A Dual World

My wife came home and as soon she came through the door she burst out: Did you know that you can get a driving licence without a test for 500 euros and a secondary school leaving certificate without attending school for a thousand?  Yesterday a friend of mine gave a five hundred euro note to a doctor just so that he would take a look at her sick mother!  Her eyes were wide with horror, as if she had just seen the devil.  Maybe she has. Ten years ago I would have told her not to believe everything people say […]

All Quiet on the Western Front

Has Poland made it to the West?  Following the attacks on the Hungarian Nobel Prize laureate in literature, Imre Kertész, Eastern and Central Europe is wondering how western it really is. Is Poland part of Europe? Has it made it to the West?  These questions keep coming up again and again.  Yet they are regarded almost as an affront on the Vistula. The Poles have always considered themselves Europeans. Writers and intellectuals have been saying so for decades:  Poland has to return to Europe where it has always belonged culturally.  Sympathies for the West have always been strong here.  At […]

dB, or a Brief History of Noise

Recently a Swedish journalist came to Ljubljana to interview me and I took him to lunch in a Ljubljana restaurant. After a few minutes we realized that our interview would come to nothing unless we started shouting at each other as if we were standing on two opposite hills or banks of a wide river, for the music blasting from the speakers was so loud it was impossible to order our food, let alone conduct an interview. So I politely asked the waiter (i.e. I shouted at him) if he could be so kind as to slightly turn down the […]


It was the end of September. We boarded a small Air Greenland plane at Keflavik airport. Just our little group, a few Eskimos, the pilots and the stewardess. Before long everyone was having great fun on board. The Eskimos opened another bottle and Nunu the stewardess demonstrated the use of the safety vest and the whistle. Apparently this was necessary in case we had to land in the ocean. Nunu performed her little routine in Danish and Eskimo. Nobody apart from the locals could understand these languages.  But she was very good with her whistle and our Italian friend asked […]