Category Archives: refugees

The Nauru Regional Processing Centre

A wonderfully Orwellian name, says Dalrymple, for a holding camp for would-be refugees to Australia

A wonderfully Orwellian name, says Dalrymple, for a holding camp for would-be refugees to Australia

Flüchtlinge willkommen

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.48.04So, even now, say a few Germans. In Sweden they cried (until they brought in border checks),

Flyktingar välkomna.

Dalrymple turns to Max Frisch’s Biedermann und die Brandstifter (1953), written

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.48.47in the aftermath of the Second World War as an attempt to explain (and to warn) how a patent evil like Nazism can triumph in a civilised society.

The play’s protagonist, Dalrymple explains,

is a comfortable bourgeois living in a town that is beset by several mysterious acts of arson. He is visited at home by Schmitz, a hawker, who half-persuades, half-intimidates his way into an invitation to lodge in Biedermann’s attic, and who soon brings a second hawker, Eisenring, to stay in the house.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.34.08Gradually it becomes clear that Schmitz and Eisenring

are the ones setting the fires in the town, but Biedermann refuses to acknowledge it. His blindness arises from moral and physical cowardice, and from wishful thinking—the hope that what he sees does not really mean what it obviously means.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 08.49.23Schmitz and Eisenring bring barrels of gasoline into the house and Biedermann,

pusillanimous to the last, helps them make the fuses and gives them the matches with which they burn his house down.

Shanghai refuge

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 22.38.00Where Dalrymple’s aunt and grandparents went

Dalrymple’s maternal grandparents were refugees in Shanghai, but, he writes,

they died at the end of the war and are (I believe) buried there.

Dalrymple was surprised to discover after his mother’s death that she had received letters in England from them throughout the war. He quotes a sentence from one of the letters to her from her father in Shanghai:

It is a beautiful spring morning and the sun is shining brightly, but there is no sun bright enough to penetrate the dark clouds that are covering the whole earth.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 22.48.35Dalrymple’s grandfather

went on to express the belief that one day the clouds would clear, but his hope was clearly less strong and more hypothetical than his despair, the reasons for which were all too real and evident. He died at just about the time the clouds were clearing, in 1945, but had he remained in China he soon would have seen them gather again.

Dalrymple’s mother’s sister,

who was also a refugee in Shanghai and learned good Chinese, never wanted to talk about her past and it did not seem right to badger her into doing so.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 23.09.54