Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
19 September 1922

ERNEST HEMINGWAY (right) reports on Germany's inflation crisis

"There were no marks to be had in Strasburg, the mounting exchange rate had cleaned the bankers out days ago, so we changed some French money in the railway station at Kehl. For 10 francs I received 670 marks. Ten francs amounted to about 90 cents in Canadian money. That 90 cents lasted Mrs Hemingway and me for a day of heavy spending and at the end of the day we had 120 marks left! Kehl's best hotel, which is a very well turned- out place, served a five-course table d'hote meal for 120 marks, which amounts to 15 cents in our money. The same meal could not be duplicated in Strasburg, three miles away, for a dollar. Because of the customs regulations, which are very strict on persons returning from Germany, the French cannot come over to Kehl and buy up all the cheap goods they would like to. But they can come over and eat. It is a sight every afternoon to see the mob that storms the German pastry shops and tea places. The Germans make very good pastries, wonderful pastries, in fact, that, at the present tumbling mark rate, the French of Strasburg can buy for a less amount than the smallest French coin, the one sou piece. ...

"As the last of the afternoon tea-ers and pastry-eaters went Strasburg- wards across the bridge over the Rhine the first of the exchange pirates coming over to raid Kehl for cheap dinners began to arrive. The two streams passed each other on the bridge and the two disconsolate German border guards looked on."

20 September 1980

PHILIP TOYNBEE,

critic and journalist,

observes in his journal:

"Sudden wild nostalgia for my earliest, cloudiest Communist days; the pamphlet John Cornford sent me at Rugby, a black silhouette of Lenin with arm outstretched against a field of deep maroon; the Parton Street bookshop; my first meeting of the October Club at Oxford...

"How clearly it all comes back to me now, those passionate longings for brotherhood with the whole world and the conviction that my own emancipation, freedom, growth were directly dependent on working for that glorious fraternity. What worlds unfolding! What wild and confident happiness! Never for a moment have I felt this kind of ecstacy from my religious aspirations. And although it is true, of course, that Communism was a god who failed, the hope was real enough. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive - however false the dawn."

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