Three Anarchistic Tales
[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]
For he, like a man or a star, lives in a universe
shut in by walls of the things he knows. RWL
A late Christmas gift for you: three hauntingly beautiful and politically subversive early 20th-century tales all searing indictments of the brutality of the state have been posted in the Molinari Online Library: Voltairine de Cleyres fiction-disguised-as-memoir The Chain Gang (1907), Gertrude Nafes mordant fable The Law and the Man Who Laughed (1913), and Rose Wilder Lanes journalism-disguised-as-fiction A Bit of Gray in a Blue Sky (1919). (This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time that the Nafe and Lane pieces have been available online.)
De Cleyre and Lane were of course leading writers of the libertarian anarchist tradition (representing that traditions socialist and capitalist strands respectively, if it matters). I havent been able to learn much about Gertrude Nafe, except that she was an associate of Emma Goldmans, that she was active in John Reeds Communist Labor Party, that her short stories were well-regarded by the mainstream, and that she was dismissed from her post as a Denver schoolteacher for refusing to take an oath to promote by precept and example obedience to laws and constituted authorities. Specifically, I dont know whether she was an anarchist; but The Law and the Man Who Laughed is certainly anarchist in spirit.
Despite its obvious antiracist intent, The Chain Gang is marred by some unconscious racism (beneath all her beautiful metaphors, de Cleyre is in effect characterising blacks or black convicts, anyway as congenitally ignorant but naturally musical, comparing them to idiots savants), but its haunting beauty survives this flaw.
A Bit of Gray in a Blue Sky isnt explicitly an antiwar story, but its hard not to read it as one, or to see an analogy between the fate of Lanes carrier pigeon and the fate of human beings dragged from their ordinary lives into the jaws of a war machine they know and care nothing about. (Incidentally, see the true story behind Lanes account. Sadly, by the time A Bit of Gray was published, the pigeon had already died of its wounds.)
comments powered by Disqus
- Five Things You Need to Know to be a Better Digital Preservationist
- Book on Losing British Generals Wins American History Prize
- Stanford scholar explores civil rights revolution's positive impact on the South's economy
- Harvard Historian Nancy Koehn on Amazon's Tentacular Reach
- Q&A with historian and author Nick Turse