For today, an excerpt from The Vertigo Years, by Philipp Blom, a book about the experience of living in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century--about the emotional and intellectual instability and, at times, madness that pervaded European culture in the years before World War I. Highly recommended.
(This is for my brother).
Speed and energy--not always well directed--were declared the watchwords of the day. So universal was the feeling of pressure that the respected and conservative paper Deutsche Rundschau could run a story about a high-school boy who had contracted a fatal meningitis from learning the gerundive of the Latin verb amare (to love). One has to admire the journalist for finding a story that included all ingredients: the rigidity of society represented by the school, the pressure of having to work hard in order to get on, and the devastating confusion resulting from any confrontation with sex--even or especially in the gerundive.