Howard Jacobson: Pussy

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Howard Jacobson Pussy
Бесплатно
  • Название:
    Pussy
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Jonathan Cape
  • Жанр:
    Юмористическая проза / humor_satire / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2017
  • Город:
    London
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-1-787-33020-7
  • Рейтинг книги:
    4 / 5
  • Ваша оценка:
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Pussy: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Pussy

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Howard Jacobson

PUSSY

or

STOPPIT!

How is it possible to expect that Mankind will take Advice, when they will not so much as take Warning.

Jonathan Swift

BOOK ONE

REVELATION

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea….

And the beast which I saw was like unto a hyena; and his feet were as the feet of a clown; and his face was of the face of a spoiled child…

And the people gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority…

And they worshipped the beast, saying: Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking foolish things…

And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against truth…

And it shall come to pass that all who dwell upon the earth shall wonder that they worshipped him…

And they shall know that the beast came not out of the sea but their own hearts…

And they shall fear that once let out, the beast will never be persuaded to go back in again.

PROLOGUE

The March of Ignorance

Early one morning in the famously hot winter of 20** a figure could be seen walking between the tallest obelisks and ziggurats of the walled Republic of Urbs-Ludus. He was looking for the Palace of the Golden Gates and was assured he would not miss it. He was a lean man in his middle forties, of more than average height but lacking hair. Though most of the people he passed pretended not to feel the heat and remained buttoned-up and scarfed, he carried his overcoat over his shoulder. Something about him – it could have been his shaved head, for this was a society that set great store by fantastical coiffure – suggested intransigence and maybe even a fall from authority. He was Professor Kolskeggur Probrius and had, until the year previously, been head of Phonoethics, a university research programme looking into the importance of language to ethical thinking. The words we used and the way we expressed them, he argued, affected the thoughts we had and the actions we took. ‘Bad grammar leads to bad men’ hardly does justice to the subtlety of his thinking, but that was the gist of it.

A bachelor of austere habits, he had earned the esteem of students on account of his dedication to their improvement. Then came the Great Purge of the Illuminati, and Professor Probrius found himself accused of cognitive condescension, that is to say of making a virtue of possessing expert knowledge. Students were distressed by the perceived distance between his attainments and their own. They were made to feel inferior to him and looked down upon. It was conceded that he made efforts to lead students out of perplexity by finding other words for those they found distressing, but that had only resulted, they submitted, in making them feel remedialised. The moment he claimed ignorance of the verb ‘to remedialise’ was the moment that sealed his fate. There it was: he believed language belonged to him. At a specially convened hearing of the Thumb Court seventy-seven thumbs went down while only two went up. Thumb Culture made no provision for abstention. Professor Probrius was out of a job.

It was as the intructions had promised. He could not miss the Palace of the Golden Gates. It was taller by at least a dozen storeys than all the other ziggurats, it bore the name ORIGEN in large letters above the entrance and then again at sky level, and it had golden gates.

Buses were already congregating in the concourse outside the Palace, spilling lucre-tourists who marked it in their I-Spy Book of Monoliths before being driven off to the next one.

A protest was taking place in what appeared to be a designated protest pen. From the spirit in which the demonstration was being policed, Professor Probrius deduced it was a regular occurrence and posed no immediate threat to the building’s security. As the symbolic focus of the Republic’s satisfaction in itself, the Palace had been the scene, three years previously, of the first of the Artisanal Bread Riots, the most violent public disturbance in the Republic’s history. For years, the only activity in Urbs-Ludus had been the construction of towers. Nothing else was made. Even the bread was flown in from somewhere else and invariably arrived stale. Sick of white sliced loaves, dry muffins and inelastic pizza bases, the populace demonstrated in such numbers that the authorities had to import a labour force of skilled dough-makers from countries outside the Wall. But there was an unexpected consequence. Soon, Urbs-Ludus woke to the realization that the Republic was flooded – not with with artisanal bread but with artisans.

One section of the population turned against the other. The wealthy had their brioches but the poor had to queue in hospitals behind those who made them. Crime increased – petty larcenies at first, but then offences against the person, especially against women whom, it appeared, many artisans had never previously encountered, at least not in the immodest dress considered appropriate, in the Republic, for the wives and daughters of property developers. Viewed within the Palace as further proof of man’s insatiable ingratitude, this latest disgruntlement was permitted to express itself, quietly, where it could be monitored. But there could be no doubt that the populace – albeit a different social stratum thereof – was on the growl again.


Professor Probrius had come to the Palace to be interviewed for the position of tutor to the Grand Duke of Origen’s second son – but now, due to unforeseen circumances, the heir presumptive – Fracassus. He introduced himself at reception, where they looked so affronted to see him not wearing a coat that he thought it wiser to put it on before taking it off. Security was strict but smiling. He was required to show three forms of identification and leave his smartphone in a pigeon hole marked ‘Information Transmission Devices’. Two security officers patted him down, one for one leg, one for the other. A third, wearing a face mask, asked him to say ‘Ah!’ into a balloon. There was no knowing what means the latest enemies of the Game Economy, whether artisanophiles or artisanophobes, would deploy next, and germ warfare, passed from mouth to mouth, could not be ruled out. Professor Probrius exhaled. ‘Ah!’ The balloon filled but didn’t change colour. No one seemed to have expected it would. Then he was invited to take a seat. Above the reception desk was a painting in the style of Titian showing the Grand Duke playing golf with the Pope. Professor Probrius shook his head as though it were a kaleidoscope and he wanted to change the shapes in it. There was so much light reflected fom the crystal chandeliers that it was possible he was not seeing what was really there. But no: there, leaning on his silver putter, was the Grand Duke of Origen, and opposite him, and laughing, with a Cardinal standing in as his caddy, was the Pope. The only remaining question was whether the painting commemorated a real event or a fantasy one.

Eventually he was shown up in a lift to the hundred-and-seventeenth floor and ushered into the presence of the Grand Duke and Duchess. Though they’d been sitting at a table playing the board game Cashflow, which the Grand Duchess, wanting a quiet life, always allowed the Grand Duke to win, they were dressed and primped as though in expectation of a film crew, the Grand Duke powdered and wearing his medals, the Grand Duchess, more powdered still, in a vertiginously low-cut sequinned evening gown that appeared to be entirely open, but for a paper clip, on one side. She must have had her perilously high high-heel shoes off because she was still sliding into them as he arrived. Professor Probrius, not wanting to stare at her feet, counted her ribs. She was taller than the Grand Duke by a head and Probrius thought, from the appreciative glances the Grand Duke from time to time threw up at her, that he liked this and wouldn’t at all have minded had she been taller by two heads. Both had hair the colour of lemon custard, the Grand Duchess’s long and irritably girlish like Alice in Wonderland’s, the Grand Duke’s layered as though to resemble the millefeuilles now on sale in good patisseries throughout the Republic. Professor Probrius couldn’t tell how old they were. The expression ‘eternally youthful’ popped into his head. The Grand Duchess had had the usual surgery done on her breasts and looked wearied with all she had to carry.

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