I had to admit that their knowledge of the natural sciences was more advanced but as a loyal citizen of my country, I knew full well that there existed not only objective facts but also patriotic duties and took care not to acknowledge this before them so as not to afford them fresh unfounded grounds for their national pride to swell.
So, in order to avoid this slight, I tactfully mentioned my degree to Zatamon which, with all modesty, did evidence some knowledge and education. I was not, however, able to omit remarking that its being taken for nothing would have meant the deprecation of my nation as well.
Zatamon, however, replied that life was everyone's own private affair; he himself knew best what kind of knowledge he lacked. My being a Belohin meant no more than that if I asked anything of anybody he would reply.
Thus I came to know that I was not actually confined to the hospital and might go out into the town at any time, and had only to carry a certificate as evidence that I was a Belohin, for otherwise I would not receive answers to all my questions.
This surprised me a little, and put into a still stranger light their politeness which was in any case not by any means overdone. With regard to this Zatamon only told me that the Behins were in the habit of making unnecessary inquiries, and a too curious man might possibly be mistaken by the Hins for a Behin.
At this I was even more astonished and asked why, but his response reassured me.
"The Behins," he said, "often make the passers-by stop and begin to talk of the most diverse non-existing, that is, kazi things."
Here he took out his notes and read aloud some passages.
"One of the Behins, for example, claimed that the plum was not to be eaten, but should be set aside and contemplated. When he was asked the reason, he replied, 'Because it is blue.' Another asserted that the trees talked, a third that people had to suffer because this would assuage hunger, a fourth demanded that people who saw him should put their hands on their stomach, and a fifth put a wire ferrule on his head instead of a cap, and commenced explaining to everybody that this suited him better as he was taller this way."
This finally reassured me. I saw what he was hinting at and I in turn reassured him that he did not need to fear mental disorder in my case.
He made out the certificate, however, and I decided to go out into the town.
The first surprise of this excursion was that the Hins had no money.
Although on my arrival I had already noticed that my guide of that time did not pay anywhere, I could not imagine that money would be absent altogether.
I realized this as soon as I entered the hospital underground station.
I took it for granted that the railways of such a developed town would accept foreign currency so my eyes immediately sought the booking office. As I did not see it anywhere I wanted to ask the first Hin, but it was only then that I came to realize that in spite of my having studied thoroughly, I did not know what money and booking office were called in their language. Interestingly this deficiency had not hitherto struck me.
I knew, however, that my country had always played a prominent role in the dissemination of humanitarianism and culture, the eloquent proof of which is our colonies and the international prevalence of such words as these, so stepping up to the first Hin I said, "Money! Business!"
To my great amazement he did not understand, upon which, taking my purse out, I showed him some coins and explained in their language that I should like to change it into theirs. He, however, replied that they had nothing like that.
At this I asked him how I could get into the town by tram. He turned without a word and wanted to leave. I was just about to protest indignantly against such groundless haughtiness, the like of which I had not experienced even in Spain when Zatamon's words came into my mind and, getting out my Belohin certificate, I showed it to him.
The Hin immediately changed and related in detail, almost verbosely, every technical particular of how to get on. That when the door opened one was to enter, then to sit down, etc. I told him I was not an idiot but wanted to know whether I was supposed to give such pieces of metal to anybody so that the tram would take me.
He, however, retorted that whoever did not know the technical details of getting on was not necessarily an idiot, but the sanity of anyone who wanted to use metal coins for the starting of a tram when he knew perfectly well that it was operated by electricity was more justifiably to be called into doubt-from which he was prevented solely by my Belohin certificate.
I must say it caused me a lot of difficulty before I realized that they had no idea at all about money.
When the tram arrived and we got on, my first question was how they transacted the turnover of goods.
It came to light that everything took place entirely without money. The factories turn out goods but nobody receives payment. The goods, on the other hand, lie in the warehouses for everybody and everybody takes as much as he wishes. I could not imagine how they were able to maintain order in this chaos.
Let us imagine what would happen if, for instance, our railways were to carry passengers with neither conductor nor ticket — free of charge. Apart from the inevitable bankruptcy, there would not be the rolling-stock to cope with. the increased traffic.
So I asked him whether it sometimes occurred that people travelled about aimlessly and unnecessarily by tram. "No," said he. "That would be kazi."
"But, even so without a conductor, it might still easily happen."
