Andrei Navrozov

Andrei Navrozov

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Wednesday’s Child: On Schadenfreude

If on my deathbed somebody were to ask me whether I was ever able to formulate a universal principle of human intercourse, I would say yes, and it is that the people any man dislikes, which includes his enemies, are always more numerous than those he likes, which includes his friends and usually, though not necessarily, his immediate family. Our dislikes are many and various, and it is enough to mention just a couple of common vices, such as envy and jealousy, to appreciate that the number of their objects is only limited by the range of our acquaintance.  Add...

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Wednesday’s Child: Salem Alaikum

The Salem witch trials of the 1690’s have entered school textbooks as an episode of mass hysteria, an instance of the sort of fundamentalist extremism that today we associate with militant Islam.  The very fact that this episode – culminating as it did in a modest score of hangings – so stands out in the landscape of history as to have become a byword for vengeful ignorance only underscores the abiding tolerance of European civilization and its North American dilation. This does not mean, however, that the civilization in question was ever free from the herd instinct, which in the...

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Wednesday’s Child: Moral Borderlands

I was under the weather last week, and besides I thought the gentle reader might use a week’s rest from my compulsive ratiocination, so I did not post.  Weather is a big factor the closer one gets to Africa.  The sirocco arrives here bearing a fine sand dust from the Sahara that gets in everywhere, but worse than that, it makes one feel like a lemon squeezed dry, moscio, as the locals say, meaning flaccid, limp, flabby.  After a day or two, one finds oneself yearning for Siberia and the bracing touch of the bora. Sirocco makes people grumpy, irritable,...

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Wednesday’s Child: Chinsoc

“Ingsoc,” as the gentle reader may recall, was Newspeak for “English Socialism,” the ruling ideology in Orwell’s nightmare.  A modern version of that nightmare is already up and running in real time throughout mainland China under the official name of “System of Social Credit.”  Before long all mankind is expected to see the advantages of such a system, with most developed countries following China in implementing their own national versions of digital totalitarianism.  As I have written here on several occasions in the past, Russia, while behind China in this area of technology, is scheduled to launch a homespun analogue...

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Wednesday’s Child: A Man of the Future

Last week a 51-year-old man was briefly in police custody in the northwest of England for passing leaflets to shoppers of the fair sex in a town square. “No offence intended,” read the culprit’s appeal. “You are simply a female that caught my eye, and I don’t have the time to talk right now.” “I am not looking for a girlfriend or relationship,” ran his argument. “I am looking for a possible private arrangement.” This was followed, in case any of his readers might mistake his intentions in some unexpected way – for instance, spitefully misconstruing them as honorable –...

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Wednesday’s Child: A Byronic Epithalamium

Last month, those in the know were told by the good Dr. Thomas Fleming that “with valid passports and plane reservations, you now only need endure the rigors of international air travel and get to the Grand Hotel del Gianicolo.”  Quite so, but it has occurred to me that what the chosen among Pastor Fleming’s flock may need at the point of departure for Italy is a nice little epithalamium. I have written on a number of occasions in the past that a country is invariably defined by what its climate allows its people to cultivate, so that France or Italy...

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Wednesday’s Child: More from London

If epochs have sounds epitomizing them, as the pealing of church bells and the rustling of crinolines may have been for some in the West just four or five generations ago, then the sound most characteristic of the present is the woodpecker noise of an acrylic fingernail upon the tempered glass of the smartphone. Like the jingle that haunts the man on the bus in Mark Twain’s story – remember? “A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,/A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,/A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,/Punch in the presence of the passenjare!” – this...

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Wednesday’s Child: Letter from London

“Now, when our enemies hear the F-35 engines, when they’re roaring overhead, their souls will tremble and they will know the day of reckoning has arrived.” Now that I am in London, I see it all rather more clearly. In Palermo in September, such things tend to get veiled in sea mist, and the fragrance of roasting peppers wafting upward from the apartment below does little for the sharpness of the geopolitical picture. From this perspective, the morbid irony of an American president elected on a ticket of isolationism who speaks in the idiom of Kim Jong-un, or perhaps of...

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Wednesday’s Child: Cocktails on the Veranda (Free to the Public)

Desmond and I were for a time neighbors when I lived in London, and one really comes to know a person when one’s drains clog up.  We used to lunch together – Desmond was the only acquaintance whom I encouraged to take me to Indian restaurants, as he was born in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and knew the best places this side of the Thames – and it was refreshing to have as my vis-à-vis a man who made me feel like an adept of teetotalism.  Before pudding he would finish a bottle of Scotch, of which I had claimed...

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Wednesday’s Child: A Metaphorical Addiction

Last week a reader complimented my parody of “preternaturally American” English, a patois favored not only by gum-chewing schoolgirls and their future husbands, but also by demagogues of every persuasion, notably Russian propagandists broadcasting to the West.  A key element of its sentence structure is the word “like,” at times roughly equivalent to the traditional locution “that is to say,” but most often an interjection signaling approximation, relation, or equivalence. It occurs to me that the almost universal acceptance of this word in its neologistic role has a significance that runs deeper than mere misuse of language.  It is to...