family dinner

― Thank you for visiting.
― It’s my pleasure, Mother.
― Where are we going?
― To a restaurant.
― Are you working?
― Yes, I am working.
― Do you have a job?
― No. I don’t have a job and I’m not getting paid.
― Why not?
― I haven’t had a job for 21 years, Mother.
― How did you manage?
― I worked as a consultant. Then I went back to school. Then Erin and I had our own company. We employed people. Then I worked on my own. I had several clients.
― What happened?
― The company ended up in a lawsuit. I still have clients, but I am no longer taking any work from them, for the time being.
― Why not?
― I don’t have the time. I must write.
― How will we manage?
― We have money.
― Are your lawsuits finished?
― Some are.
― What about the rest?
― I am still being sued for defamation by WebEx.
― Why?
― Because I stated that Min Zhu raped his daughter Erin and used his company, WebEx, to cover up his child rape.
― Isn’t it true?
― Yes. That’s why they will lose.
― Why did you say it?
― Because he threatened my life.
― How so?
― Do you remember going to court with me nearly two years ago?
― Yes.
― Do you remember why we went?
― You were carrying a gun. You got arrested.
― Do you remember what happened?
― What happened?
― I got acquitted. Don’t you remember the look on the prosecutor’s face?
― She was very disappointed.
― Do you remember why I got acquitted?
― Because you were in fear of your life.
― Do you understand now why I said these things about Min Zhu?
― Yes. But don’t you want this to be finished?
― I do. So do the Zhus. In fact, they have tried to drop their lawsuit.
― Why didn’t they?
― Because I wouldn’t let them get away with malicious prosecution.
― What do you want?
― I want them to apologize. If they don’t apologize, they will be shamed to no end.
― Why do you want them to apologize?
― I refuse to live my life with a scintilla of concern about their threats.
― Will they apologize?
― No. Please eat your dinner and drink your wine.
― It’s too much for me. Do you remember Father?
― Yes, I do.
― Why did he die?
― There was a fire in your apartment. He tried to put it out. He was naked. He got burned.
― How did the fire start?
― We are not sure.
― Did I start it?
― It’s not your fault, Mother. You are not responsible.
― I carried him out in my arms.
― Yes, you did. I saw the bruises on your arms.
― Why did Father lose his job?
― He chose bad business partners. It runs in the family.
― Did he do anything wrong? Father never did anything wrong.
― He worked with crooks. He got accused by association. There was no evidence of his wrongdoing. The plaintiffs withdrew their claims.
― So why did he get fired?
― He got disciplined because his partner failed to get them licensed. His department found out about it and fired him for working on the side without asking their permission.
― Was that all? The State fired Father for moonlighting?
― He had worked for the State for twenty years. He was making a lot of money. The State is running a budget deficit. They can hire two junior analysts with his salary.
― Did he do anything wrong? I always trusted Father.
― He chose bad company. That was enough.
― Have you heard from Erin?
― Erin and I haven’t spoken for years. You must mean Rachel?
― Yes.
― I’m no longer talking to Rachel.
― Is it because of me?
― No. It’s because of me.
― Are you seeing any other women?
― I’d rather not talk about that.
― Why can’t we live together?
― We would drive each other crazy. I must be able to work. We are paying our friends to take care of you for now.
― Am I driving you crazy now?
― I’ll manage.
― We don’t have to see each other if I am disturbing you.
― I like seeing you. I’m sorry I don’t have much to say. I’m saving it for writing.
― What are you writing about?
― Everything.
― Are you writing about Father?
― Yes.
― Will you be able to publish your writings?
― No doubt.
― Can you show them to me?
― Some day.
― Have you shown them to anyone else?
― Yes.
― Did they like them?
― Yes.
― What did they say?
― They always say the same thing. They’ve been saying that for decades. That’s not what counts.
― It means a lot to me.
― It’s not that important. Good night, Mother.
― Good night.

le rouge et le blanc

     She says, ‘Can’t we be still like see each other once in a while and have lunch or see a movie? Just to be friends?’ I said ‘Yeah, friends, I think I know what you mean. I’ve become some kind of emotional tampon that you need four or five days a month when no one else will take your FUCKING bullshit. But we don’t FUCK, right? Isn’t that what friends is, we don’t FUCK, right?

—Sam Kinison

Rachel tells Michael that she loves him. Her love is not romantic. It is general love. Rachel loves many people that way. She loves Michael’s dogs the same way. Once upon a time, she professed her love for Michael’s friend Mischa. She was mistaken. She was desperate for love. Her sex with Mischa was the best in her life. But he was too disgusting. Mischa is a man-whore. He has no spine. He cursed Rachel after they broke up. He is still spying on her. He speaks badly of Michael behind his back. Michael should be careful with a “friend” like that.
    Michael is not sure how to please Rachel. She spans across the two kinds of his former lovers.
    He met Marilyn at a gangbang in his 21st year. Marilyn was engaged to be married. She was working out her kinks. Her clothes came off in a drinking session with his dojo mates Joe and Kevin. Kevin was born in South Korea. He was two years younger than Michael. Marilyn was the first girl he saw naked. Joe lived across the alley from Marilyn. He belonged to the largest Polish community outside of Warsaw. He read meters for the gas company. He met many housewives during the day. His sexual experience ranged far and wide. Joe was recently divorced. He was exploring his options. Once he came home with another man. Being penetrated was not all it cracked up to be. Joe demanded an early withdrawal.
    Joe mounted Marilyn first. Michael and Kevin observed them. They had seen each other naked in the locker room. It was not a big deal. The redhead writhing on Joe’s waterbed was something else. They looked like they were sparring. Joe’s pumping became more intense. Marilyn took her cues from his strokes. Her heels guided his cadence. Her desire startled the men with its urgency.

