Kersttip 4. “The Bone Clocks” – David Mitchell

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Mocht u het familiediner zat zijn of zojuist een potje Game of Thrones: Risk grandioos hebben verloren, zoek u toevlucht dan tot The Bone Clocks van David Mitchell. Mijn absolute aanrader van boeken die ik gelezen heb in 2015. Een van de beste stukken uit het boek gaat over macht, het ongrijpbare kernbegrip van de politicologie. Ik heb de relevante passage hieronder geplaatst. Hugo Lamb – een narcistische en verwaande student – ontmoet in Cambridge een nogal erg knappe vrouw [“a ten”] – Immaculee Constantin. Zij daagt hem uit:


“Speak to me about power. What is it?”

I do believe I’m being out-Cambridged. ‘You want me to discuss power? Right here and now?’

Her shapely head tilts. ‘No time except the present.’

‘Okay’. Only for a ten. ‘Power is the ability to make someone do what they otherwise would’t, or deter them from doing what they otherwise would.’

Immaculee Constantin is unreadable. ‘How?’

‘By coercion and reward. Carrots and sticks, though in bad light one looks much like the other. Coercion is predicated upon the fear of violence or suffering. ‘Obey, or you’ll regret it: . Tenth-century Danes exacted tribute by it; the cohesion of the Warsaw Pact rested upon it; and playground bullies rule by it. Law and order relies upon it. That’s why we bang up criminals and why even democracies seek to monopolise force.’ Immaculee Constantin watches my face as I talk: it’s thrilling and distracting. ‘Reward works by promising “Obey and feel the benefit.” This dynamic is at work in, let’s say, the positioning of NATO bases in non-member states, dog-training, and putting up with a shitty job for your working life. How am I doing?’


‘You scratch the surface,’ says Immaculee Constantin. I feel lust and annoyance. ‘Scratch deeper, then’. She brushes a tuft of fluff off her glove and appears to address her hand: “Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long-term side-effects. Power is crack-cocaine for your ego and battery-acid for your soul. Power’s comings and goings, from host to host, via war, marriage, ballot box, diktat and accident of birth, are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral.’


Ik beloof plechtig alles in het werk te stellen om een paper te publiceren met als titel: Is power crack-cocaine for your ego and batter-acid for your soul? Zo’n vette quote.

Verder is het boek “all-over-the-place”: van jaren ’80 arbeiderswijkjes in Zuid-Engeland tot Ierland in 2050 waar de beschaving langzaam verdwijnt door de gevolgen van klimaatverandering. En van 19de eeuw Rusland tot Australië, voordat het zo genoemd werd. De hoofdpersonen zijn vervelende pubers, work-aholic journalisten, verwaande schrijvers. Tot slot geef ik jullie nog deze mysterieuze hint:


What is born must one day die. So says the contract of life, yes? I am here to tell you, however, that in rare instances this iron clause may be … rewritten.’


Veel plezier!

In : Overig

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Gijs Schumacher

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