№ 2, 2024. Between the “Locarno” and “Lockout”

May 14, 2024

PIR Quotes

Between the “Locarno” and “Lockout”

Edoardo Matania. Reading the newspaper. 1872.

He, to whom so-called politics (that ridiculous sequence of pacts, conflicts, aggravations, frictions, discords, collapses, and the transformation of perfectly innocent little towns into the names of international treaties) meant nothing, would sometimes immerse himself with a thrill of curiosity and revulsion into the vast bowels (…), where next to the “Locarno” button there was one for “Lockout” and where a pseudo-clever, pseudo-entertaining game was conducted by such ill-matched symbols as “The Five Kremlin Rulers,” or “The Kurd Rebellion,” or individual surnames that had lost all human connotations (…) this was a world of prophetic utterances, presentiments, mysterious combinations, a world that was in fact a hundredfold more spectral than the most abstract dream.

(…) Like many unpaid windbags he thought that he could combine the reports he read in the papers by paid windbags into an orderly scheme, upon following which a logical and sober mind (in this case his mind) could with no effort explain and foresee a multitude of world events. The names of countries and of their leading representatives became in his hands something in the nature of labels for more or less full but essentially identical vessels, whose contents he poured this way and that. France was AFRAID of something or other and therefore would never ALLOW it. England was AIMING at something… In short, the world Shchyogolev created came out as some kind of collection of limited, humorless, faceless and abstract bullies, and the more brains, cunning and circumspection he found in their mutual activities the more stupid, vulgar and simple his world became.

Vladimir Nabokov
The gift, 1938

Key words: Nabokov; Politics


E16/MIN — 24/05/14