Ingranaggi difettosi

Ho appena iniziato Breakfast of Champions di Vonnegut. E son rimasto colpito – inizio col botto – dalla lucidità e dal nichilismo che l’americano esprime già nell’introduzione all’opera. Viste le tematiche affrontate, il copia&incolla sul blog è chiaramente d’obbligo.

As for the suspicion I express in this book, that human beings are robots, are machines: It should be noted that people, mostly men, suffering from the last stages of syphilis, from locomotor ataxia, were common spectacles in downtown Indianapolis and in circus crowds when I was a boy.Those people were infested with carnivorous little corkscrews which could be seen only with a microscope. The victims’ vertebrae were welded together after the corkscrews got through with the meat between. The syphilitics seemed tremendously dignified-erect, eyes straight ahead.  I saw one stand on a curb at the corner of Meridian and Washington Streets one time, underneath an overhanging clock which my father de-signed. The intersection was known locally as “The Crossroads of America.

This syphilitic man was thinking hard there, at the Crossroads of America, about how to get his legs to step off the curb and carry him across Washington Street. He shuddered gently, as though he had a small motor which was idling inside. Here was his problem: his brains, where the instructions to his legs originated, were being eaten alive by corkscrews. The wires which had to carry the instructions weren’t insulated anymore, or were eaten clear through. Switches along the way were welded open or shut.  This man looked like an old, old man, although he might have been only thirty years old. He thought and thought. And then he kicked two times like a chorus girl.

He certainly looked like a machine to me when I was a boy.

I tend to think of human beings as huge, rubbery test tubes, too, with chemical reactions seething inside. When I was a boy, I saw a lot of people with goiters. So did Dwayne Hoover, the Pontiac dealer who is the hero of this book. Those unhappy Earthlings had such swollen thyroid glands that they seemed to have zucchini squash growing from their throats.All they had to do in order to have ordinary lives, it turned out, was to consume less than one-millionth of an ounce of iodine every day.  My own mother wrecked her brains with chemicals, which were supposed to make her sleep.

When I get depressed, I take a little pill, and I cheer up again.

And so on.

So it is a big temptation to me, when I create a character for a novel, to say that he is what he is because of faulty wiring, or because of microscopic amounts of chemicals which he ate or failed to eat on that particular day.

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of the Champions


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