    Michael approached the bed. Marilyn looked him over approvingly. His upper body had swelled in a spurt of growth since the end of his teens. He stood loose-limbed and relaxed by martial training. His lust was unschooled. He came too fast. Kevin took his turn before Michael regained his composure. Joe was the next to go. Marilyn’s moans shifted their mood. Her blunt imperatives dissolved into lazy concessions. On his second round, Michael felt a hand probing his butt. He thrust back his heel. It connected hard. Joe grunted and ambled away.
    Two days later Marilyn came to see Michael at his Astor Street apartment. Her skin taunted his touch. She drew in his cock. His erection was unrelenting. The woman clutching his body was a factitious abstraction. Spurting inside her brought no relief. He remained hard all night. In the morning Marilyn boasted of feeling like a truck had driven between her legs. Michael strutted to his office for two miles along Michigan Avenue. His gait was elastic. Sportfucking left him numb.
    Marilyn’s fiancé happened to work at Michael’s company. He seemed undisturbed by her dalliances. Joe reported furtive sounds coming from Marilyn’s bedroom closet during his visit. Marilyn took them in stride. Michael gave no thought to his reputation.
    His friends held him in a new regard. They all met at the Sugiyama dojo down the block from the Belmont L train station. Michael cycled there on his Raleigh Professional. His cleated soles were strapped to its pedals. His cadence spun at an easy 80 rpm. His skin seethed with sweat. After practice, he scarfed sushi and quaffed sixpacks. The girls appeared on weekends.
    Kal was a partner in an ad agency. He was born in Ohio of Lithuanian parents. His ex-wife still lived there with their daughter. He was fitfully entangled with a recent divorcée. Kathleen was studying to be a lawyer. She had little time for her boyfriend. Kal lived in a high rise two blocks away from Michael. His apartment had a downtown view. They often went there after practice to stare at the skyline and drink beer. They listened to Randy Newman and Tom Waits. The songs were wistful, angry and ironic. The men bonded through sodden self-pity. Agency creatives dropped in to comfort them.
    Lynn came to Michael’s apartment with Kal and Janet in the summer of 1980. Father Cunningham was already there, primed for clerical devotions. Janet’s family raised Irish wolfhounds. Their cultures melded straightaway.
    Lynn was more cautious. She wore a long white dress with a blue floral print. At 23, she radiated the older woman allure. It was an occasion for hard liquor. Michael’s challenge evoked a defiant pact. Two hours later, she was belting out an Al Jolson tune in his arms. Michael fell into an odd conformance with his cock.
    Lynn was a lithe blonde. Her father was a Croat. Her mother was of German descent. They were personally related to Jesus Christ. She belonged to Mensa. Her apartment was decorated in faint shades of white. Its only notable appurtenance was a black cat. A pumped-up Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union stood out like a billy-goat in a convent.

    Lynn worked in mysterious ways. Aloof in intercourse, she was a frenetic fellatrix. Michael’s impression of her oral services was entirely disconnected from her diffident technique. As her hands kneaded his buttocks, his balls erupted with staggering intensity. He clutched at her hair to stay upright. Was it true love?
    Lynn glommed onto Michael’s magniloquence. They professed their feelings. The words rang hollow. It was high time to raise the stakes. Lynn broached the subject of marriage. Michael considered their prospects. Volcanic blowjobs failed to forebode domesticity. Matrimony would make a meal of mayonnaise.
    Lynn moved on. Michael felt crestfallen. His feelings were disconnected from amatory particulars. Their occasional reappearances buttressed his awareness of lifelong privation. Twenty-four years later, his lack of love remains unrelieved.
    It is May of 2003. Michael and Rachel have been dating for a year. Rachel still worries about Michael’s life. She does not want to be anybody to Michael as long as his life is all about his stupid lawsuit. She does not know much of the story. She is not really interested in knowing it. She does not want to affect Michael’s decision in any way. As a friend, she wishes him well. She has no other friends at this time. Michael is the only one she can confide in or depend upon.
    Michael is a nice guy. He is good hearted and so knowledgeable. She urges him to move on. There should be more beautiful scenes ahead in his life. Money can be lost and regained, but he must not be lost because of it. But Michael does not care about the money. He has been used and deceived by his best friend, threatened and menaced by her family. He wants a reckoning. He will not relent till he gets it.
    The year before Rachel went to China and came back. She had tried to break up with Michael in the meantime. She did not try very hard. When they first met Michael told her about seeing a couple of girls. Their company left him unmoved. He lacked the courage for a regimen of solitude. He spoke with Serge Gainsbourg: his soul is monogamous by nature; his cock is polygamous by necessity. His love life is a natural striving for the impossible. Rachel’s jealousy makes him redouble his efforts. He will no longer play fuckbuddies with Isabelle.
    He has not felt close to anyone for many years until he met her. He regrets his hasty reaction to this development. Maybe their intimacy would have worked out more smoothly, had he not pushed for her company or her commitment. Maybe there was a time and place for letting things unfold in their natural sequence. Michael had hoped that his passion would just rub off on Rachel. She cannot blame him for trying.
    Rachel remains aloof. She is lying in bed next to Michael. Her skin is flushed. They had been fucking for over an hour. She came many times. She wants them to be friends. Michael wants them to be lovers. She challenges him to a contest. Only one of them will prevail. Building a shell is easier than growing a spine.
    Michael’s life is changing. His father has lost his job of 20 years. His mother had her kidney removed in a cancer scare. He is working hard. His parents need his help. He has many needs of his own. But being Rachel’s friend with benefits is not one of them. She can be his woman or she can be a stranger. It’s up to her.

onanistic apologetics II

    The sources of Rousseau’s success are instructive. His was, and remains, the earliest and the greatest of all tales of self-consecration. The idea of the writer immortalizing himself through his work is as old as Horace. The idea of the writer immortalizing his work through his life is entirely modern. It is tempting to wax paradoxical in discussing this course of creation. In cultivating his paranoia by eliciting quarrels from his best friends, Jean-Jacques never ceased to extol his virtues as the finest example of man’s innate goodness. While defending the rights of children, he caused his five illegitimate offspring to be abandoned at the door of a foundling hospital, without so much as looking at them. After ending his formal education before entering his teens, he fashioned himself into an oracular educationist. Through pretending to eschew judgment in his accounts of himself, he relentlessly indicted individuals along with their institutions. Widely acknowledged as the heroic progenitor of the French Revolution, and thence of modernity as such, he opens himself up to plaudits and anathemas as an implacable terrorist or self-righteous totalitarian. In avoiding this embarrassment of epithets, the best approach is through plain facts. Continue reading onanistic apologetics II

