David Madore's WebLog: Gratuitous Literary Fragment #64 (life of Brian)

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(Sunday)

Gratuitous Literary Fragment #64 (life of Brian)

I was born on that thoroughly unmomentous day in the summer of 1928 when fifteen nations sought to outlaw war forever: my father—who was a pacifist—read this as a sign and named me Brian. The irony of it, which became so painfully obvious on my eleventh birthday, has never ceased to pursue me. Blood, toil, tears, and sweat, the new Prime Minister soon offered us. A faithful promise indeed: both my parents died in the Blitz. Was this the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best? Still, some bitter years later, we were victorious: so on V-day along with all others I cheered the royal couple and Winston Churchill at Buckingham Palace, and along with all others I chanted God Save the King. We were victorious, I thought as the first A bomb exploded, but who exactly were we and what did this victory mean? So I resolved to find out. To find out whether anything in human history ever made the slightest bit of sense.

I watched as the Cold War broke out, and I travelled to various places. The death of George VI somehow triggered me to leave the country. I visited India in 1952, when Jawaharlal Nehru was at his peak. A year later, I went to Jerusalem, which was then Jordanian—to be admitted access I had to prove that I was in no way Jewish. And in '55, I was in Bandung to learn whether this was indeed the new centre of the world. Apparently it wasn't: so I settled in Berlin—I guess as part of an unconscious attempt to fight the evil memories of my childhood. Well, a couple of years later, as we know, a wall was built across it (although it wasn't much more than barbed wire at first, the iron curtain metaphor couldn't possibly ring truer), and we felt rather closed in during the Cuban missile crisis; then the American president came in person to Rudolph-Wilde-Platz and told us that all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin: which I felt was something of a cheat because I had been in that city for seven years and I still dared not consider myself worthy of the title. Maybe that is the reason why I left, despite my admiration for Willy Brandt. Kennedy's assassination made me strangely desirous to visit the United States.

I moved to Boston in '64, and almost against my will found myself getting entangled with the rising student opposition against the Vietnam war and with civil rights activism: the youngsters found my past history oddly fascinating, and I became something of a guru in their eyes. The American authorities threatened to expel me from the country, but eventually they let me stay. I certainly had some interesting experiences during that time: Woodstock was among them, or Judy Garland's funeral in Manhattan; but I also met Professor Chomsky of MIT (who was—is—just my age). However, the conquest of the moon made me yearn for some more travelling and I decided to return to Europe. After some time in Rome, which wasn't the best place to be in at that time, I left for Paris in '73, where I learned in brief succession of the Chilean coup, the Kippur war, Pompidou's death, the Carnation Revolution, Chancellor Brandt's demise, the collapse of the Greek military dictatorship, and Nixon's resignation: events that I viewed with various degrees of happiness, but indeed it was a busy year and it is at that point that I came to the definite conclusion that there was no sense or logic in human affairs. Then I remained four years in London—except for a summer-long trip to Kenya and a short stay in Canada—and finally I went to live in San Francisco. I vowed never to set foot on British soil again so long as the Iron Lady ruled.

But then, for the next ten years, I completely lost my interest in politics, which even the Falklands War was unable to kindle. I had a motto at the time: The era of politics is dead; now we enter the era of policies. However, the policies of that time, in retrospect, do not seem to have taken the test of time as well as the world politics which I had dismissed as devoid of meaning. Then 1989 came, and two earthquakes rocked me. The first was a real seismic event along the San Andrea fault. The second, a month later, was the fall of the Berlin wall.

You are already acquainted with the rest of the story. You probably know better than I do the full list of cities that I visited in the last decade and a half, and of course I need not tell you what my self-prescribed mission was. But the time has come for me to succumb to old age's plea for rest. I will retire here in Barcelona: and I would like you to take my place.

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