Maybe it’s true that life really does imitate literature. Over the last week or so, certainly, a detail from one of my favorite works of imaginative fiction played out at least twice in the real world, with microphones live and cameras rolling. I’m thinking here first of German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach, who promoted vaccine mandates with this bit of fascinating logic: “No one will be vaccinated against their will; the vaccine mandates will simply lead people, ultimately, to accept voluntary vaccination.” See if you can find a way to parse those words that makes sense of them. I can tell you already that it doesn’t help to read them in the original German.
Then there’s Jen Psaki, spokesflack-in-chief for poor bumbling Joe Biden. She was asked by a reporter at a recent presser about the people, and of course there are a great many of them, who are increasingly worried about the future of the United States under Biden’s inept leadership. Her response? “My advice to everyone out there who’s frustrated, sad, angry, pissed off, feel those emotions, go to a kickboxing class, have a margarita.” For sheer crazed detachment from the world the rest of us inhabit, that’s hard to beat, especially when you recall that her boss campaigned saying he would, you know, fix the country’s problems. Maybe her words make more sense in German, or for that matter in pig Latin, but I doubt it.
What all this brings to mind, of course, is the climactic scene in C.S. Lewis’s tremendous fantasy That Hideous Strength. The villains of the piece, a collection of arrogant technocrats among whom Psaki and Lauterbach would fit in seamlessly, are gathered at their headquarters at Belbury for a banquet. What they don’t know is that their attempts to get control of certain supernatural forces have stirred up old strong magics from the Arthurian era, and Merlin—yes, that Merlin—is on the scene. The first spell he casts on them is the same one that made life so interesting for the construction crews at the Tower of Babel. While this is taking effect, and their speech is turning into the kind of absurdity we were just discussing, Merlin works his second spell, which makes good use of the well-stocked collection of experimental animals at the facility. Some of these are decidedly large, fierce, and hungry. The survival rate for the villains—well, we don’t have to get into that; let’s just say the beasts go away well fed.