A window into the future
If you didn’t know it yet, the writer, Georges Simenon, is my literary drug of choice. That is because he was long-lived, a prolific producer of works, and a master observer of all things 20th century and continental.
His descriptions of place, time and peoplecombined with a relatively uncluttered vocabulary make him easily understandable and accessible by any reader-including myself.
For the last two weeks I have been enjoying several of his books, including one about 1930’s Russia, titled, “The Window Over the Way.”
It is a tight read, with a small cast of characters, emotionally taunt, and bleak in the way that only 1930’s Russia could be: A communist society of hopeless humanity unrecognizable to the outside world.
It begins with a young Turkish man being sent to a port community in Russia, to his new job as Turkish consulate for the area.
There are two other consulates there as well and it is with only these people that he largely interacts with on the whole, as the locals are a dreadful lot.
For the entire place is a scene of devastated souls: Men in shaven heads and women in simple cotton frocks, Russians in charge of the seaport, with a socialist trade union building running their work, and a local communist party headquarters, the rest of their lives-such as they are.
The Turk-Adil Bey-enters his duties fresh, a patriot and war veteran of his country.
And he does not take kindly to being pushed, prodded or looked down upon.
But, in this arena, he encounters worse: Soviet spies keeping track of everyoneeven prostitutes working for them. All foreigners were suspect, and Bey finds he cannot do any of his duties here, or expect help with expediting problems of his fel-
Continued on Page 9
‘Wordaholic’ By Robert L. Hall ROBERT HALL (cont.)
countrymen here in Russsia without the help of the local political handlers…and they are never so inclined, or give excuses why they cannot help him in his official capacity as Turkish consel.
He has a secretary assigned to him…as it turns out the same one who worked with the previous Turkish consel- who mysteriously died after only a two year tenure in the town. She is the sister of a local Stalinist boss in charge of matters at the port and lives across the street from Bey. He watches them in the day and dusk sometimes, wondering about their lives and what they do.
The secretary never speaks badly of the town. Only gives flat answers that are so pat and obviously untrue. There is this exchange for instance: “Adil Bey stopped near an old woman who was sitting on the kerb, rummaging in a garbage pail and eating what she could find in it.
Her legs were swollen and her white cheeks were white and flabby.
‘Doesn’t anyone give her anything to eat?’ asked the consel, who was irritated with his secretary.
‘All those who work have enough to eat.’ ‘In that case, how do you explain…’ ‘And there’s work for everybody,’ she went on impassively.
‘And what if she’s incapable of working?’ ‘There are special homes for people like that.’ …these answers were so empty that he had the impression of wandering through an unreal world.”
Or this: “There were hardly any old men to be seen…sordid ghosts whom nobody seemed so much as to see, and if there were any on the ground, people walked round them as if they were inanimate objects.”
One incident in the book brought the whole horror of living under a police state to Adil Bey. He was standing outside a bar, when: “A reddish flash passed through the air. He stood there a moment without understanding. A man was running. Another had fired in his direction and this man wore a green cap. The first took a few more steps, bent forward and then crumpled to the ground with a dull thud.
…the O G P U agent was bending over the outstretched figure. Two shadows arrived from somewhere, and without a word, without a superfluous movement, they picked up the wounded man or the corpse and dragged him away, holding him upright, with his legs dragging.”
Perhaps the most telling lines in this work hit me squarely in the face-that of what is called today, ‘Plausible deniability.’ In other words…and outright bald-faced lie!
Bey points to a few women outside the delivery door to a state run cooperative store, who are scrapping up pieces of biscuits that had fallen and asks his secretary: “Would you dare to say that those people aren’t
“They aren’t dying, because they are alive.
Aren’t there any poor people in your country?”
Not only a denial of facts, but a deflection in order to change the subject from what was obvious to any observer.
Now, to the bottom line.
I relate this tale not just because it is indicative of what one hundred years of misery due to socialism and its poison flower-communism- has inflicted on this world, written up so eloquently by Georges Simenon.
But, also as a lesson to be learned from history.
For although this book was written as fiction…it could not make the literary sense that it does without the background of the travesty of socialism being inflicted upon humanity making it possible. My hope is that people may learn this – that socialism is the death knell for civilization – before it’s too late.
Robert L. Hall is a resident of Marion and has a Bachelor’s Degree in music from the University of Memphis and a Master’s Degree from Florida State University, and a writer of fiction on Amazon eBooks.