Saturday, January 20, 2007

Secret police

From Franz Kafka's The Trial (1914, English translation 1937)
Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.

From Roberto Calasso's The Ruin of Kasch (1983, English translation 1994)
The metaphysical meaning of the secret services lies in the words that designate them: "secret services" because they appropriate all secrecy. Their meaning lies in their loathsome and dizzying conquests, but even more in the fact that they have violently forced secrecy to become apparent, too visible, as blatant as an advertisement posted on every corner. All secret services share a mission that is far more important and far more effective than all their conflicts: the annihilation of secrecy.

From Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters: American in the King Years, 1954-63 (1988)
Hoover had shifted the terms of debate. No longer was the Bureau expected to prove that the KGB or the American Communists were controlling [King aide] Stanley Levison, as King first demanded. Nor was it even required to show that Levison or [his employee Jack] O'Dell was conspiring with King to commit a criminal or subversive act. Those standards had vanished in concession to Hoover.
. . . .
The issue became one of associations rather than crimes or deeds, in a world of contamination of by word of mouth. Then the Jones wiretap picked up tantalizing hints of King's hidden sex life, enabling Hoover to suggest more strongly that the Administration was in league with a pack of guttersnipes. One character issue joined another, and the associations raised taboos that were chilling to most Americans, especially white ones, of Negro back alley and cutthroats and faceless subversives and hellish perversions. For the FBI, the true nature of King's movement reduced to the issue of whether he did or did not have contact with undesirables--an elementary question suited to the Bureau's skills and tastes. All it needed to prove or disprove these associations was comprehensive surveillance of King. For Robert Kennedy, the test soon became whether previous retreats before Hoover left any ground to defend.

From Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow: Volume 1, Fever and Spear (2002, English translation 2005)
Everything can be distorted, twisted, destroyed, erased, if, whether you know it or not, you've been sentenced already, and if you don't know, then you're utterly defenceless, lost. That's how it is with persecutions, purges, with the worst of intrigues and plots, you have no idea how frightening it is when someone with power and influence decides to deny you, or when many people band together in agreement, although agreement isn't always necessary, all that 's needed is a malicious deed or word that takes and spreads like wildfire, and convinces others, it's like an epidemic. You don't know how dangerous persuasive people can be, never pit yourself against such people unless you are prepared to become even more despicable than they are and unless you're sure that your imagination, no, your capacity for invention is even greater than theirs, and that your outbreak of cholera will spread faster and in the right direction.

From Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet (1998, English translation 2001)
Happy the creators of pessimistic systems! Besides taking refuge in the fact of having made something, they can exult in their explanation of universal suffering, and include themselves in it.

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