Naturally I had to explain what a conductor was, to which he replied that, it would be really kazi if a man were on the tram just to travel about aimlessly and unnecessarily, while the tram could go quite as well without him.
I had to explain anew that the conductor was for preventing aimless and unnecessary travelling about, to which people were otherwise rather inclined.
"But why would a person do that?" he asked. "Why, everybody has the opportunity to spend his time in a useful occupation."
"Well, let us say instead of going to work, he might go to the mountains where he could sit down and take in the gratifying sight.
I wanted to say beautiful, but they have no word for it, just as there is none for tourism.
"How could it be gratifying," he answered, "if someone with rested muscles sat idly in the forest? Anyone who does not work will not find resting pleasant either."
"Not to sit down, but say, to go up to the mountain to find gratification in seeing the environment and the flowers."
They have no expression for taking delight in something.
He did not understand, so I related to him that we, had people who did not work but exercised their slack muscles in sport, from which he then drew the conclusion that they performed very heavy intellectual work and announced that for such people they, too, maintained standard gymnasiums and forest resorts.
He by no means understood, however, why somebody who did not carry out even intellectual work did not instead operate a machine or push a barrow when it was much more sensible and interesting since it was useful work, reality, while sport pursued for its own sake was no more than imaginary work, a pale substitute for life in which the unfortunate sportsmen did not participate.
I remarked that it was precisely those whom we call the rich who partake of the pleasures of life, and not the poor, and that rich people did not work.
"And whom do you call rich, and whom poor?"
"These words express the distribution of money. Those to whom a lot of money has fallen are rich; those who have only a little are poor."
"And on what basis is the money distributed?"
"If somebody has a lot of money, he is rich. Such a man will establish a factory or establish a business. Accordingly he earns more money than the poor man whose money is not enough for this."
This he found somewhat confusing, and vaguely demanded some "natural starting point"; and even after a lengthy explanation he understood no more than that some people have a great deal of money and others very little. Then, after giving the matter due thought, he exclaimed, "But then according to this, money does not exist!"
"Of course it does!" I said in astonishment.
"What does not exist in nature does not exist at all."
I showed him my money in vain ; what he saw only confirmed .his assertion as, he said, whenever he asked me for money I could show him only paper, gold or silver, but no money.
I had never been fond of flat word-playing and it was only my politeness that prevented me from telling him so. I thus preferred to ask him how they transacted exchange of goods.
To this he replied that although he did not know why it should be necessary to exchange, say, our coats when his fitted him as well as mine fitted me, but were it nevertheless necessary for some reason, he did not understand even then what money had to do with it.
"Money facilitates the exchange," I said, "and so furthers economic development."
At this he immediately changed, produced a notebook from his pocket and asked me to expound the matter in greater detail because he wished to communicate any useful information to the production factors concerned.
I was delighted to be at his disposal, all the more so as I knew that by acquainting them with our more developed institutions I should enhance the glory of my country.
I related in full detail that money is issued by a central bank in various denominations, from which everybody receives according to his merits, and which is at the same time a licence enabling its owner to take his due share of the fruits of common work. I spoke about the advantages of money; that it can be exchanged for anything, thus ensuring a free choice of goods; that through money it is possible to convert the countervalue of the articles we sell, at any time in a lump sum or in instalments, to other articles, and so on.
He expressed the view that exchange was possibly not easier if we doubled the work by involving the exchange of money, but, as he said, it was not important either. He preferred to know in what way money furthered production.
I explained that it made it possible for many people with small resources to join forces and establish a factory by purchasing shares.
"What are they?" he asked.
"Another wonderful invention of the human mind. Another type of paper, which is given in exchange for money."
"And if the work of exchange is treble what is the factor which facilitates?"
"That these papers enable work to start."
He looked at me in suspicion.
"What would you say," he asked, "if I told you that I can get up from this seat only after handing over a page of my notebook to you? It has nothing to do with reality, it is a non-existing thing, isn't it?"
I was astonished by this naivety but tried to stifle my laughter. However, I explained in vain how money sets work in motion. He stubbornly replied that he understood this, but it seemed that we did not understand at all, as according to anyone with any sense, the starting of work had only one prerequisite, the starting of work itself, and not the exchanging of papers, which did not even exist in reality, and which it was a pity to invent.
I asserted that money did exist and an eloquent proof of how true it was had been the world crisis which almost blocked production.
"And why?" he asked.
"Because there was no money."
At which he asked again why we invented such a thing that did not exist.
