Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


I welcome your comments, so do please write. Please note however that all comments are moderated prior to publication. Whilst I fully appreciate that life can be frustrating, nevertheless, abuse, SMS language and illiteracy will not be tolerated!

Thursday, 8 November 2012


I have, in front of me Michael Barber's rather blokey biography of the novellist Anthony Powell.

I have said "blokey" because one cannot help feeling that Barber rather lets "his slip show" here and there, since it seems pretty clear that he wishes to show himself at all times a modernist; whilst doing pretty well a lot of the time he does like to have a poke here and there (and by that I do not mean a "free poke" in Borrit's words).  Overall though quite good - say 7/10.

All this is entirely unrelated to the point of this post, or at least almost... In a footnote on p. 178, Barber says that whilst Powell was unsympathetic to Liberalism, he was anxious to add that he was not a totalitarian.  To underline this he (Powell) quotes, approvingly, one Curzio Malaparte, whose definition of a totalitarian state was:

 "A state in which everything that is not forbidden is compulsory."

Rather elegant isn't it? When one reads about five fruit and/or vegetables per day, units of alcohol, tobacco, seat belts, speed limits, the race-relations industry etc., etc., one can't help asking how far away those conditions actually are in our western European liberal democratic Utopia.


Well I did suggest that I was not overwhelmed by Barber's biography; a good thing too it seems.  The quotation does not originate with (the very interesting) Curzio Malaparte, but with another interesting character, English writer Terence Henbury White in his book The Once and Future King.  (Referring to an anthill as viewed by an ant) a notice above each entrance reads: "Everything not forbidden is compulsory." The expression has been borrowed by physicist Murray Gell-Mann in his Gell-Mann Totalitarian Principle, something to do with what to me is the utterly unfathomable discipline of Quantum Mechanics. Remember, I have never been able to comprehend the Relativity Theory so I have no chance with Quantum Mechanics.

If Malaparte used the phrase, I can find no other reference to it; he began as a fascist and ended as a communist; I suppose that he could only have used the phrase if he were an idealist within those disciplines, since I doubt any realistic fascist or communist could have kept a straight face!

Until the next time.

No comments: