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It’s high summer and hot, and I don’t feel like doing what I’m supposed to do (I’m supposed to write a book review on Being a Hindu in Oslo.) High summer makes me melancholic. At least in one area of life I see the glass as half empty, and that’s when it comes to summers. The Norwegian summers are so short, that for half-empty-glass persons like myself, it’s only really May and the beginning of June one can enjoy fully without a bittersweet aftertaste of “soon it’s over…”. July in Norway is the time for 3-4 weeks of general holiday, and Norwegian workplaces, public offices and roads and streets (where there aren’t tourists) are as empty as they are in August in Paris or Athens.
The idea and implementation of paid holidays are at least as old in Norway as it is in France. However, I didn’t hear and care about the struggle for paid holidays before I lived in France in 2006 during the 70th anniversary for the left wing coalition Le Front Populaire. They lasted for only one year, and I think – as with many things in France – their symbolic importance outclass their actual political relevance. The film La vie est à nous (The life is ours, or The people of France) by Jean Rénoir from 1936 documents the life under The Popular Front, and the photographer Willy Ronis documented the first paid vacations, together with other famous photographers. I can’t think of any social democratic reform which is really celebrated here in Norway. And it’s not until confronted with the surprise of non-European visitors I find it strange that the country slows down and the functions close off to a minimum during July. Of course, it’s the general holidays!
(I’m hooked on the page-turning writing of Balzac at the moment – perhaps another reason why my book review isn’t progressing as fast as it should – and from his description of political and social divisions and hierarchies in early 19th century France, I get a clearer understanding of why social reforms have become such potent political symbols.)
It’s already the end of July, and in mid August already the summer is waning up here in the North. I’ve never mind going to school and I even love my job, but the end of summer has always been such a melancholic period that I’ve already started giving it an occasional sad thought. Why can’t July have at least 8 weekends? Well, it’s time to go back to the book review and get done with it. Afterwards, I’ll let myself start contemplating on the epistemological reasons behind why my fieldwork in Paris has started to get a rosy shade after having been left mostly in peace in notebooks and videos for a year.
Link to Burma Shave by Tom Waits (whom the new opera house said no thanks to this July!!!) – no much to do with this post, everything to do with summer moods
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