I reached the end of my patience. In annoyance I became silent, and he did not ask any more questions. I thought he had taken offence. But after a minute of silence, in the same emotionless tone, he began to speak.
"And how can you ensure, in spite of the money, that kazi acts do not occur?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"That nobody should take from anyone else what is due to that person."
I was surprised that, in a country where goods were the property of everyone, with everyone taking out of the warehouses as much as he wanted, he could ask such a question. In that chaos how was the individual to know what was due to him?
I also assured him that with the concept of property economic life rested on firm foundations in our country while it was precisely here with them that everything was confused, intangible and unstable.
He, of course, again did not understand my words and wished me to explain what property was.
"Property is what is mine, and not another's so that nobody can take it from me," I said.
"But there is only one such thing," he replied, "and that is your body, because according to nature only his body is born to the man himself. You can part with everything else."
"If I give my consent! But, for instance, these clothes also belong to me."
"As long as you use them. But you are well aware of it that previously they belonged to the warehouse and you have simply taken them without saying anything about it to the storekeeper. Nor would there have been any point in discussing the matter, as his approval would not have made the clothes any better."
"But this is precisely where the difference lies," I replied. "So far as we are concerned for the removal of property the proprietor's consent is necessary. Whereas, since you have already mentioned the point, I have to point out that it is precisely the body of which we are not so completely free to dispose."
His eyes opened wide.
"But how can you take the body away?"
"If life is taken away."
"That of the desperately ill person?"
I did not understand how this question came up.
"Not at all!" I replied. "That of the healthy person."
"This I do not understand at all. It would be in vain were I to take away your life: even then your body would not be mine. I could not fix on your hands and feet alongside my own, nor could I think with your brain."
"It is to be understood to mean that there are certain cases when citizens have to sacrifice their lives for the country, so that at such times the fatherland has our bodies at its disposal. But let us not stray too far from the point. Clothes are private property that other people cannot take away."
"That's somewhat confused. In brief in your country you are the clothes, but your body is not you? How am I to interpret that?"
For a moment I again considered his words a piece of half-baked punning, but he spoke with such a naive surprise that I was forced to admit his innocent stupidity. On the other hand, this extent of narrow-mindedness was almost enough to make me lose my temper. I angrily struck my knees.
"Understand, will you," I said, "that property is not what we ourselves are, but what cannot be taken away by somebody else. And so, clothes are an example."
"But they can be taken away."
"Not at all! It is forbidden with us!"
"And in general what is it that cannot be taken away there?"
"I have already told you: property." "What does 'property' mean?"
"What is mine and so cannot be taken away from me."
Now he did not understand the "so".
"As far as I can see," he said, "you are just turning round and round without a starting point, and for this very reason your economics do not seem tangible."
He was once more looking for some "natural starting point" and wished me to explain to him where the firm foundation which I had been mentioning was.
"Well, listen," I said. "People with us earn money according to the services they have supplied in economic life. There are those who work at a machine and are paid according to their output by the industrialist. And the goods turned out will be purchased by the merchant, who, if he is smart, sells to others for more money. Then for the money acquired everybody may buy himself what he wants and as much as he can afford. Well, everybody knows how much he can buy, how much is due to him from the goods — that is how much he can make his property."
"Now I can understand."
"In brief with you the mistake is that when a rich man gives money for goods, he feels as if he had brought something into equilibrium, and even when his purchases are well beyond his own, he still thinks that he is buying his own, and that even then he is within the limits of the kazo equilibrium."
He deeply commiserated with our rich people, for we had so confused their outlook that they could not work, we forced them to eat others' share of bread, whereby production decreased and poverty increased. Certainly one needs nerves of steel to debate with the Hins. In spite of that I tried yet again to explain the situation. I related to him that it was precisely our rich who constituted the most valuable section. It was they who founded and maintained the factories and enterprises by which they gave bread to a lot of poor people. The poor, who lived exclusively on their work, were, on the other hand, not only not useful, but if they became too numerous they would take away the bread from each other. It was for this very reason that when someone comes to us from abroad we refuse him a work permit lest he should take the bread of others.
My Readers are, of course, under the impression that after such a clear and understandable explanation my companion understood everything and admitted my being right.
No! Quite the contrary!
While I was speaking he scrutinized my face, and then instead of replying, he asked again for my Belohin certificate. Musing, he perused it several times, then said that I seemed to have become a little tired of learning for the day and I had had better walk for a few hours in the open.
