I just finished reading Trial Run by Dick Francis. Written in 1978, it was largely set in Moscow, which I visited in 1972. I was there in early spring, the protagonist in late autumn, so the weather was somewhat different. But I found a lot of it felt the same as what I remember … a grim, gray city filled with unfriendly, unhappy people. Like the protagonist, I was giddy at returning to my home where, with all its faults, I could go where I chose, speak my mind freely, and smile at people.
These paragraphs from the very end of the book speak to me from across the decades. Terrorism was new back then. It isn’t now. Yet Francis captured its spirit so accurately.
“I looked across for the last time at the naked hate-filled faces of international terrorism, and thought about alienation and the destructive steps which led there.
“The intensifying to anger of the national scorn of youth for the mess their elders had made of the world. The desire to punish violently the objects of scorn. The death of love for parents. The permanent sneer for all forms of authority. The frustration of not being able to scourge the despised majority. And after that, the deeper, malignant distortions. . . . The self-delusion that one’s feelings of inadequacy were the fault of society, and that it was necessary to destroy society in order to feel adequate. The infliction of pain and fear, to feed the hungry ego. The total surrender of reason to raw emotion, in the illusion of being moved by a sort of divine rage. The choice of an unattainable end, so that the violent means could go on and on. The addictive orgasm of the act of laying waste.”
“‘What are you thinking?’ the Major General said.
“‘That they are self-indulgent.’ I turned away from them with a sense of release. ‘It is easier to smash than to build.'”
[Ellipses in original]