bad company II

    Eugene engaged Michael’s friends like a shark takes to a flock of dolphins. He fashioned himself into a stealth fornicator, confounding the first impressions that relegated him to the status of an inconsequential clown. He might have been that, but for the remarkable glibness of his dealings with women. His heterosexual charm was perfectly complemented in addressing men by his non-threatening demeanor. A less refined personage trying to pull the same stunts would surely have ended up perforated in some dark alley by the mates of innumerable wenches whom Eugene casually serviced in the course of a single week. Instead, he was lauded by both genders for his wit and manners. The perfect party guest, his entourage ranging from shop girls to society ladies, Eugene lavished equal though discreet attention on all women present. His discretion vanished once Adrienne, his breadwinning live-in mate, inevitably passed out on a stack of coats in the closet. At that point, all bets were off. On the occasion of Michael’s twenty-fifth birthday, Eugene’s company included a lanky blonde in spike heels propping up her six foot frame in an equilibrium mediated by tilting and clenching a pair of buttocks proudly sheathed in a white cocktail dress. Transfixed by this lascivious display, Michael connected it to the Japanese image familiar from his dojo mates, of Western women walking like dogs, upheld on their toes, heels afloat. As soon as Adrienne was out of commission, the sallow sylph boasted of going commando to commemorate the occasion of her own birthday. Eugene knelt down and lapped at her nude crotch, unfazed by the disparity of height straining his neck to a grotesque angle. In his conjugal loyalty, he excused himself as soon as his woozy mistress awakened and asked to be escorted home. Eugene scarcely absented himself for a half hour, which allegedly sufficed to traverse two blocks, exchange bodily fluids, and hurry back towards further excitement. Continue reading bad company II

geographically undesirable

Rachel writes to Michael from New York City. She asks him how he is doing. She wishes he were there, with her. She loves Michael. She sends him a gift subscription to the New Yorker. Michael counts three women living in self-imposed exile from Los Angeles, undertaken as their final attempt to escape his manly orbit. They all come from China. There may be a pattern there.
    Michael recalls his lessons learned from knowing Rachel. A heterosexually available woman of a certain age raises a bundle of alternate concerns. To be on the lookout for a man in her thirties betokens a history of bitter divorce, thoughtless promiscuity, sexual deviance, psychotic traits, or debilitating career priorities. Rachel’s case is replete with each of these stigmata.
    Michael had entertained many divorced women before meeting Rachel. Most of them suppressed the signs of obsession with their former mates, even while venting their bitterness over their failure in marriage. From Rachel’s constant references to both subjects, Michael concluded that her ex-husband’s extramarital forays took place in response to her lack of interest in supporting him. This is more than an educated guess. Rachel’s resentment of Michael’s mother’s strength in standing on her own after losing her family in the war, and in waiting six years for Michael’s father to come back from the labor camps, spelled out her expectations in no uncertain terms. Rachel wants a sweet family along with material success, at no cost in loyalty to her man or fortitude in her work. She wastes no opportunity to vent her bitterness at lacking access to these rightful entitlements.
    From the very start, Rachel made it abundantly clear that her interest in Michael was in no way romantic. Outside of friendship, which she as relentlessly solicited as he consistently refused, there was nothing but sex to rely upon. Even as Rachel threw fits at Michael’s cultivation of friends with benefits in response to her disclaimers of their emotional connection, she thought nothing of reporting on her fellating another man to make her point, nor of reinforcing her report with complaints about her swain’s undue solicitude in lip service on her demure altar, unmatched by his ability to administer the rough tumble that she so richly deserved. Michael does not begrudge Rachel’s use of her sex to elicit another man’s simpering devotion.

Eliseo Visconti, Nude, 1895
He merely wants no part of it in his future.
    Rachel’s ability to link her sexual performance with a thirst for pain is unmatched in Michael’s experience with her sex. In acknowledging her dependence upon Michael’s strength and kindness, she has used them as an excuse to torture both of them. Michael recalls the trajectory of their affair, as captured in Rachel’s own words: “– I like fighting you, Michael.” “– You’re no good at all as a lover.” “– I don’t want to be without you in my life.” “– I feel no desire for you at all.” “– I need you like a drug.” “– I am sorry, I am not the one for you.” “– You make me so horny…” “– I win!” Rachel’s sadism was unprovoked. Michael’s tolerance of pain was incomprehensible. Rachel’s sexuality could not be fulfilled outside of catering to her craving to humiliate and be humiliated. Michael’s attention could not be held by a woman that treated him with kindness and decency. They made a lovely couple. Not any more.
    Rachel held herself out to Michael as eager to be a single mother to her sister’s child. She took Michael to task for recoiling from a family arrangement that requires the parents to renounce their own child for the sake of gaining her immigration advantage. She told Michael that he was selfish in refusing to accept this child as if it were his own. She expressed bitter remorse over having aborted her previous pregnancy in her marriage, and worried that she would never get another chance to have a child of her own. Yet when she got pregnant with Michael’s child – or so Rachel claimed – she wasted no time in rebuffing his eagerness to take care of it. She threw a conniption fit, and ran away to scrape the fetus out of her womb. Michael’s last memory of a shared experience with his father is of standing together at Rachel’s doorsteps, pleading in vain through her intercom for her to come to her senses. Michael’s most vivid memory of Rachel’s response to his father’s protracted agony is the suggestion that he must be tired of supporting his family, made in the wake of soliciting and enlisting Michael’s support for her self-inflicted post-partum depression. Rachel’s one true talent is for poisoning wells even unto the point of destroying her own chances to slake her thirst.
    Rachel’s career ambitions are as delusional as her family wishes. Her chronic lack of capacity to persevere in any endeavor is perfectly complemented by attraction to fatuous moneymaking schemes. Every single sample of Rachel’s work on display in her portfolio stops visibly short of the final touch. She resents having to complete any professional task, and throws fits whenever she gets called on it. She hates the idea of sullying herself with office politics, and thinks nothing of ratting out her colleague to her boss for bad work ethic. To her credit, Rachel makes the best of her economic situation by relying on her non-boyfriends to pay her way. She is puzzled by her inability to leverage this knack into economic independence.
    Rachel asks time and again, why does such a good woman fail to attract a good man. In all fairness, she has her good qualities. As Michael takes their inventory, they come to seven in all: four points to suck and three holes to stick. Rachel has made it her absolute priority to rule out everything else that once upon a time had attracted Michael to her. Her prattle about long-distance love comes to nothing for want of meaningful connections to these assets.