I vividly protested stating that I was in perfect possession of my senses, and the truth of all this was proved by the fact that in the country with the most developed economy in Europe, all this was tangible reality.
He, however, did not reply.
This superciliousness annoyed me, and only the awareness of my being a guest prevented me from revenging this insult.
So I travelled on in silence. He did not inquire as to my destination, and when we reached the bank of the river I decided on the spur of the moment to get out.
I went into the wide, large park stretching along the riverside which was the epitome of both orderly care and neglect. Gravel paths, rolled to become as smooth as glass, silvery lamp-posts, here and there a path protected by glass walls sunk into the ground, and many chairs with rubber seats.
I saw, however, neither statues nor fountains. In their lawns weeds and grass grew together, the trees were only superficially pruned and of ornamental plants I saw no trace. But I had to admit that the air was excellent, as if I were not in a park in the middle of a big town, but out in a forest.
One small area was surrounded with a low-hung chain. In the grass inside this area, I saw some sprouting saplings. Beside the chain was a board with the inscription:
"It is not useful to enter here".
In one section of the park I came to a clearing. It was only here that I found mown grass.
The clearing was edged in the form of a semi-circle with comfortable couches for sun-bathing, on which, here and there, people were lying or sitting. I also saw some pieces of gymnastic apparatus and strange electric machines the functions of which were a complete mystery to me.
What provided the greatest interest, however, was the snack bar situated in the centre. In the wall there were taps supplying cold milk and refreshing drinks, inside there was a refrigerator with paper boxes filled with a variety of solid foods, and in a bin, paper cups.
The Hins came and went, ate and drank, and I saw no sign of attendants.
The Hins lying in negligee on the couches, the unattended snack bar and the whole atmosphere had the same impression of intimacy on me as had the rice-fields after my arrival: as if I had not been in a public place, but at the garden-party of a hospitable aristocrat. I may say, it was very strange to my European eyes, seeing this society whose every member was rich without having a single penny. As if the whole society had formed one household within which there were no financial problems, or written regulations, or prohibited areas, or work status problems, but where the members of the family went about freely, helping each other with the housework, and helping themselves from a dish set in the middle of the table. I felt a warm, friendly and intimate atmosphere which I had never before felt among any people.
And in such a sharp contrast to all this was the complete silence of the Hins.
The new fresh impression of this common property carried even me away, and I drank a fruit juice, but my good manners did not let me impose upon their hospitality. At my side I felt the polite host who, although he offers food as becomes a gentleman, takes a nevertheless poor view of the greedy guest.
Standing near the snack bar I watched the Hins coming and going. Some incomprehensible contradiction manifested in the whole scene. That wonderful provision for people seemed to indicate the highest degree of warm familiar fondness and at the same time everybody was a stranger; not a single greeting was to be heard. Each simply did not exist for the other.
I should have liked to strike up a conversation with one of them, to ask about this. Finally I addressed myself to one of them. "We seem to have fine weather," I said.
He looked at me, stood for a minute, and then without deigning to answer, left.
I may say their manners are expressly insulting. I had no time, however, to ponder further because at this moment a slight breeze blew and a second later my eye closed painfully. A speck of dust had got into it, and rub it as I might, it would not come out.With my head bowed I stood blind, when from the right and from the left two hands grasped my arms. As far as my stubbornly closing eyelids permitted me to see, two Hins had taken hold of me and began to lead me away.
So much tenderness touched me beyond measure, and in my confusion I stuttered some words of thanks, which was all the more difficult as I did not know such words.
I thought they were leading me to a tap, and was all the more surprised because when they reached the road they stopped, beckoned to the first car, helped me in, and then disappeared without a word, while the car turned and carried me away at high speed.
I had practically no time even to ask where we were going when it had already stopped, the driver helped me out, led me into a house, delivered me to a third Hin, and he, too, disappeared like camphor.
This last took me into a room full of medical instruments, and sat me down on a chair, to which a fourth man came, lifted my eyelid, took out the grain of dust, and said "That's all," and disappeared.
Puzzled I stood alone in the consulting room, and did not know what would happen.
After waiting for about ten minutes I finally grew bored and asked the first man I came across whether I had to do anything more, but, like everybody up to then, he did not answer but told me it was up to me and abandoned me. At this I left.
