A Tattler’s World

A Russian joke of relatively recent vin-tage comes to mind.  “How could you, a Stakhanovite dairy worker, with two Red Commendations to your credit, with the Regional Party Committee foursquare behind you,” a collective farm boss shouts at the terrified girl in his office, “how could you ever become a Moscow hard-currency prostitute?”  “I guess I was just lucky,” stammers the errant milkmaid.

In a certain narrow sense, the joke is funny.  In another sense, vast and intractable, it reflects, as in a fragment of Hans Christian Andersen’s shattered mirror, all the evil that the world we now live in was lucky to have amassed, along with the money, as it moved from one fairy tale to another at the close of the 20th century.  In the new fairy tale, Cinderella still marries the prince, though only because the honorable estate makes it easier to pick his pockets while he sleeps, a gold Patek Philippe right there on the bed table.  The prince’s kiss still works a metamorphosis, yet the magic of love turns his beloved into a toad, or at least into a vituperative termagant.  And if the Saint George character still fights the dragon, it is strictly in the media circus where the virgin he’s saving works as an usherette.

The trouble with fairy tales is that, like life itself under the conditions of political and economic liberty, they are untrammeled...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here