Sunday, 17 March 2013


I have just come home from Norway. Yes, again. And yes, another PhD examination. I will not repeat the whole procedure, but there was a trial lecture and the defence itself, and there was an elegant examiners' dinner, an elegant lunch with the candidate and supervisors, and an elegant doctoral dinner with family and friends.

A slightly new aspect this time was the mixture of languages. The thesis was written in English, and the defence was in English. Neither the candidate, the supervisors nor the examiners are native English speakers. That's not unusual in the Nordic countries. The unusual was that both examiners are native Russian speakers. Who spoke Russian non-stop, much to everybody's amazement. But why would they be amazed? Didn't they look us up when they invited us to examine? Didn't they know that we were both nomadic subjects with a heavy luggage of languages? Perhaps our current affiliations were more important than our eclectic academic past.

On the other hand, my fellow examiner was perplexed that I could talk to Norwegians. "So you speak Norwegian?" "No, I speak Swedish". "Do they speak Swedish?" "No, they speak Norwegian". How very confusing. At the doctoral dinner it turned out that the candidate's sister spoke Hebrew, so suddenly she and my fellow examiner had a secret language. And I could help showing off and saying "Good morning" in Lithuanian when we met over breakfast. I could certainly have managed some Yiddish (bad German can always pass as Yiddish), but that would have been too much.

I cannot be sure, but I believe this Babel babble made me particularly tired.

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