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246 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1983
Y esas invenciones, desgraciadamente, se asentaron en crónicas que se escribieron en libros a los que todo el mundo respetó y por lo tanto creyó, solamente porque eran gruesos, difíciles de manejar, aburridos y viejos. También figuraron en leyendas que son esos recitados en los que todo el mundo dice que no cree porque son poco serios y en los que todo el mundo cree precisamente porque son poco serios.
Yo soy el que les va a contar cómo sucedieron las cosas, porque es a los contadores de cuentos a quienes toca decir la verdad aunque la verdad no tenga el libro de lo inventado, sino otra belleza, a la que los tontos califican de miserable o mezquina.
También sabía que los hombres no piensan. No, no te rías, no piensan. De vez en cuando alguno piensa, es cierto, y lo dice o lo escribe, y eso es tan extraordinario que nadie lo olvida.
When the Great Empress prohibited all private transportation by wheeled vehicles, many people said she was crazy. Even I, who knew her well by then, looked at her in astonishment and asked her what could be the use of so absurd a measure.
“They increase delinquency,” she answered, “they’ve increased divorces and confinements for mental instability.”
“I confess I don’t understand you, ma’am,” I said. “What have wheeled vehicles got to do with all that? What you ought to do, surely, is institute measures against delinquency, divorces, and insanity.”
“And increase the size of the police force and extend their powers?” said she. “Make it even harder for people to get a divorce? Encourage doctors to study and treat the mad? How stupid. You wouldn’t be a good ruler, my dear friend, although I hope my sons will be. All we’d get by that would be more policemen full of pride and brutality, more lawyers full of red tape, more doctors full of fatuity, and hence more criminal assaults, more divorces, and more nut cases.”
“And by prohibiting private transportation-?” I enquired.
“We’ll see,” she told me.
She was right, of course. Cars and private planes disappeared. Only those who absolutely had to travel more than twenty kilometres were allowed to use public transportation on wheels. Most people walked, or rode donkeys, or, if they were wealthy, had themselves carried in litters. Life slowed down. People didn’t get anxious, because it wasn’t any use. The big centres of buying and selling and banking and industry disappeared, where everybody used to crowd in and push each other and get cross and curse each other out, and small shops opened, little places in every neighbourhood where every merchant and banker and businessman knew his customers and their families.
And the Great Empress smiled in satisifaction and I admitted to her she’d been right and told her the history of Sderemir the Borenid.
“Yes,” she said, “I know a lot of people say the world is complicated. The ones who say so are the ones who are kept anxious all the time by their work or their family, by a move or an illness, a storm, anything unexpected, anything at all; and then they make bad choices and when things turn out badly they blame it on the world for being complicated and not on their own low and imperfect standards. Why don’t they go further? Why say ‘the world is complicated’ and stop there? I say the world is complicated but not incomprehensible. Only you have to look at it steadily.”
"...all power can do is silence people, keep them from singing, arguing, dancing, talking, brawling, making speeches and composing music. That's all. That's a lot, you may say, but I tell you it's not enough. For what power can keep the earth from speaking to people? What weapons can keep water from running and stones from rolling? What artillery can keep a storm from crouching on the horizon, ready to burst?"