Thus I was again on the street and when I reflected on what had happened, the whole procedure seemed like a big automaton which accepts the object dropped into it, one manipulator passing it to the other, the wheels cleaning, polishing, folding and rolling it, and at the end the finished product is ejected, for which, however, neither the object nor the machine is responsible as the whole procedure simply took place.
Walking their streets I was able to make a thorough inspection of their equipment. Every fifty paces I saw a public telephone in a booth built into the wall of the house, which of course also operated free of charge. I saw a lot of stores with inscriptions announcing their wares, and inside every kind of article from toothpaste to a dynamo was piled up in the neatest order, and everybody took whatever and as much as he wanted.
I saw a post office, but only parcels were brought for despatch. And the parcels were not only not registered; most of them were not even wrapped either. From a complicated microscope, for example, dangled a mere slip of paper bearing the address. The Hin set this down on a long table and went away. Apart from those despatching parcels there was not a single soul to be seen in the room.
At the back of the room there were two doors with the inscription: "Sorting Room". And another panel beneath: "Intellectual work in progress". With us the expression would have been "No admittance".
After observing for ten minutes I saw the table as it moved off and disappeared through the door of the Sorting Room, while from the other end of the room a similar table came out empty. This much is certain: there was no queue; but it was beyond me how it was possible to transact such a turnover exactly and safely without the control of records and receipts.
Though it is rather difficult to make them speak, I felt encouraged by their earlier accommodating attitude and asked someone who came to send a parcel.
He answered that if for every parcel a note had been made in a book, it would not help but merely impede the flow of traffic.
I asked him whether it did not sometimes occur as a result of such a happy-go-lucky handling that some of the parcels disappeared into thin air. To this he replied that according to a long established physical thesis, no material could be lost within nature.
Then again I had the feeling that he, too, was speaking of something different, but later I was forced to realize that they simply did not know of stealing, which evoked my sincere admiration. This untaught morality thus appeared even more mysterious to me, for the maintenance of which technical knowledge in itself could by no means suffice. There had to be something behind it. But what was it? And how should I come to know it?
Then I asked where they handed in letters and telegrams. It turned out that every flat and enterprise had its own despatchshoot line into which the letters were dropped to be carried to the centre, which in turn passed them on to the addressees. He remarked that this was a somewhat awkward method of correspondence (to me it seemed wonderfully easy) but the following year new despatch-shoot boxes with guiding mechanism were to be put into operation. Once it was properly set the box would find the addressee's line by itself. There was, however, scarcely any correspondence, messages being mainly dealt with by telephone. If there was no reply from the dialled number, that did not matter either as the telephone-set received and recorded the message so that it could be listened to at any time.Now, however, the rumbling of my stomach warned me that it was lunch-time, so turning in to the first restaurant I sat down at a table and took my lunch from the endless belt.
Soon someone else settled down opposite me, and I was meditating upon what people actually did here, if there were no attendants here either. The absence of waiters was already a familiar fact to me, but now a new problem arose. How could economic catastrophe be avoided in a place where people were displaced everywhere by machines.
It occurred to me how many troubles my country had in finding work for the unemployed, how many posts were maintained for purely social reasons, and the operation of how many machines had to be forbidden to ensure the livelihood of the employees. With us how many people earn their living by participating in the work of the nation as waiters, conductors, postoffice clerks, book-keepers, gate-keepers, cashiers, policemen, clergymen, warders or soldiers. How beneficial is the existence of all these institutions, and what would happen if all these posts were abolished and the millions of people dismissed and deprived of their livelihood? Why, in industry unemployment figures are sadly high even so.
Addressing my table companion, I mentioned all this but he replied that it was not worth wasting time with idle chatter. It is interesting how variable their willingness to help was. I came to realize only slowly that if I asked about their institutions they went as far as possible to explain everything. If, however, I broached an individual thought, or mentioned our home institutions, they did not even deign to answer. The problem, however, occupied my mind, and, producing my Belohin certificate, I managed to get my table companion to speak.
I asked him how it was possible for so many people to make a living: solely from productive occupations. He was very surprised at my question, and believed only after I had thrice repeated it that that was indeed what I had asked.
"I still do not understand," he said, "what there is to be asked about it. If fewer of us were engaged in production obviously we would be able to produce less and would therefore live less well."
"But do the machines not squeeze men out of the factories?" "We always leave enough space for people to walk comfortably between the machines."
"That is not what I mean. A machine does the work of many people, whereby a lot of workers become redundant, and a major part of the goods produced will be superfluous."