onanistic apologetics I

    Michael once heard a man boast of never having had to masturbate. What the braggart had attributed to a surfeit of opportunity, was clearly owed to a want of libido. As goes intercourse, so does interlocution. Writing for no particular recipient is to verbal communication as masturbation is to sex. All the more so if the writer’s aim is dialectics. Solo practice of Socratic midwifery is as likely to deliver reason, as onanism, to engender offspring. And yet, man’s earnest striving to justify his ways wholesale, to his equals and his betters, can arise alongside with a humorless harangue against solitary pleasures: Continue reading onanistic apologetics I

nietzsche on saints and sickness

    Je normaler die Krankhaftigkeit am Menschen ist — und wir können diese Normalität nicht in Abrede stellen —, um so höher sollte man die seltnen Fälle der seelisch-leiblichen Mächtigkeit, die Glücksfälle des Menschen in Ehren halten, um so strenger die Wohlgerathenen vor der schlechtesten Luft, der Kranken-Luft behüten. Thut man das?… Die Kranken sind die grösste Gefahr für die Gesunden; nicht von den Stärksten kommt das Unheil für die Starken, sondern von den Schwächsten. Weiss man das?… In’s Grosse gerechnet, ist es durchaus nicht die Furcht vor dem Menschen, deren Verminderung man wünschen dürfte: denn diese Furcht zwingt die Starken dazu, stark, unter Umständen furchtbar zu sein, — sie hält den wohlgerathenen Typus Mensch aufrecht. Was zu fürchten ist, was verhängnissvoll wirkt wie kein andres Verhängniss, das wäre nicht die grosse Furcht, sondern der grosse Ekel vor dem Menschen; insgleichen das grosse Mitleid mit dem Menschen. Gesetzt, dass diese beiden eines Tages sich begatteten, so würde unvermeidlich sofort etwas vom Unheimlichsten zur Welt kommen, der „letzte Wille“ des Menschen, sein Wille zum Nichts, der Nihilismus.     The more normal this pathology is among human beings — and we cannot deny its normality — the higher we should esteem the rare cases of spiritual and physical power, humanity’s strokes of luck, and the more strongly successful people should protect themselves from the most poisonous air, the atmosphere of illness. Do people do that? … Sick people are the greatest danger for healthy people. For strong people disaster does not come from the strongest, but from the weakest. Are we aware of that?… If we consider the big picture, we shouldn’t want any diminution of the fear we have of human beings, for this fear compels the strong people to be strong and, in some circumstances, terrible. That fear sustains the successful types of people. What we should fear, what has a disastrous effect unlike any other, would not be a great fear of humanity but a great loathing for humanity or, for the same reasons, a great pity for mankind. If these both these were one day were to mate, then something most weird would at once appear in the world, the “ultimate will” of man, his will to nothingness, nihilism.

Continue reading nietzsche on saints and sickness

sinners and saints

Michael is having dinner with his friend David A. David is a trial lawyer. He is a member of the plaintiffs’ bar. He makes political contributions to the Democrats. David roots for the underdog. He represents Michael against the libel lawsuit by WebEx. WebEx is complaining about Michael’s public account of their failed coverup of child rape by their founder Min Zhu. Min Zhu’s sexual abuse of his daughter Erin is a matter of public record. The outed daughter rapist has since lost his job as WebEx President. He has testified under oath about his plans to “retire” altogether.

Michael credits himself with bringing his degeneracy to the attention of WebEx employees and investors. He thinks of Dante Alighieri encountering in Canto 15 of the Inferno his old master Brunetto Latini.

Brunetto’s sin is sodomy. Dante’s testimony is the only evidence of Brunetto’s sodomite proclivities that we possess. Dante’s outing of sexual perversion is the first such instance that we know. His pen permanently degrades courtly scholar Brunetto to a grotesque apparition.

    The lowest among incontinent sinners, sodomites are punished in the seventh circle of Hell for their violent love. It is violence of the worst kind, violence committed against God:

    Puossi far forza nella deitade,
col cor negando e bestemmiando quella,
e spregiando natura e sua bontade;
    One can be violent against the Godhead,
one’s heart denying and blaspheming Him
and scorning nature and the good in her;
    e però lo minor giron suggella
del segno suo e Soddoma e Caorsa
e chi, spregiando Dio col cor, favella.
    so, with its sign, the smallest ring has sealed
both Sodom and Cahors and all of those
who speak in passionate contempt of God.
    ― Inferno, Canto 11, 46-51     ― translated by Allen Mandelbaum

By juxtaposing Sodom and Cahors, Dante follows Thomas Aquinas in placing sexual sterility alongside with economic parasitism. In the Middle Ages, the French town of Cahors was reviled as a nest of usurers. Matthew of Paris, in his 1235 Historia Major, describes the Usury of the Cahorsins as follows:

In these days prevailed the horrible nuisance of the Caursines to such a degree that there was hardly any one in all England, especially among the bishops, who was not caught in their net. Even the king himself was held indebted to them in an uncalculable sum of money. For they circumvented the needy in their necessities, cloaking their usury under the show of trade, and pretending not to know that whatever is added to the principal is usury, under whatever name it may be called. For it is manifest that their loans lie not in the path of charity, inasmuch as they do not hold out a helping hand to the poor to relieve them, but to deceive them; not to aid others in their starvation, but to gratify their own covetousness; seeing that the motive stamps our every deed.
— translated by J.A. Giles

Usurers hold the social ends of labor in contempt by reaping its economic benefits while avoiding production. Sodomites hold the natural ends of sex in contempt by reaping its venereal pleasures while precluding human generation. Dante consigns sodomites to perpetual motion under falling fire and over an arid sandy plain “that banishes all green things from its bed.” (See Inferno, Canto 14, 7-15.) Deeper yet, in the Eighth Circle, reside the falsifiers.

In their midst Dante finds Myrrha, the incestuous daughter, “she who loved her father past the limits of just love”, she who “came to sin with him by falsely taking another’s shape upon herself”, whose tale came to Dante by way of Ovid, from the Tenth Book of his Metamorphoses.

Below her, avoided by Dante amidst the giants in the Ninth Circle, resides the giant Tityus, whose mere attempt to rape Latona, mother of Apollo and Diana, causes his eternal torment by a vulture continuously feeding on his constantly regenerating liver.

