorse may thus be considered as some kind of prerequisite and encouragement for its complex operations. By killing unhealthy cells gloom and despair clean up the hippocampus and thus have a positive effect on its innovative activities by turning depressions into optimism through the creation of healthy cells.

Vladimir Bekhterev was a titan of Russian-brain research. A pioneer in neurophysiology and psychiatry. It was Bekhterev who was called in to took care of Lenin after his fatal brain haemorrhage, but the Soviet state leadership realized that the great brain researcher´s passion for truth was inappropriate if you wanted to find a physiological explanation for Lenin's genius and banned him from being present at the autopsy of the venerated leader´s brain.

It was Vladimir Bekhterev who during his treatment of a patient with severe memory loss first formed a theory about the hippocampo´s importance for transforming emotions into functional memories. He also sensed the small seahorse´s linkage to depressive disorders.

Stalin was gifted with a certain aesthetic sensibility. Often he could sense quality in literature and music and he could even track genius in scientific research. Though he was also deceived by his own absolutism. Most of all, Stalin was a murderer and a ruthless tyrant. In October 1927 Josif Stalin had cleared out the last oppositional politicians from the Soviet leadership. In November that year, Trotsky´s and Zinoviev's membership had been revoked by the Bolshevik Party and during the Party's Fifteenth Congress from the 2nd to 19th December Stalin was praised as the country's only and supreme leader. A man from the depths of the people who would build "socialism in one country" and thereby lead the people into a classless Utopia.

Nevertheless, as so many times before, when a man fulfils his dreams, Stalin felt tired and worn. Desolation spread around him. A week after the party congress the first Soviet Congress of psychiatrists and neurologists was summoned. The seventy-year-old Wladimir Bektherev was at the centre of his admiring colleagues' attention. He was in radiant health and would on the 23rd December pronounce the Congress´ closing statement.

While Dr. Bektherev sat at home and once again went through his speech, the phone rang. It was a personal and highly confidential call from Iosif Vissarionovich - Stalin. The supreme leader confided to the Soviet Union´s greatest psychiatrists that he was tired, very tired. Maybe he was depressed? Could Wladimir Bektherev help him? Diagnose and cure of his condition? Dr. Bektherev hurried to the Kremlin. Several hours later, he appeared behind the psychiatrists´ congress´ lectern and gave an acclaimed lecture. Afterwards, a colleague approached him.

- You look tired, Vladimir Mikhaylovich. It must have been stressful for you to head this Congress. However, I can assure it was a tremendous success.

Wladimir Bektherev shook his head, took his colleague by the arm and led him aside:

- It's not that, my dear Victor Vaselitch. That´s not the congress that made me tired and nervous. It is Stalin.

- Iosif Vissarionovich? whispered the colleague while nervously looking around in all directions.

Dr. Bektherev nodded.

- Is he sick?

- I was able to establish a diagnosis. I'm sure my judgement is correct. Serious paranoia. I consider it to be a clinical case. He poses a danger both to himself and to others. Most of all to others. Yes, for the whole nation.

His colleague was terrified. The day after the thoroughly healthy Bekhterev became seriously ill. Another colleague, Professor Burmin, diagnosed Bekhterev´s condition as "acute gastric catarrh”. Within a few hours Wladimir Bektherev was dead. It was declared that he had died of "natural causes", no autopsy was performed.

Andersen, Per, Richard Morris, David Amari and Tim Bliss (2007) The Hippocampus Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Keitel, Wolfgang (2002) ”Ein Opfer Stalins? Wladimir Michailowitsch Bechterew (1857-1927)”, in Zeitschrift für Rheumatologie, April Vol. 61, No. 2. Lerner, Vladimir, Jacob Margolin and Eliezer Witztum (2005) “Vladimir Bechterev: his life, his work and the mystery of his death”, in History of Psychiatry, June, Vol. 16, No. 2.  Sagan, Carl (1977) The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence. New York: Random House. Volkov, Solomon (ed.) (1979) Testimony: The Memoirs of Dimitri Shostakovich. New York: Harper & Row. The song texts, clumsily translated by me, are from the album of Peps Blodsband:  Äntligen (2005), Gazell Records AB, GAFCD-1090.

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My first regular summer job was at the peatbog in Hästveda. The bog is situated a few miles north of my hometown Hässleholm and early in the morning I went there alone on my second-hand moped. Most of my comrades had bought mopeds of the Austrian brand Puch. The toughest among them had trimmed...
Mitt första sommarjobb var på torvmossen i Hästveda. Mossen ligger några mil norr om Hässleholm och tidigt på morgonen åkte jag ensam dit på min begagnade moped. De flesta av mina kamrater hade skaffat mopeder av märket Puch. De tuffaste bland dem hade trimmat sina mopeder så att de skulle gå...
One evening in Prague, mid-March, darkness had just fallen over the city. I was on my way to the National Gallery while assuming I had ended up on the wrong tram. It travelled through streets I could not recognize. However, occasionally we passed workers who apparently were welding the tracks and I...
En kväll i Prag, mitten av mars och mörkret hade fallit. Jag var på väg till Nationalgalleriet men trodde först att jag hamnat på fel spårvagn. Den slingrade sig fram genom gator längs vilka den inte borde färdas. Men eftersom vi allt som oftast passerade svetsande män sysselsatta med någon slags...
Being in a gloomy mood I looked through a file with some photographs I took one evening in Rome, some months ago. I had forgotten about them, though the solitary feeling they provided harmonizes well with the grey and rainy dusk lingering outside my window here in Hässleholm.  I began taking...
Sometime ago, as we often do, I was with an old friend discussing the world problems, not the least we lamented the latest idiocies of US President Elect Donald J. Trump. It is hard to imagine that millions of people are still supporting an ego-tripped narcissist, whose inflated mediocrity and...
För en tid sedan samtalade jag med en vän, som så ofta förr, om världsproblemen, inte minst om tönten Trump. Hur är det möjligt att miljontals människor fortfarande kan stödja en egotrippad narcissist vars uppblåsta dårskap och tunnelseende utgör ett allvarligt hot mot hela vår värld? Givetvis...
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