"Machines are made precisely so that we can produce more. How can it be imagined that clothes are made if not for putting them on?"
"But how is. it possible for such an enormous number of people to work in the industry?"
This again he did not understand.
"Every man works as much as he can," he replied. "The more they work, the more they produce. What is there to restrict the working force?"
"Over-production! Does the danger of over-production not threaten you?"
He asked what it was, and I in turn explained to him the world crisis, the bank failures, the reductions which come in their wake, the goods surplus and general poverty.
I had to say it over and over again because he did not comprehend a single word of it. When he finally understood, he said that I must have observed things inaccurately in my country as my description was rather imperfect and there was no connection between the phenomena mentioned.
"For how could the existence of a society be imagined," he said, "where suffocation would be cured by the deprivation of air? To say nothing of the fact that unnecessarily complicating simple things would show facts in a false light; and any man in his senses would endeavour rather to become acquainted with things as they are than to blur them."
I vividly protested against his mentioning my country in such an offensive manner, but instead of replying, he again asked for my Belohin certificate. Musing, he perused it several times, and then said I seemed to have become a little tired of learning for the day and I had better walk for a few hours in the open.
But I did not give in; I protested against this contemptuous tone; I demanded that he should provide me with the necessary information; after all to my knowledge everyone is at the disposal of a Belohin.
At my taking a strong line he appeared to be ready for further conversation suggesting only that in my own interests we should speak about less difficult topics.
However, I felt hurt by this disdain and waspishly remarked that the things I had spoken about and had seemed so incomprehensible to him were well known to any street cleaner in my country.
With this observation I reverted to our former subject. To me it seemed impossible that the population could find occupation in industry with such a degree of mechanization, when so many other posts were absent, so I thought that they worked for export. But when I asked him about this, it came to light that they knew nothing of shipping either. He said that nothing was grown on the sea, so why should they go there?
I mentioned to him how foreign trade boosted the standard of living and how useful it would be if they were to export butter, corn, honey and other things to my country, whereby they could accumulate a considerable reserve of foreign exchange. To this I received the surprising comment that they would get no satisfaction from food eaten by others!
It was beyond my comprehension how they had not yet died of starvation with such a lack of any economic faculty.
But with this I saw that any further debate would be in vain as some enormous gap yawned between us, and that the Hins' soul had a kind of secret which, unless it were explained, made it impossible for me to make myself understood.
So I got up and left. I racked my brain for a long time as to how I could come to know them without having to converse with them. Here, I might ask anything of anybody, each of them gave strange and odd replies, but each miraculously similar to the other. Personality they scarcely had at all. And it was for this very reason that I was eager to know what kind of spirit it was that kept them in such a wonderful discipline as could not be imagined with us even in the army.
Finally I came to the decision that I would read.
It was some ethnographic work I had in mind so that I might gain more information relating to their customs and nature.
I stopped the first Hin and asked him where I could get a book about the nature, clothing and general way of life of people here. I wanted to express the idea of ethnography by this circumscription.
He said that I had mentioned too many subjects at one time, some belonging to anatomy and the functioning of organs, and others to the textile industry.
I saw he did not understand me either, so I asked him only where I could find a library in the neighbourhood.
He was willing to be at my disposal, and told me the address, but I could not make much of it. When he learned that I was a stranger in the town, he immediately joined me. We took a tram and he took me to the library.
We arrived in a huge, round church-like room the wall of which, to a height of about thirty yards, was one single mass of shelves with millions of books. In front of the shelves, at different heights tiny balconies hung, with a chair and a little table on each. In most of them there was a Hin reading and soon I noticed that these small balconies also moved. The Hins led them along on the horizontal and vertical rails between the shelves to reach the book required.
It was interesting that I had the impression there was a great deal of noise in their library, albeit it was only the turning over the pages that could be heard, and it was not a bit noisier than our own libraries. All of their public life, however, was so silent that I was surprised that this was not even more silent.
Here and there between the shelves were inscriptions in big characters indicating the subjects : "Ethyl ether", "Cellulose", "Protein", and elsewhere "Neurology", "Stomach transplantation", "Transformation of elements", "Grain automatons" or "Depth scrutinizers".
I thought my guide had indeed misunderstood me and had taken me to the specialist library for doctors and technicians, whereas I wanted to learn about the Hins and especially their customs.
Fortunately, I noticed a table in the middle of the room with the inscription "Information" above it.