The poets of classical antiquity painted vivid images of Tituys’ punishment:

Nec non et Tityon, Terrae omniparentis alumnum,
cernere erat, per tota novem cui iubera corpus
porrigitur, rostroque immanis voltur obunco
immortale iecur tondens fecundaque poenis
viscera, rimaturque epulis, habitatque sub alto
pectore, nec fibris requies datur ulla renatis.
There Tityus was to see, who took his birth
From heav’n, his nursing from the foodful earth.
Here his gigantic limbs, with large embrace,
Infold nine acres of infernal space.
A rav’nous vulture, in his open’d side,
Her crooked beak and cruel talons tried;
Still for the growing liver digg’d his breast;
The growing liver still supplied the feast;
Still are his entrails fruitful to their pains:
Th’ immortal hunger lasts, th’ immortal food remains.
― Virgil, Aeneid, VI.595-600 translated by John Dryden

Quam simul agnorunt inter caliginis umbras,
surrexere deae. Sedes scelerata vocatur:
viscera praebebat Tityos lanianda novemque
iugeribus distentus erat; tibi, Tantale, nullae
deprenduntur aquae, quaeque inminet, effugit arbor
This is the place of woe, here groan the dead;
Huge Tityus o’er nine acres here is spread.
Fruitful for pain th’ immortal liver breeds,
Still grows, and still th’ insatiate vulture feeds.
Poor Tantalus to taste the water tries,
But from his lips the faithless water flies:
Then thinks the bending tree he can command,
The tree starts backwards, and eludes his hand.
― Ovid, Metamorphoses, IV.455-459 translated by John Dryden

The smallest circle of hell is the circle of treachery, defined as fraudulent acts between individuals who share special bonds of love and trust:

    «La frode, ond’ogne coscienza è morsa,
può l’omo usare in colui che ‘n lui fida
e in quel che fidanza non imborsa.
    “Now fraud, that eats away at every conscience,
is practiced by a man against another
who trusts in him, or one who has no trust.
    Questo modo di retro par ch’incida
pur lo vinco d’amor che fa natura;
onde nel cerchio secondo s’annida
    This latter way seems only to cut off
the bond of love that nature forges; thus,
nestled within the second circle are:
    ipocresia, lusinghe e chi affattura,
falsità, ladroneccio e simonia,
ruffian, baratti e simile lordura.
    hypocrisy and flattery, sorcerers,
and falsifiers, simony, and theft,
and barrators and panders and like trash.
    Per l’altro modo quell’amor s’oblia
che fa natura, e quel ch’è poi aggiunto,
di che la fede spezial si cria;
    But in the former way of fraud, not only
the love that nature forges is forgotten,
but added love that builds a special trust;
    onde nel cerchio minore, ov’è ‘l punto
de l’universo in su che Dite siede,
qualunque trade in etterno è consunto».
    thus, in the tightest circle, where there is
the universe’s center, seat of Dis,
all traitors are consumed eternally.”
Inferno, Canto 11, 52-66 ― translated by Allen Mandelbaum

And so, in Cocytus, inside the fourth ring of the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno, traitors against their benefactors lie immobilized, totally covered in ice:

    Noi passammo oltre, là ‘ve la gelata
ruvidamente un’altra gente fascia,
non volta in giù, ma tutta riversata.
    We passed beyond, where frozen water wraps ―
a rugged covering ― still other sinners,
who were not bent, but flat upon their backs.
    Lo pianto stesso lì pianger non lascia,
e ‘l duol che truova in su li occhi rintoppo,
si volge in entro a far crescer l’ambascia;
    Their very weeping there won’t let them weep,
and grief that finds a barrier in their eyes
turns inward to increase their agony;
    ché le lagrime prime fanno groppo,
e sì come visiere di cristallo,
riempion sotto ‘l ciglio tutto il coppo.
    because their first tears freeze into a cluster,
and, like a crystal visor, fill up all
the hollow that is underneath the eyebrow.
    E avvegna che, sì come d’un callo,
per la freddura ciascun sentimento
cessato avesse del mio viso stallo,
    And though, because of cold, my every sense
had left its dwelling in my face, just as
a callus has no feeling, nonetheless,
    già mi parea sentire alquanto vento:
per ch’io: «Maestro mio, questo chi move?
non è qua giù ogne vapore spento?».
    I seemed to feel some wind now, and I said:
“My master, who has set this gust in motion?
For isn’t every vapor quenched down here?”
    Ond’elli a me: «Avaccio sarai dove
di ciò ti farà l’occhio la risposta,
veggendo la cagion che ‘l fiato piove».
    And he to me: “You soon shall be where your
own eye will answer that, when you shall see
the reason why this wind blasts from above.”
    E un de’ tristi de la fredda crosta
gridò a noi: «O anime crudeli,
tanto che data v’è l’ultima posta,
    And one of those sad sinners in the cold
crust, cried to us: “O souls who are so cruel
that this last place has been assigned to you,
    levatemi dal viso i duri veli,
sì ch’io sfoghi ‘l duol che ‘l cor m’impregna,
un poco, pria che ‘l pianto si raggeli».
    take off the hard veils from my face so that
I can release the suffering that fills
my heart before lament freezes again.”
    Per ch’io a lui: «Se vuo’ ch’i’ ti sovvegna,
dimmi chi se’, e s’io non ti disbrigo,
al fondo de la ghiaccia ir mi convegna».
    To which I answered: “If you’d have me help you,
then tell me who you are; if I don’t free you,
may I go to the bottom of the ice.”
    Rispuose adunque: «I’ son frate Alberigo;
i’ son quel da le frutta del mal orto,
che qui riprendo dattero per figo».
    He answered then: “I am Fra Alberigo,
the one who tended fruits in a bad garden,
and here my figs have been repaid with dates.”
    «Oh!», diss’io lui, «or se’ tu ancor morto?».
Ed elli a me: «Come ‘l mio corpo stea
nel mondo sù, nulla scienza porto.
    “But then,” I said, “are you already dead?”
And he to me: “I have no knowledge of
my body’s fate within the world above.
    Cotal vantaggio ha questa Tolomea,
che spesse volte l’anima ci cade
innanzi ch’Atropòs mossa le dea.
    For Ptolomea has this privilege:
quite frequently the soul falls here before
it has been thrust away by Atropos.
    E perché tu più volentier mi rade
le ‘nvetriate lagrime dal volto,
sappie che, tosto che l’anima trade
    And that you may with much more willingness
scrape these glazed tears from off my face, know this:
as soon as any soul becomes a traitor,
    come fec’io, il corpo suo l’è tolto
da un demonio, che poscia il governa
mentre che ‘l tempo suo tutto sia vòlto.
    as I was, then a demon takes its body
away ― and keeps that body in his power
until its years have run their course completely.
    Ella ruina in sì fatta cisterna;
e forse pare ancor lo corpo suso
de l’ombra che di qua dietro mi verna.
    The soul falls headlong, down into this cistern;
and up above, perhaps, there still appears
the body of the shade that winters here
    Tu ‘l dei saper, se tu vien pur mo giuso:
elli è ser Branca Doria, e son più anni
poscia passati ch’el fu sì racchiuso».
    behind me; you must know him, if you’ve just
come down; he is Ser Branca Doria;
for many years he has been thus pent up.”
    «Io credo», diss’io lui, «che tu m’inganni;
ché Branca Doria non morì unquanche,
e mangia e bee e dorme e veste panni».
    I said to him: “I think that you deceive me,
for Branca Doria is not yet dead;
he eats and drinks and sleeps and puts on clothes.”
    «Nel fosso sù», diss’el, «de’ Malebranche,
là dove bolle la tenace pece,
non era ancor giunto Michel Zanche,
    ”There in the Malebranche’s ditch above,
where sticky pitch boils up, Michele Zanche
had still not come,” he said to me, “when this one ―
    che questi lasciò il diavolo in sua vece
nel corpo suo, ed un suo prossimano
che ‘l tradimento insieme con lui fece.
    together with a kinsman, who had done
the treachery together with him ― left
a devil in his stead inside his body.
    Ma distendi oggimai in qua la mano;
aprimi li occhi». E io non gliel’apersi;
e cortesia fu lui esser villano.
    But now reach out your hand; open my eyes.”
And yet I did not open them for him;
and it was courtesy to show him rudeness.
    Ahi Genovesi, uomini diversi
d’ogne costume e pien d’ogne magagna,
perché non siete voi del mondo spersi?
    Ah, Genoese, a people strange to every
constraint of custom, full of all corruption,
why have you not been driven from the world?
    Ché col peggiore spirto di Romagna
trovai di voi un tal, che per sua opra
in anima in Cocito già si bagna,
    For with the foulest spirit of Romagna,
I found one of you such that, for his acts,
in soul he bathes already in Cocytus
    e in corpo par vivo ancor di sopra.     and up above appears alive, in body.
Inferno, Canto 33, 89-157 ― translated by Allen Mandelbaum

