Author Archives: David Seri

Kafka’s Trials

Our favorite doctor returns to First Things for the June/July print edition with a book review of the newly translated diaries of Franz Kafka.

If the translation of a single, not very complex sentence can give rise to such differences in meaning, imagine the cumulative effects of different translations over an entire book! When we say that something is Kafkaesque, do we refer to Kafka or to translations of Kafka—or, if they coincide sufficiently, to both?

We Apologise for the Inconvenience to Your Journey

Over at The Critic, the skeptical doctor gets irritated listening to a typical British train announcement regarding another delay.

Why this wording, so obviously weaselly? The apology is no apology. It is an attempt to downplay the unhappiness caused to actual real living breathing people, and to pretend instead that the damage is done to something inanimate or intangible. 

California’s Reparations Proposal Is Deeply Flawed and Racist

The dissenting doctor castigates the absurd and unjust California proposal to pay “reparations” to people of African descent who have never been slaves, mostly by people whose ancestors had never owned slaves.

In the first place, the proposal is deeply racist. It treats people not as individuals equal under the law but as members of a group, in this case, a racial group. It’s no better to claim that a person has a right to “reparations” by virtue of belonging to a racial group than that a person should be de jure denied access to a benefit for the same reason.

Countries and civilizations aren’t killed: They rot to death from within or commit suicide. They do so by tearing themselves apart or by questioning their right even to exist.

How Not to Solve a Crime

Back at The Critic, our concerned doctor recounts a not uncommon episode of the bureaucratic British police doing its best to avoid having to investigate a crime.

We see in it the simultaneous manufacture and avoidance of work, the belief that procedure trumps result, and the development of organisations composed of an apparatchik and a nomenklatura class, in an updated version of the Circumlocution Office whose mission statement was How not to do it

A Knavish Trick

Over at City Journal, our royalist doctor pours scorn on a misguided proposal—likely conceived by some anti-monarchist Jacobin intellectuals—to encourage Britons to swear allegiance to the king while watching the coronation ceremony.

The main argument against the monarchy in Britain is easy to understand and expressible in a soundbite: it is undemocratic. Such an abstract argument is more important to the intelligentsia than any pragmatic consideration—for example, that the monarchy in practice is much less likely, and has much less power, to oppress you than your local, democratically elected town council, to say nothing of central government, which is incomparably more bullying than the monarchy has been for centuries.

Rich in Kitsch

In this week’s Takimag, the dubious doctor confronts gaudy kitsch at an “antiques center” and is appalled by what he sees there.

On another note, God save the King.

As soon as the peasants moved to the city, however, where life was more exciting and in some ways easier for them, they seemed immediately to lose their sense of form and color. Kitsch became the cynosure of their eyes. And it is not only in Africa that I have noticed this strange effect.

The Nature Mystic

In the May issue of New English Review, the curious doctor sits on his terrace in the French countryside and considers why he rarely sees dead birds, never smells the odor of dead rats in Paris, and why the sound of owls in the night comforts him.

I think I could easily become a nature mystic. The sound of owls at night—the call and its answer—soothes me, not being a mouse or a small mammal. When I hear the cuckoo I experience a sense of joy, though I know it is a bad bird and its vocal repertoire is less even than that of a rap singer.

Oh, the Humanities!

In his weekly Takimag column, the good doctor laments the dilution of academic standards in the humanities after reading some particularly nonsensical verbiage from the keynote speaker of a conference of art historians in London.

Pretentious teachers teach pretension to new generations, who must then be found occupation to flatter their pretensions. Thus, the process is self-reinforcing and self-reproducing like a colony of bacteria in a petri dish. The only thing that will halt the expansion is the irruption of reality, for among other things, the pretension is always reality-denying.

Publishing Prejudices

In his Law & Liberty column, Theodore Dalrymple blasts the unfortunate, but all too predictable, spread of the woke mind virus to a formerly renowned book publisher.

I have long thought that the Soviet Union won the Cold War in the cultural and intellectual sphere, and the very form of language that the chief executive of PRH employs, to say nothing of its content, makes that assessment plausible. The worst is that the new totalitarianism is not imposed by a dictatorship, it is freely chosen. Such totalitarianism is the opportunity and salvation of ambitious mediocrities.