I stepped up to the Hin who was sitting at it, and repeated my question. Word for word he, too, gave me the same reply as my guide.
I saw that I would not achieve my goal this way, and that perhaps I ought to start with another kind of theme through which I might acquaint myself with their life. I decided to study their history and said that I was looking for a book dealing with the past. The Hin answered that this was a very broad subject. There were books dealing with geology, with the development of races, the nervous system, the intestinal canal and many other things.
I told him that was not the sort of book I was after, but something about the past of people.
I had to repeat my request, but still he did not understand and asked me if I could mention a book about some similar subject. At this, producing my Belohin certificate, I had to reveal that I was a foreigner and told him I was not in a position to know their literature and could only mention the books of my own country.
At random I mentioned the books on the history of my country by Froude and by Green, but he asked me to say something about their contents as well.
I spoke of the age of Henry VIII; of his marriage with Anne Boleyn; of the fights around the Reformation; the revolt of the Northern Shires, of the execution of Sir Thomas More, the Bishop of Rochester, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the battles between the various Kings, Parliament, the Duke of Norfolk and Oliver Cromwell, the transsubstantiation debates, celibacy, mass and confession... Of course the whole history seemed unbelievable to him, but I had already grown accustomed to his asking at every sentence, "But why did they do all this?"
When I finished, however, he was surprised at my speaking about the past as if it were something which existed, and in the end it turned out that. all this did not exist.
"But it did!" I replied.
"That is possible, but this word in. itself implies that it no longer does. What is the sense in dealing with imaginary things? It is only the present that is, and if into the bargain you deal with non-existent things, why do you spend so much unnecessary work precisely on the past? In the same way you could also make maps of non-existent planets."
I observed that many valuable conclusions could be drawn from the past as to how we should direct our actions.
"It is something like taking a laxative on an empty stomach in the morning," he replied, "because we overate in our dream."
Thus it came to light that they had no history at all. Everybody remembers only the period through which he lived. And from the forefathers all that remains for the descendants is what they themselves created : a new chemical procedure, a building, a machine. But as to the maker, builder or inventor, nobody knows anything.
In brief, I was again faced with deadlock. That they had no belles-lettres I already understood. I racked my brain to find what I could study which might cast light on their life and outlook.
I asked for philosophical works but once more he asked what that was. When I spoke of human thinking and its rules, he referred me to neurology without hesitation, from which. it became evident that they had no philosophy either. At this I was sincerely astonished as the whole of their life consisted of varying the concepts of kazo and kazi, from which any sober mind would have concluded that it was a nation of philosophers. I also asked him why they did not write a single line on even the main problem of their life. I mentioned how many authors, and from how many angles, had tried to interpret morality, the laws of God, and justice.
"What exists," he replied, "needs no explanation. What sense would there be in explaining, for example, that the circle is round? And if a figure is described once as round and then as square, it is possible only if this figure does not exist, because if it does exist it is either one or the other."
I was already profoundly bored by these fruitless debates. For this reason I thought it better to look for a book on economy; the Hin, however, asked me in which of the branches of manufacture I was interested. I enlightened him as to my wish to be informed of the system of production, but again he said that it was different with every article. Wheat was grown according to one system, rye differently, and textiles were woven by yet another method.
Shortly it became clear that this did not exist either. They simply had no economic system, no administration, no religion, no literature!
I was stupefied and could not grasp where I was to find their life. I should not have been a bit surprised if it had turned out that they themselves did not exist.
Finally I resolved to have a look at their books on neurology, hoping that from their most frequent neurotic symptoms I should be able to draw conclusions as to their inner life.
So I got myself into a balcony and after the Hin director had briefed me concerning the operation of the buttons, I rose to a height of about three storeys and began to search.
Of the titles of the books, however, I could not make out too much. Finally, taking out one at random, I looked into it.
The title of the first chapter was: "Electron Currents and the Pattern of Thinking". I scarcely understood even the title, to say nothing of the text. It spoke of cells, of the forces occurring in them, and then came flexible collision and oscillation calculations and miscroscopic enlargements magnified fifty million times, but as to what they represented I had not the slightest idea; an endless series of chemical constructional formulae, and mathematical deductions.
Turning over the pages I came to another chapter: "Brain Technology and Nerve Assembly". I saw photographs of strange measuring instruments, people with small metal boxes on their chest or head, tweezers, scalpels, nerves extracted and transplanted, and then followed some strange pages made of metal, which were gridled all over with little squares so close together that it was injurious to the eye, and the whole vibrated in a dirty grey colour. At the bottom was written a word unfamiliar to me: "Bomeli".
