Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dunsany on taking down statues

So, the current fervor rising out of the events in Charlottesville remind me of a passage in one of Lord Dunsany's plays, IF (1922) -- a sort of MAN WHO WOULD BE KING story about the wild adventures that wd have befallen one man had a small event in his life played out differently.* To cut a long story short, instead of a respectable London businessman he winds up ruler of a small central-asian land, where he tries to impose British values on its v. non-British people, who much preferred their old ways.

In the scene I'm thinking of, our hero is busy doing  paperwork, interrupted from time to time as his most trusted servant brings in idols a few at a time. The Englishman examines each, proclaiming some good gods who can be restored to their temples and condemning the others as bad gods who must be destroyed.  When someone asks him his criteria for why some gods are permitted to remain while others are thrown into the river, he explains that the ones with rusty stains around their mouths are the ones fed human blood in ceremonial sacrifice: hence he purges all of these. At one point, however, he notices that his loyal servant seems uneasy about what they're doing. The servant explains in a quick little exchange that's stayed in my memory all these years:

Daoud: I am sad . . . when the old gods go

John: But they are bad gods, Daoud

Daoud: I am sad when the bad gods go

--John R.

 *(whether he did or didn't take a particular train on the Underground one specific day)

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