Sunday, June 14, 2015


I decided to look up on the Internet all the famous Norwegians in history. Henrik Ibsen the playwright, Edvard Munch, painter of "The Scream", Roald Amundsen, the explorer who beat Captain Scott to the North Pole (actually Robert Peary beat both of them, but historians refuse to acknowledge it), after which the list descended into speed skaters and disc jockeys and a boy who once won a chess tournament at his school. 

Is that, I wondered, because Norway spends so much of the year in total darkness, and looking that up on the Internet found literally hundreds of websites offering advice on how to endure the dark winters, and what is Polar Night, and why the cold and snow and oil-black darkness is actually really beautiful, and how you get a midnight sun on mid-summer’s day, and why the fish soups are a delicacy not to be missed
, and how to distil vodka

Nevertheless I remain convinced that Hedda Gabler did not kill herself because of Judge Brack, nor because of Eilert Lövborg, but simply as a consequence of seasonal affective disorder – but you'll have to read, or watch, the play yourself to understand what on Earth I'm going on about. One of the great works about female suicide ever written (why are there so many? Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Ophelia in Hamlet, Cleopatra, Thérèse Raquin – though not Thérèse Desqueyroux, who lives on to re-appear in several more novels). I appear, like most of the last-named, to have lost the plot…let me recover it…

Norway is one of the few countries in Europe not to have joined the 
European Union, and, probably not a coincidence, Norway is one of the few countries in Europe to have a substantial balance of payments surplus (not a coincidence at all actually; the only countries in Europe with a substantial balance of payments surplus are precisely those which have opted out of EU membership). Norway's comes from oil and gas, bringing in about $40bn per annum, with the large amount that goes beyond the country’s basic needs being put in what is called a "sovereign wealth fund", which currently stands at $400bn, and this, but don't tell the Ayn Rand worshipers in America, after providing one of the world's most comprehensive "socialised" health services, high standards of education in public schools and universities, and significant pensions for the elderly. Norway also takes a position in world politics that is not unique (Canada, for example, until this past month, has always done the same) but certainly unusual: it has bestowed upon itself the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any country that it wishes, by sending troops of peacemakers and entire squadrons of arbitrators, to serve as what are called "negotiators" (a euphemism for something horribly altruistic and philanthropic, surely; but don't tell that to the Ayn Rand worshipers either) wherever "conflicts" arise. 

Norway also has good skiing, and it lasts six months of the year. 


Marks For: 24,373 (the current per capita rate, in Euros, of the EU's total debt - click here to see the magnificent Euro debt clock)

Marks against: Rather fewer than most countries (click here for more details)

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