Sunday, October 8, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, excerpt seven)

from The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth:

Very slowly, his mind occupied with several unclear thoughts, Herr von Trotta walked to his office; twenty minutes later than normal he sat down at his desk. The assistant district commissioner came and delivered his report. Yesterday there had been another meeting of Czech workers. A Sokol gymnasts’ celebration had been announced; delegates from “Slavic countries”—Serbia and Russia were meant but never named in officialese—were due tomorrow. The German-language Social Democrats were likewise drawing attention. A worker at the spinning plant had been beaten up by other workers, supposedly—and this was confirmed by report from agents—for refusing to join the red party. All these things worried the district captain, they pained him, they upset him, they wounded him. Anything the disobedient segments of the populace undertook to weaken the state, insult His Majesty the Kaiser directly or indirectly, make the law even more powerless than it already was, disturb the peace, offend decency, scoff at official dignity, set up Czech schools, elect opposition deputies—all those actions were aimed at him personally, the district captain. At first he had merely belittled the nations that demanded autonomy and the “working people” who demanded “more rights.” But gradually he was getting to hate them—the carpenters, the arsonists, the electioneers. He gave his assistant stringent orders to instantly break up any meeting that dared to pass a resolution. Of all the words that had lately become modern, he hated this one most of all—perhaps because it needed to change just a single tiny letter to turn into the most disgraceful word of all: revolution. That word he had utterly exterminated. It did not exist in his vocabulary, not even in his official usage, and if an agent’s report employed, say, the term “revolutionary agitator” for one of the active Social Democrats, von Trotta crossed out those words, changing them in red ink to “suspicious individual.” Perhaps there were revolutionaries elsewhere in the monarchy, but they did not exist in Herr von Trotta’s bailiwick.

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