The privilege of Ptolomea is to house treacherous souls even in the lifetime of the bodies from whence they are descended. His soul fallen headlong into the lowest circle of Hell, the sinner lives out his days unaware of this loss, unresisting the devil that controls his soulless shell. He lives on without a conscience, in unwitting anticipation of supine paralysis in the frozen waters of Cocytus. Averted from introspection, his gaze is unprepared for the eternal agony of remorseful self-regard. Through consigning his soul to Hell by betraying the bond of hospitality, the sinner achieves the singular distinction of forswearing his chance for salvation through repentance in his lifetime. Treachery is his shortcut to an abridgment of hope.

 &nbsp  A child in her parents’ home benefits from the most sacred bond of hospitality. Conjured forth by sex, she enters their household in a state of utter dependence upon her hosts. Michael reflects on the character of a man that violently betrays this bond, exploiting her dependence for the sake of expending his lust. In the character of unnatural fatherhood, distorted by violent lust, the daughter rapist descends from the high tragedy of Myrrha making her fatal unfilial advances to unwitting Cinyras, to the common realm of the rustic folktale, ill suited to a civilized setting. He wonders what possessed him to invest his labor in an enterprise conceived between his former best friend and her child rapist father. He cannot fathom his own choices at the turn of the millennium.
&nbsp   Michael met David in 1999. At that time, Michael was in a business partnership with his ex-girlfriend Erin Zhu. They were looking for corporate counsel to assist them in the deal Erin made with WebEx, an Internet startup co-founded by her father. David came recommended by Michael’s friend Lenny R. Lenny graduated from Caltech with a PhD in applied mathematics. He was running his own technology startup after buying out his former partner. Lenny’s advice was to get a trial lawyer, because sooner or later, all partnerships wound up in litigation. His prophecy fulfilled itself within the year. WebEx breached their contract with Erin and Michael. Instead of complaining on business grounds, Erin hired their friend David on a token contingent fee basis of 2.5%, to sue her father for childhood sexual abuse. She promised to buy out Michael’s half of their partnership after receiving her recovery from Min Zhu. Min Zhu balked at the prospect of paying a middleman in settling for his daughter’s sexual services. Erin went along with his offer to pay most of her blood money under the table. She promised to pay her debts to Michael and David from that clandestine settlement. In the meantime, she borrowed more money from Michael’s friends and family to support her romance with an aging German pop musician, Blixa Bargeld. And once she got her money from Min, Erin cut off all communications with her creditors. In a futile attempt to forestall Michael’s complaint, anonymous threats named him a dead man on the behalves of WebEx and Min Zhu. The lawsuits settled three years later, on October 25th of last year. In the meantime, Michael’s father Isaak, plaintiff in a related lawsuit, has perished from an apartment fire of suspicious origins. Michael is poised to hound WebEx and the Zhus into the deepest circle of Hell.

    Michael reflects upon his inadequacy to follow in the footsteps of Dante. Dante is the greatest poet since the classical age. Only Shakespeare comes close in modern history. For the grandeur of Dante’s moral vision, Shakespeare substitutes familiarity. His heroes are easier to take. Hamlet is a modern character because the excellence of his intellect is compromised by the setting of a third-rate Elizabethan revenge drama. Michael finds himself trapped in a postmodern travesty of Elsinore, populated with characters from an X-rated soap opera. “Du sublime au ridicule il n’ya qu’un pas.” By constantly commenting upon the single step separating the sublime from the ridiculous, Napoléon Bonaparte anticipated the cruel conclusion of his brilliant career. Michael’s career rests on the distinction between a gadfly and a horse’s arse. He doesn’t mind being a bit of both.
    Michael is talking with David. His thoughts turn from sinners to saints. He recalls William James pausing to pick a fight with Friedrich Nietzsche in the course of discussing the value of saintliness in Lectures 14 and 15 of The Varieties of Religious Experience:

    The most inimical critic of the saintly impulses whom I know is Nietzsche. He contrasts them with the worldly passions as we find these embodied in the predaceous military character, altogether to the advantage of the latter. Your born saint, it must be confessed, has something about him which often makes the gorge of a carnal man rise, so it will be worth while to consider the contrast in question more fully.
    Dislike of the saintly nature seems to be a negative result of the biologically useful instinct of welcoming leadership, and glorifying the chief of the tribe. The chief is the potential, if not the actual tyrant, the masterful, overpowering man of prey. We confess our inferiority and grovel before him. We quail under his glance, and are at the same time proud of owning so dangerous a lord. Such instinctive and submissive hero-worship must have been indispensable in primeval tribal life. In the endless wars of those times, leaders were absolutely needed for the tribe’s survival. If there were any tribes who owned no leaders, they can have left no issue to narrate their doom. The leaders always had good consciences, for conscience in them coalesced with Will, and those who looked on their face were as much smitten with wonder at their freedom from inner restraint as with awe at the energy of their outward performances.

