I have been searched many times in my life, but no one has displayed such mastery in that art as the English. They forced me to take off my boots and carried them off somewhere; they examined all the seams on my jacket and my pants; they took away my notebook for inspection. And yet the Englishman who did all this perpetually wore a kindly smile—one could not even get angry at him.
In London, we were told that the date when our journey will continue is unknown: it is a military secret. Everything here has been calmer than in Paris, maybe because the war is farther away, or maybe because Englishmen aren’t fond of being nervous. To me, the city seemed beautiful, majestic, and gloomy. I thought, “Here, they would put Modigliani in an insane asylum…”
It was a nice, cool day. I took a long walk. I gave Alexis a history lesson. During the day we worked in the same place as yesterday. We cut down another two fir trees. A light rain fell for a while. After tea I read until dinner time.
I saw anarchists marching along Nevsky Prospect with a banner that read “Death to the Bourgeoisie”. From my study, these marching anarchists seem like rabble, imbeciles, pitiful two-legged animals; but when I had a look at their faces, something primordial rose before me. Yes, they were slaves, with their sunken cheeks and eyes, with the eternal sense of injury, their eternal anger and their rebellion. See more
Of course, they don’t understand the first thing about anarchism, but there is something else they do know, something hugely important, something eternal, something which has been overlooked by the indignant respectable public, and they were superior to their own selves and their crudely scrawled banner.
And all this could be seen in their faces. And the way they carried their rifles! It was something wonderful to see. The object which had always been turned against them, threatening them with death, was now in their hands, and this was something that had to be felt. The guns made them into people, and it was written all over their faces. It was clear that with their rifles they felt invincible, strong and free – terribly so. I told the coach driver to slow down to a walk and I gazed at them for some time, moved by the sight, and my soul stirred with an obscure, half-formed desire to join them.
Then the following day, from the newspapers, it was clear again that they are nothing more than fools.
Where you are, you imagine that we are living in a kingdom of freedom, but in actual fact, it is a kingdom of nonsense without freedom, or at any rate, without any effective sense of freedom. My dear friend, it is very bad here and very bleak, and Akitsa and I envy you more than ever, for being too far away to see this nightmare in its entirety. See more
The most awful thing of all is that it is an orgy of imbecility and mediocrity. All-pervasive mediocrity. There is still some sort of hope in that mystical essence known as “the people”, but one clings to this hope more out of habit than anything else. Where you are, I am sure, it is all being portrayed in a different light. Perhaps it is seen as being a little bit more terrible than is actually the case, but also as more tragic and impressive. Think yourselves lucky, and thank heaven with all your souls for the good fortune that has been granted to you.
Dearest Igor, I beseech you, write me a line or two, so that we know you have not forgotten us. And I want to know how things are with you, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and what you’re working on.
The postal and telegraph services do not work. I am afraid that in spite of all the strength leant in support of the offence, our useless soldiers have been stopped.