The Campaign is Inadvertantly Launched

A journalist hears rumors of the planned campaign and composes lengthy articles containing no more than his speculations on the subject. The articles ignite the people’s imagination.

It seems that  the bona fide, practical realist just doesn’t love reality or take it seriously. As a child he crawls under the table when his parents are out, converting their living room by this simple yet inspired trick into an adventure. As a boy he longs for a watch; as a young man with a gold watch, for a wife to go with it; as a man with watch and wife, for a promotion; and yet, when he has happily achieved this little circle of desires and should be peacefully swinging back and forth in it like a pendulum, his supply of unsatisfied yearnings does not seem to have diminished at all. For if he wants to elevate himself above the daily rut, he resorts to figures of speech. Since to him snow is evidently unpleasant at times, he compares it to a woman’s shimmering bosom, and as soon as he begins to tire of his wife’s breasts, he likens them to shimmering snow. He would be horrified if the beaks of his wife’s nipples actually turned to coral, or their billing and cooing turned out come from the horny beak of a real dove, but poetically it excites him. He is capable of turning everything into something else–snow to skin, skin to flower petals, petals to sugar, sugar to powder, powder to drifting snow again–as long as he can make it out to be something it is not, which may be taken to prove that he cannot bear to stay in the same place for long, no matter where he may find himself. Most of all, no true Kakanian could, in his soul, bear Kakania for long. To ask of him an “Austrian Century” would be tantamount to asking him to sentence himself and the world to the punishments of hell by an absurdly voluntary effort. An Austrian Year, on the other hand, was quite something else. It meant: Let’s show them, for once, who we could be!–but, so to speak, only until further notice, and for a year at most. One could understand by it whatever one liked, it wasn’t for eternity, and this somehow touched the heart. It stirred to life the deepest love of one’s country….And so Count Leinsdorf had an undreamed of success.  (I,145-146)

The Count is unprepared for the vigorous response of the citizens.

In almost no time after he had sent out his statement to the press, His Grace had intimations that all those who have no money harbor inside them an unpleasant crank. This opinionated man-within-the-man goes with him to the office every morning and has absolutely no way to air his protest against the way things are done in the world; so instead he keeps his eyes glued to a lifelong secret point of his own that everyone else refuses to see, although it is obviously the source of all the misery in a world that will not recognize its savior. Such fixed points, where the center of a person’s equilibrium coincides with the world’s center of equilibrium, may be, for instance, a spittoon that can be shut with a simple latch; or the abolition of open salt cellars in restaurants, the kind people poke their knives into, so as to stop at one stroke the spread of that scourge of mankind, tuberculosis; or the adoption of Oehl’s system of shorthand, so effective a time-saver it can solve the problems of society once and for all; or conversion to a natural mode of living that would halt the present random destruction of the environment; not to mention a metaphysical theory of the motions of celestial bodies, simplification of the administrative apparatus, and a reform of sex life. (I,147)

The Count had expected a response from those who had earned a measure of respect, but not this.

The one thing His Grace had not reckoned with and that surprised him was the widespread need to improve the world, which was hatched out by the warmth of a great occasion as insect eggs are hatched by a fire. His Grace had not counted on this; he had expected a great amount of patriotism but was not prepared for inventions, theories, schemes for world unity, and people demanding the he release them from intellectual prisons….In this situation he felt an increasingly desperate need for Ulrich… (I,148-149)


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