    Compared with these beaked and taloned graspers of the world, saints are herbivorous animals, tame and harmless barn-yard poultry. There are saints whose beard you may, if you ever care to, pull with impunity. Such a man excites no thrills of wonder veiled in terror; his conscience is full of scruples and returns; he stuns us neither by his inward freedom nor his outward power; and unless he found within us an altogether different faculty of admiration to appeal to, we should pass him by with contempt.
    In point of fact, he does appeal to a different faculty. Reenacted in human nature is the fable of the wind, the sun, and the traveler. The sexes embody the discrepancy. The woman loves the man the more admiringly the stormier he shows himself, and the world deifies its rulers the more for being willful and unaccountable. But the woman in turn subjugates the man by the mystery of gentleness in beauty, and the saint has always charmed the world by something similar. Mankind is susceptible and suggestible in opposite directions, and the rivalry of influences is unsleeping. The saintly and the worldly ideal pursue their feud in literature as much as in real life.
    For Nietzsche the saint represents little but sneakingness and slavishness. He is the sophisticated invalid, the degenerate par excellence, the man of insufficient vitality. His prevalence would put the human type in danger.

“The sick are the greatest danger for the well. The weaker, not the stronger, are the strong’s undoing. It is not fear of our fellow-man, which we should wish to see diminished; for fear rouses those who are strong to become terrible in turn themselves, and preserves the hard-earned and successful type of humanity. What is to be dreaded by us more than any other doom is not fear, but rather the great disgust, not fear, but rather the great pity ― disgust and pity for our human fellows…. The morbid are our greatest peril ― not the ‘bad’ men, not the predatory beings. Those born wrong, the miscarried, the broken ― they it is, the weakest, who are undermining the vitality of the race, poisoning our trust in life, and putting humanity in question. Every look of them is a sigh ― ‘Would I were something other! I am sick and tired of what I am.’ In this swamp-soil of self-contempt, every poisonous weed flourishes, and all so small, so secret, so dishonest, and so sweetly rotten. Here swarm the worms of sensitiveness and resentment; here the air smells odious with secrecy, with what is not to be acknowledged; here is woven endlessly the net of the meanest of conspiracies, the conspiracy of those who suffer against those who succeed and are victorious; here the very aspect of the victorious is hated ― as if health, success, strength, pride, and the sense of power were in themselves things vicious, for which one ought eventually to make bitter expiation. Oh, how these people would themselves like to inflict the expiation, how they thirst to be the hangmen! And all the while their duplicity never confesses their hatred to be hatred.” (Zur Genealogie der Moral, Dritte Abhandlung, §14. I have abridged, and in one place transposed, a sentence.)

    Poor Nietzsche’s antipathy is itself sickly enough, but we all know what he means, and he expresses well the clash between the two ideals. The carnivorous-minded “strong man,” the adult male and cannibal, can see nothing but mouldiness and morbidness in the saint’s gentleness and self-severity, and regards him with pure loathing. The whole feud revolves essentially upon two pivots: Shall the seen world or the unseen world be our chief sphere of adaptation? and must our means of adaptation in this seen world be aggressiveness or non-resistance?
    The debate is serious. In some sense and to some degree both worlds must be acknowledged and taken account of; and in the seen world both aggressiveness and non-resistance are needful. It is a question of emphasis, of more or less. Is the saint’s type or the strong-man’s type the more ideal?

The sexes in David’s family embody their discrepancy otherwise. David met his wife Vickie in an AOL classical music chat room. Vickie came to Orange County as a child. She was born in Vietnam. Her moneyed and landed family fled the Communists. Vickie’s sense of entitlement to having her way emerged unscathed. She loves herself the more admiringly the stormier she shows herself. David often finds himself propelled beyond his wit’s end by a willful and unaccountable ruler. But he has learned to welcome Vickie’s leadership. He usually succeeds at charming his family by some combination of worldly accomplishment and saintly forbearance.
    David is not sure what Nietzsche means. He has just lost his trial against a defense contractor. The defendant fired David’s client, Dr. Nira S., after six months of employment. Nira complained that she was dismissed for investigating fraud in the missile defense system that her employer was developing for the Pentagon. Her employer retorted that Nira was unfit for her duties. In her late fifties, Nira speaks in the high pitched cadences of a little girl. Since the early days of the third millennium, she has generated countless reams of legalistic paperwork advocating her whistleblower claims for hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of the U.S. government. The U.S. government retorted by shutting down her qui tam actions on the grounds of national security. Nira believes that she has been blackballed since filing her lawsuit. It follows from her inability to find a job in her field despite having sent out more than 300 resumes. David has persevered with Nira’s claim for wrongful termination by the defense contractor. He has spent thousands of unpaid hours pursuing it on a contingent fee basis. He has no regrets. His country is being held hostage to a conglomerate of “red states”. Republican fraud must be exposed, even at the risk of ridicule.
    Michael questions the notion of fraud being particular to the Republican administration. He ranks it among the classics of political revisionism, alongside with stealing the patrimony of Abraham Lincoln on behalf of the party of George Wallace. He cannot account for the malign amalgamation of mephitic bile and paint-blistering stupidity that contaminates otherwise gracious and thoughtful discourse of civilians finding themselves on the washed-out side of an electoral contest. Sore losers.

