Today’s column comes to us from our international columnist Lyonel Perabo. Lyonel holds an M.A. in Old Norse Religion from the University of Iceland and resides in the cold, Arctic city of Tromsø in Northern-Norway (69° north), where he works in the tourism industry, principally as a tour-guide, as well as a writer. His personal research focuses on local history from northern Fenno-Scandinavia, the Viking Age, and circumpolar religions, among others.
The Wild Hunt’s weekend section is always open for submissions, Please send queries to email@example.com. I doubt any reader of The Wild Hunt has heard about Knut Arlid Hareide and the political party he helms. Why would anyone need to, indeed, unless they happened to be a fellow compatriot of his? Yet, Hareide is, in some ways, quite important.
One of my most vivid school memories comes from a history lesson I had when I was about seven or eight. From very early on, history had been my favorite subject. The books were always filled to the brim with colorful pictures, and the fact that the topic encompasses just about everything that ever took place regarding mankind drew my attention. That day at school, we were supposed to learn about the Renaissance and the 16th century. As I opened my book, my eyes met with a picture of a crowd laying waste to a church, breaking windows and tearing down statues.
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Back when I was a little kid, something like 20 years ago, my mother took me on a trip to Paris. For about a week, we wandered around the city of lights, visited friends, took the metro, ate crepes, climbed the Eiffel tower and more. On the morning of our last day there, my mother told me we only had time to visit one more place before going home and that I’d have to choose between Disneyland or… the Louvre.
In June of 1981, Israel bombed a not-quite-active nuclear power plant in the suburbs of Baghdad, Iraq. This was the second time in a year that the power plant faced attack from the air: Iran struck at the end of Sept., 1980, in a mission the name of which dripped with warrior-poet self-mythologizing: “Operation Scorch Sword.” That mission damaged the reactor, but the technicians were able to repair the damage. The Israeli strike, on the other hand — this one code-named “Operation Opera” — managed to disable the facility for good, though perhaps Iraq might have resurrected the project again were it not enmeshed in the Iraq-Iran War that dominated the country’s attention throughout the 1980s. At the time, Operation Opera drew nearly universal condemnation from the international community. The Iraqi nuclear reactor would not have been powerful enough to make materials for nuclear weapons, and the deal to provide the reactors, the fuel to power them, and much of the technical knowledge and workforce to install and operate them, had been brokered not by some infamous rogue power, but by France.
“One day earlier Benjamin would have got through without any trouble; one day later the people in Marseille would have known that for the time being it was impossible to pass through Spain. Only on that particular day was the catastrophe possible.” – Hannah Arendt
The ‘catastrophe’ that Arendt refers to was the tragic and somewhat mysterious death of Walter Benjamin on the night of September 25, 1940, only hours after crossing the border into Spain in an attempt to escape the Nazis. Although there is some question as to how he actually died, the most accepted version of his death is that he committed suicide by overdosing on morphine in his room at the Francia Hotel in Portbou. At the time of his alleged suicide, Benjamin and his two companions were under police surveillance along with another group of refugees from France. They had arrived in Portbou earlier that evening after hiking over the Pyrenées from occupied France, only to learn that they were being denied entrance into Spain.