Wednesday 23 November 2011

Seven people were nothing

Further to my last post.

From John le Carré "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold". Liz is depressed by the poor attendance at the Party Meetings when she visits East Germany - they are no better then the Communist Party meetings she attended back in Bayswater, London.
At last, on the fourth day, the Thursday, came their own Branch Meeting. This was to be, for Liz at least, the most exhilarating experience of all; it would be an example of all that her own Branch in Bayswater could be one day. They had chosen a wonderful title for the evening's discussions - Coexistence after two wars - and they expected a record attendance. The whole ward had been circularised, they had taken care to see that there was no rival meeting in the neighbourhood that evening; it was not a late shopping day.
Seven people came.
Seven people and Liz and the Branch Secretary and the man from the District. Liz put a brave face on it but she was terribly upset. [...] It was like the meetings in Bayswater, it was like mid-week evensong when she used to go to Church - the same dutiful little group of lost faces, the same fussy self-consciousness, the same feeling of a great idea in the hands of little people. She always felt the same thing - it was awful, really, but she did - she wished no one would turn up, because that was absolute and it suggested persecution, humiliation - it was something you could react to.
But seven people were nothing: they were worse than nothing, because they were evidence of the inertia of the uncapturable mass. They broke your heart.
There would be a message, information, in no one turning up, but seven people is thermodynamic equilibrium.

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