Né vi sbigottisca quella antichità del sangue che ei ci rimproverano; perché tutti gli uomini, avendo avuto uno medesimo principio, sono ugualmente antichi, e da la natura sono stati fatti ad uno modo. Spogliateci tutti ignudi: voi ci vedrete simili, rivestite noi delle veste loro ed eglino delle nostre: noi senza dubio nobili ed eglino ignobili parranno; perché solo la povertà e le ricchezze ci disaguagliano. […] Ma se voi noterete il modo del procedere degli uomini, vedrete tutti quelli che a ricchezze grandi e a grande potenza pervengono o con frode o con forza esservi pervenuti; e quelle cose, di poi, ch’eglino hanno o con inganno o con violenza usurpate, per celare la bruttezza dello acquisto, quello sotto falso titolo di guadagno adonestano.
― Niccolò Machiavelli, Istorie fiorentine, libro terzo, 13
Be not deceived about that antiquity of blood by which they exalt themselves above us; for all men having had one common origin, are all equally ancient, and nature has made us all after one fashion. Strip us naked, and we shall all be found alike. Dress us in their clothing, and they in ours, we shall appear noble, they ignoble—for poverty and riches make all the difference. […] If you only notice human proceedings, you may observe that all who attain great power and riches, make use of either force or fraud; and what they have acquired either by deceit or violence, in order to conceal the disgraceful methods of attainment, they endeavor to sanctify with the false title of honest gains.
History of Florence

David is ambivalent about leadership. Earlier last year, he scored a very palpable hit against a Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer. His partner in that case was John W. David moved out of his office sublet at a white shoe law firm to share a space with John. Not a year later, shortly after negotiating a settlement of their big case in the wake of a tortuous mistrial, John asked David to move out. Upon hearing the news, Michael first attributed it to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre syndrome. He knows what gold does to men’s souls. But as David fulminated about John’s Republican predilections and Christian beliefs licensing him to screw over his neighbor without regret or remorse, Michael came to doubt his fitness to play the part of Fred C. Dobbs.

His doubt coalesced into certainty when David reported a fair outcome in dividing the spoils with his former partner. Through his conversations with John, Michael concluded that David and he were simply unwilling to follow and unable to lead. Both of them consigned themselves to solo practice. Contrariwise, David is uneasy with force and fraud concomitant with business leadership. Michael recalls accompanying David to a Palo Alto restaurant five years earlier. David went there to present Erin’s rape claims to her parents. Michael came along as David’s bodyguard. Both Erin and David were concerned about the likelihood of a violent reprisal. David and Michael arrived early and sat separately. Just mefore the Zhus walked in, David connected with Michael through their cell phones. Michael saw and heard what happened next.
    Min Zhu came in with his wife Susan Xu. They greeted David and sat down at his table. Min expressed no surprise at Erin’s accusations of serial rape. He did not bother to deny her claims. Instead, he described his experiences in China during the Cultural Revolution. Min and Susan had been sent to a village for re-education. They struggled very hard just to survive. Min had prevailed in many fights against the villagers. He eventually made it to the U.S. as a graduate student at Stanford. He succeeded in building WebEx, a corporation already valued at over a billion dollars even before going public. Min was unperturbed by the prospect of losing everything. Such loss would be nothing in comparison to the hardships that he suffered in his youth. He looked forward to fighting for his life. He was prepared for the worst and resigned to the likelihood of being martyred by corrupt American justice. Susan said nothing. She heard Min’s litany many times before. Min was an expert at terrorizing his family. He did not do so well with someone his own size. Susan liked other men. She batted her eyelashes at David.
    On their drive back to the San Jose airport, David recounted his impressions of Min and Susan. Min had the appearance of a crusty old crab. He was tough and ruthless. Susan acted weird. She started out by giving David the evil eye, then appeared to flirt with him. Engrossed by his story, David missed the freeway exit three times in a row. Michael suspects that in looking on Min Zhu’s face, David was as much smitten with wonder at his freedom from inner restraint as with awe at the energy of his outward performances. In witnessing Min Zhu’s deposition in his case a few months earlier, Michael was underwhelmed. He saw a badly dressed, prematurely aged man carping about his wayward daughter’s taste in fancy underwear. The comb-over winding around his forehead stood proxy for not fooling anyone. Min refused to address the child rape allegations. He will be unable to evade them in deposition for a libel lawsuit that WebEx has filed against Michael.
    Michael is reluctant to join David in complaining about political uses of force and fraud. Partisan hyperbole fails by proving too much from supposing too little. Reciprocal application of Democratic invective to their makers fails only through an act of blind faith in their divine election. The human lot is to be ruled by liars and cheats. Political conscience is a connivance. Both parties lie and cheat on platforms dedicated to uplifting their benighted electorate. In the Republican case, their imperialist ambition has caused the winners to be loathed by their foreign inferiors. In the Democrat case, their domestic condescension has caused the losers to be rejected by their uncouth electorate. The Republicans propound agenda without nuance. The Democrats dither in nuance without agenda. Given these alternatives, Michael resents being called upon to choose between being hated by foreigners and being despised by his compatriots.
    And yet, living in a time of the Fourth World War has its own rewards. Islamism is a fatal threat to democracy. Its menace is aggravated by disparities in the rates of population growth and memetic propagation. Failure to resist it is scarcely excused by the duplicity of administration or the incompetence of command. The litany of Western political fraud and war crimes cannot sustain liberal tolerance for Oriental atrocities. Babies have died in all wars, just and unjust. Propounding baby-killing as the epitome of political evil does not decide the question of justice in rescuing the next generation from tyranny. In this setting, pacifists succeed only in relinquishing their capacity to oppose evil with force to their social inferiors. Justice comes from strife. It cannot emerge from nurturing dupes in the service of knaves. There will be no peace in the Middle East as long as the Jewish state stands as its sole democracy. There will be no security in the United States until and unless we succeed at Islamic nation building.
    Meanwhile, as Dante has vividly shown, amusement and instruction of the highest order can come from the lowest of constituents. Michael recalls the old American saying that Robert Stone coined in A Flag for Sunrise: “Mickey Mouse will see you dead.”
In fact, the neotenic rodent will see all of us dead. American culture marches forth triumphant. Michael takes solace in the certainty of checking out properly educated and well entertained.

3. principles and circumstances

    The revolutionary fevers of 1848 redefined the identities of European powers for generations to come. Their germs came from France. The first banners of rebellion arose in the cause of universal suffrage. The end of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars in 1814, with its tragic aftermath at Waterloo in 1815, ushered in the reactionary restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the person of Louis XVIII. This new King of France was a brother of Louis XVI, guillotined during the revolution. The key to his fate was forged by Talleyrand. That shadowy architect of French polity, who in 1796 had consigned it to Napoléon’s Brumaire coup d’état, endured to rescue it in 1814 from humiliation by its victors at the Congress of Vienna.

Continue reading 3. principles and circumstances