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457 pages, Paperback
First published October 1, 1929
Suddenly he took a run up and he was sitting in the tram, with passengers all around him. At first it felt like being at the dentist’s, when the dentist has the offending tooth gripped in his pliers and is pulling, and it feels like your head will explode with the pain.
They are reading newspapers of differing political stripe, keeping their balance by means of the labyrinthine passages in their ears, breathing oxygen, dozing off or looking at each other; they feel pain, feel no pain, make eye-contact, make no eye-contact, are happy, unhappy, are neither unhappy nor happy.
Because when worms eat soil and make more, they always eat the same stuff. The creatures can’t stop once they’ve had a healthy breakfast, they need to stuff themselves the next day as well. And it’s the same way with people, and with fire: it’s hungry if it’s burning, and when it can’t eat, it goes out, that’s the way of it.
“He swore to all the world and to himself that he would remain decent. And as long as he had money, he remained decent. But then he ran out of money, which was a moment he had been waiting for, to show them all what he was made of.”
But Franz is reluctant, he says he doesn’t like these political discussions. The grizzled anarchist persists: ‘This isn’t a political discussion. We’re just having a chat. What job do you do?’
Franz sits up on his chair and reaches for his beer mug, he fixes the anarchist with a look. There is a reaper, Death yclept, I must go up on the hills and weep and wail and lament with the herds in the desert, because they are so ravaged that none wander there, both the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field are gone.
‘I’ll tell you what I do, colleague, because I’m not your comrade. I go around, I do odd things, but I don’t work, I let other people work for me.’
What’s he on about, is he having me on. ‘Then makes you you an entrepreneur, have you got employees, and how many? What are you doing here with us, if you’re a capitalist?’ I will make Jerusalem a ruin, and a den of dragons; and I will lay the cities of Judah desolate, so that none shall dwell in them.