Your RDA of Irony

Redtime, part I

For those of you who don’t have a 36 year-old inventory of National Review issues, here is the first part of the satire that Mr. Buckley praised for its “blissful humor.”

I. London: 1913

It was not the best time to crave Chinese food. The restaurant was so crowded that two strangers found themselves forced to share a table. Passing the soy sauce made an introduction inevitable.

“I’m Sigmund Freud.”

“I’m Leon Trotsky.”

Of the the two, Freud was the more awed; he thought the Russian had said Tolstoy. Trotsky was not particularly impressed by the “bourgeois mesmerist” but he tried not to be rude. There was always the chance the doctor would pick up both checks.

Had any interesting dreams lately?” It was the only way Freud could start a conversation.

Out of courtesy, Trotsky tried feigning an Oedipal complex. Freud was not deceived.

Young man, I invented that complex and I can tell a psychochondriac from the real thing. Now, what do you really dream?”

Of a proletarian revolution. It would be your standard Communist affair: dissolution of class distinction, abolition of all personal property, and lots of getting even.”

You’re a manic-suppressive,” Freud concluded. “You use totalitarianism to overcome your shyness. Back home, I know a young art student with a similar tendency. If you’re ever in Vienna, I’ll try to get you into group therapy with Adolf.”

II. Zurich: 1917

Everyone has a hobby. Lenin’s was collecting the stamps from his rejection letters. The collection had become quite extensive. No country or corporation seemed willing to take Lenin up on his offer:

Dear Comrades,

If you provide me with the money for a revolution, I will rename Petrograd in your honor….

One afternoon, however, Lenin’s cutting, pasting and self-pitying were interrupted by a knock on the door. Awaiting him was a dark, little man who asked, “Do you have any bugs?”

No, comrade.”

Then, I’ll have a glass of water, instead. Don’t mind my coming in uninvited; it’s never stopped a German before. I have a message for you. Kaiser Wilhelm thinks that your idea is wonderful. Everyone else thinks that you’re crazy. That’s why they sent me: I’m Franz Kafka.
I’m here to invite you and forty of your closest conspirators to an all-expenses-paid Russian Revolution. Of course, we’d be delighted if you sent us a few postcards but we’d also like the Ukraine, the Baltic states, and all mineral rights in Siberia

Lenin did not want to seem petty. After all, what was a million squares to Russia? As a Communist, Lenin had no objection to giving away something that he did not own, but as a lawyer he felt an obligation to haggle. “Comrade Kafka, that seems a little steep.”

Not compared to what the Japanese would want. Besides, we have no intention of keeping anything. Let me explain. I’m the Kaiser’s accountant and I’m doing his tax return. Now, I’ve already deducted the world war as a loss, but that still leaves him in too high a bracket. If we had all this Russian property, we could return it to you and deduct it as a charitable contribution. We get the write-off, and Russia keeps its land and wealth for whatever ulterior purpose you have in mind.”

That’s very generous.”

Call us sentimental, but we feel that someone has to threaten Western civilization, and, if it can’t be Germany, it might as well be you. Have you given much thought to your dictatorship of the proletariat?”

Not really.”

Good,” Kafka gloated, “because I have. You ought to create a vast dehumanizing society, where everyone is a prisoner, where you’re put on trial without ever knowing what the crime is.”

It sounds ideal for Russia’s climate.”

Here’s a manuscript of my fantasies. I was thinking of it as a novel, but I realize, Herr Lenin, that you could put it to better use as a constitution.”

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