I was compelled to go down and turn to the Hin at the information desk. He came to my table, turned up its right flap and a piece of apparatus like a microphotographic instrument emerged. Opening the book at the page in question he inserted it into the device and I had to look into it through a lens.
In a glass vessel I saw a human brain into which innumerable pins were stuck. From the left a violet ray projected a violet spot on it. All around there were countless instruments with indicators.
Now the information librarian pushed a button and the pointers began to move, the brain slowly became a reddish colour, then a human hand reached into the picture, poured the contents of a bottle into the glass vessel, whereupon the brain regained its natural colour and the pointers sprang back to zero.
Of course I did not understand a single thing of all this, and above all I found nothing in the book to give any indication as to the nature of their inner life.
And it was in vain that I told the librarian I wished to know something of their range of emotions and thoughts; his response to this was that we feel and think with our brain, and that all the mathematical formulas concerning both the birth and the interconnection of thoughts were fully dealt with in the first chapter.
"Naturally, " he went on, "if you also wish to study the paradiological or sphero-electronic components of the birth of thought, this book will not satisfy you."
With this he began explaining in detail which part of the library I should go up to. From a catalogue he began to read a mass of book titles so that the multitude of unknown words made me dizzy, and then in a keyboard he pressed the numbers of the books, finally pulled out a paper band from under the keys and handed it to me. It bore the title, number and exact location of the suggested books.
However, I did not at all feel like experimenting with further books; they would certainly not have given me the one I wanted.
I felt indeed as if I were in a vacuum. I saw that the bridge that could connect us was burnt, and I was not even able to explain what I wanted. For some time I searched for the expression, but they had no word for the soul, and had I mentioned the heart, I would most certainly have been referred to the shelf with the heading "Circulation".
After racking my brain for a few minutes I gave up all hope and turned my back upon them.
When I got out I walked to and fro for a while, thinking. I approached a Hin and enquired after art galleries.
He said that there were pictures in every book, and it depended on what I was interested in. I told him that I was looking for painted pictures, but seeing that he, too, was about to abandon me, I hastened to produce my Belohin certificate.
I had to explain what a painted picture was like. Once he understood me he said it seemed we did not know its more perfected form, photography.
It was in vain I repeatedly asserted that painting was the more perfect as it portrayed not the surface but the core of things, to which he replied that even in this respect photographs were still more perfect, and I realized from his words that he was speaking of X-rays. He spoke further of some machine that saw into the depths of the earth, as well as of other strange pieces of apparatus which revealed the inner structure of matter to human eyes.
At this point we found it very difficult to understand each other. I wanted to express that things had an emotional essence, the impression they made on us. He, however, observed that things would appear to us either as they are, and in this case photography was the more perfect form, or a different image of them evolved in us, in which case the fault was not in the things but in us.
I tried to describe to him individual painters' different impressions, which did not falsify things but wanted to get closer to them, but he maintained his opinion that the essence of something could not be various, and if more than one conception of it evolved, then all of them, except one, would obviously be wrong. He recommended me to take any object the essence of which was doubtful to any of the chemical or physical institutes where I would receive an exact analysis of them.
With a weary wave of my hand I stated that I needed no more information, at which he left.
But the problem of discovering their secret had become still more exciting as a result of all this. Before my very eyes there was a marvellous mechanism the cog-wheels of which fitted into each other and performed their work to such a degree of precision as could not be expressed in human terms. And search for it as I might, I was unable to discover the main spring which kept the whole working. I stood there like Kepler or Pasteur, who, as they came to know the Laws, became more and more convinced of the existence of the Creator, who, however, withdrew farther and farther from the senses. His voice faded away in the Burning Bush, his eye did not flash in the storm, his voice did not thunder in the clouds, and the more certain his being became for us, the more distant the mists he withdrew behind.
My brain was feverishly throbbing, so by now those who had recommended me to rest were indeed right. The day's learning had heaped so many problems onto me that I had inevitably to sleep on them.
I asked the first Hin to show me where the overhead railway was; he willingly led me to it, and I got in.
On the way home, nevertheless I made a rough list of the questions and decided to consult Zatamon on all of them. After all he was a neurologist who dealt with the psyche, and he also knew me more closely.