Archive | August 2015

Manhattan Transfer – John Dos Passos II

Manhattan Transfer does not reach a conclusion or climax but fades out, true in its effort to capture the erratic, cinematic way of life in New York. I found a blurb of a bookseller who described the book as ‘cubist’, which is quite apt. The characters and scenes are put together in the way in which painters would collage newspaper clippings,¬†bottles, tables and violins. I enjoyed being immersed in this modern work, it reads thoroughly contemporary. A nice conversation between three downtrodden men to close the post on Manhattan Transfer:



“It’s the same all over the world, the police beating us up, rich people cheating us out of their starvation wages, and who’s fault? … Dio cane! Your fault, my fault, Emile’s fault….”

“We didn’t make the world…. They did or maybe God did.”

“God’s on their side, like a policeman…. When the day comes we’ll kill God…. I am an anarchist.”

Congo hummed “les bourgeois √† la lanterne nom de dieu.”

“Are you one of us?”

Congo shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not a catholic or a protestant. I haven’t any money and I haven’t any work. Look at that.” Congo pointed with a dirty finger to a long rip on his trouserknee. “That’s anarchist…. Hell I’m going out to Senegal and get to be a nigger.”

“You look like one already,” laughed Emile. “People are all the same. It’s only that some people get ahead and others dont. … That’s why I came to New York.”

“Dio cane I think that too twentyfive years ago. … When you’re old like me you know better. Doesn’t the shame of it get you sometimes? Here” …he tapped with his knuckles on his stiff shirtfront. … “I feel it hot and like choking me here. … Then I say to myself Courage our day is coming, our day of blood.”

“I say to myself,” said Emile “When you have some money old kid.”

“Listen before I leave Torino when I go last time to see the mama I go to a meetin of comrades. … A fellow from Capua got up to speak … a very handsome man, tall and very thin. … He said that there would be no more force when after the revolution nobody lived off another man’s work. … Police, governments, armies, presidents, kings … all that is force. Force is not real; it is illusion. The working man makes all that himself because he believes it. The day that we stop believing in money and property it will be like a dream when we wake up. We will not need bombs or barricades. … Religion, politics, democracy all that is to keep us asleep. … Everybody must go round telling people: Wake up!”

“When you go down the street I’ll be with you,” said Congo.

“You know that man I tell you about? … That man Errico Malatesta, in Italy greatest man after Garibaldi. … He give his whole life in jail and in exile, in Egypt, in England, in South America, everywhere. … If I could be a man like that, I don’t care what they do; they can string me up, shoot me … I don’t care … I am very happy.”

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