My naive and enthusiastic friend is a journalist from Mars, who me every, hundred years or so, to obtain information about the taste of the world which he then reports in The Mars and District Post. He’s been with me for two days now, and I can hardly keep up with his childish and unexpected questions.
First of all he wanted to know about the state of the world; he needed a general picture, he said. He had observed considerable argument between people about something, and he'd like to grasp the basic points of disagreement.
I told him that the arguments boiled down to two main points. According to one side, we should hold out until the final victory; according to the other, immediate and lasting peace should be negotiated. I explained that both sides had brought forward very interesting and in many ways convincing arguments for their beliefs. To illustrate this, I quoted him a few general arguments.
He nodded and said he understood it perfectly. Then he wanted to know who held by one, and who by the other of these opinions.
From memory, and from a quick look at the papers, I mentioned a few random names and institutions, to the best of my knowledge. I told him that the “immediate and lasting peace” was being advocated by such and such: the Russian revolutionary party, a section of the German socialists, and even some Hungarian socialists—Kunfi and Garami, I think—but I warned him I didn’t know much about the matter, I could repeat only what I had seen in the papers. Well, there were all these, and then a lot of English and a few French socialists.
When he asked whether all these were in agreement on the matter of immediate and lasting peace, I said it looked like it, as they had just arranged a conference in Stockholm as a demonstration.
So they’re lining up against the opposite view; he asked me with interest. Well, of course, I said, it is obvious that if they all meet, they’re lining up; and if they’re lining up, they’re obviously lining up against something or other.
Aha, he said, then they’re probably lining up against the opposite view, the belief in holding out until the final victory. After some thought—as I said, I don't know much about these matters, only what you can find out from the papers—anyway, after some thought I nodded, with some impatience, that yes, if they’re lining up, they’re probably lining up against that. I was beginning to think that if he said “lining up” just once more I’d hit him.
And now he wanted to know who were the proponents of final victory. I took a quick look at the papers, and from the more outstanding advocates of final victory, I dictated a few to him (he is always taking notes, the dreary bore) well, it says, there’s Ribot, the representative of the French government, and by and large, the British government; and of course, the German government, as well as our own, who all maintain, quite rightly, that the war must be brought to a victorious conclusion.
He noted them all down, while I was staring out of the window, bored, and longing to talk about other things,—literature, art, women―the things I know something about. But as soon as he’d finished his notes, he thought up some new questions. And so, he asked, these collective demonstrations by the advocates of immediate peace, have they any promise of success? Of course they have some promise of success, I answered, stifling a yawn, once they’re lining up, as you've said some twenty times over. There's great strength when so many comrades unite.
Then he asked in a matter-of-fact tone, how about the disciples of the victorious conclusion faction? Seeing that the Stockholm conference is threatening the success of their principles, do they line up against the Stockholm set-up? Isn’t this the natural result?
Of course, I said, amused by his pig-headedness, of course they are lining up. They form parliamentary parties, put out propaganda, agitate; they stick together and work at it.
He looked into his notes and asked: “Naturally, they do support one another? In what way does the French government help the German government along, to support their mutual policy of holding out until the final victory?”
This colossal stupidity really made me angry.
“You nit,” I yelled at him, “here you've been asking silly questions for hours and now it turns out that you don't understand the ﬁrst thing about it. How could the French government help the German government? They are enemy governments, at war with each other!”
He stared at me.
“But you said that they all agreed that the war must be carried on to a victorious end, as opposed to the international gathering in Stockholm.”
I laughed. “Of course, you idiot. But they believe this to mean that the other has to be ended victoriously. Can't you understand that the German and French governments are leaders of countries which are at war?”
“But the socialists in Stockholm are also from countries at war.”
“Of course. They are only united by their common beliefs.”
He thought for a while, then shrugged.
“I still don't get it. If socialists from enemy countries can get together in Stockholm and line up to further the cause of immediate peace—why couldn’t the enemy governments get together somewhere, for a forceful and united demonstration in favour of continuing the war?”
I realized he was hopelessly thick, and changed the subject.
SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes. The Mars and District Post (Mars és vidéke), translated by Mari Kuttna, in Grave and Gay: Selections from His Work, selected by István Kerékgyárto, afterword by Károly Szalay, binding and jacket by István Bányai, 2nd ed., (Budapest: Corvina Press, 1973), pp. 181-183.
Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker"
by Miklós Vajda
Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English
Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto
Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Sándor Szathmári (1897-1974): Bibliografio & Retgvidilo / Bibliography & Web Guide
Frigyes Karinthy @ Ĝirafo
Frigyes Karinthy @ 50 watts
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