Joe Save the Queen.

Blas continúa sin oírle y opta por sonreír. Ésa es siempre una respuesta inteligente. Llama a Carmen, que está canturreando en la cocina, y le pide que les traiga otra vez la botella de anís. Juan rechaza la invitación y Blas, que debe de ser un poco brujo, adivina que su joven huésped está pensando en venenos. Se queda un momento en silencio y luego le explica que las hormigas, aparte de tener las mandíbulas muy afiladas, están equipadas con venenos mortales.

Dice también que los hormigueros están siempre en estado de guerra, sobre todo cuando la comida escasea, que las hormigas lo dan todo por la patria y que sólo las reinas están en condiciones de quedar preñadas.

Es la primera vez en su vida que Juan oye decir que las hormigas tienen también una patria y, sobre todo, que pueden quedar preñadas, como si fuesen yeguas. Lo más importante, de todos modos, es que ha entendido lo que Blas ha querido decirle: las reinas son las únicas hembras en todo el hormiguero que pueden asegurar la continuidad de la especie.

-Son también las únicas que tienen alas -añade el viejo.

Se trata de una información muy valiosa que algún día puede serle de utilidad, pero Juan se disculpa con una sonrisa y vuelve a pasarse la mano por la frente, como limpiándose el sudor, para dar a entender al viejo que lo único que le interesa es meterse debajo de la ducha.

Cuando vuelve a su habitación, sin embargo, continúa pensando todavía en las mandíbulas de las hormigas.

Hay algo seguro -piensa, mientras el agua cae con fuerza por el pecho y por la espalda hacia las piernas-. Esas reinas no podrían reproducirse si no fuese por los proletarios que las fecundan.

Civil War

I penetrated the muddy alleys, making my way into houses that from the outside looked empty and abandoned. I was afraid. The houses were watched, and I was afraid of getting caught along with their inhabitants. Such a thing was possible, since they often made a sweep through a neighborhood or even a whole quarter of the town in search of weapons, subversive leaflets, or people from the old regime. All the houses were watching each other, spying on each other, sniffing each other out. This is civil war; this is what it's like. I sit down by the window, and immediately they say, "Somewhere else, sir, please. You're visible from the street. It would be easy to pick you off." A car passes, then stops. The sound of gunfire. Who was it? These? Those? And who, today, are "these," and who are the "those" who are against "these" just because they are "these"? The car drives off, accompanied by the barking of dogs. They bark all night. Addis Ababa is a dog city, full of pedigreed dogs running wild, vermin-eaten, with malaria and tangled hair. They caution me again, needlessly: no addresses, no names, don't say that he's tall, that he's short, that he's skinny, that his forehead this or his hands that. Or that his eyes, or that his legs, or that his knees... There's nobody left to get down on your knees for.



No, if a king is so hated or despised by his subjects that he can't keep them in order unless he reduces them to beggary by violence, extortion, he'd far better abdicate. Such methods of staying in power may preserve the title, but they destroy the majesty of a king. There's nothing majestic about ruling a nation of beggars - true majesty consists in governing the rich and prosperous. That's what that admirable character Fabricius meant when he said he'd rather govern rich men than be one.


To start with, most kings are more interested in the science of war - which I don't know anything about, and don't want to - than in useful peaceful techniques. They’re far more anxious, by hook or by crook, to acquire new kingdoms than to govern their existing ones properly. Besides, privy councilors are either too wise to need, or too conceited to take advice from anyone else - though of course they're always prepared to suck up to the king's special favorites by agreeing with the silliest things they say. After all, it's a natural instinct to be charmed by one's own productions. That's why raven chicks are such a delight to their parents, and mother apes find their babies exquisitely beautiful.So there you have a group of people who are deeply prejudiced against everyone else’s ideas, or at any rate prefer their own. Suppose, in such company, you suggest a policy that you’ve seen adopted elsewhere, or for which you can quote a historical precedent, what will happen? They’ll behave as though their professional reputations were at stake, and they’d look fools for the rest of their lives if they couldn’t raise some objection to your proposal. Failing all else, their last resort will be: ‘This was good enough for our ancestors, and who are we to question their wisdom?’ Then they’ll settle back in their chairs, with an air of having said the last word on the subject – as if it would be a major disaster for anyone to be caught being wiser than his ancestors! And yet we’re quite prepared to reverse their most sensible decisions. It’s only the less intelligent ones that we cling on to like grim death.