Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Frederic Karinthy on the road from Zero to One

Frederic Karinthy (1888-1938) provides a suitable new year message.

Between One and Two there is a series of road-signs like "Be Bright" or "Take Care" or "Look Ahead" or "Live and Learn" or "Stretch Your Legs According To Your Coverlet" or "Work As Long As Your Wick Burns" or "Be Prepared to Fight" ... whoever follows them will reach the next station, and arrive from One to Two, from Two to Three, from Three to a Million ...
But between Zero and One, there are no such signs, and even if there were, they wouldn't do any good. For instance, how could you stretch your legs according to your coverlet if you have no coverlet? And how could you work as long as your wick burns if you have no wick? On the road from Zero to One is the "Well, there's nothing I can do about it" and the "I'm sorry, I'm too busy now" and the "Unfortunately, the President won't be able to see you," for between Zero and One lie murder and madness and impossibility.
Between Zero and One is Horror and Desperation. Between Zero and One is Instinct and Religion, Evil and Salvation. Between Zero and One is the Discovery of the World.
Yes, the mathematicians are wrong: the way from Zero to One is longer than from One to a Hundred-thousand-million...it is about as long as the way from life to death.


  1. Oh dear p-i-r ! Please don't let this be a suitable new year message - in spite of the awful news I am determined to be up beat and "always look on the bright side" - so your message is a bit depressing. Sorry!

  2. Hello Weaver, I applaud your eternal optimism. Long may your flame burn and light those mysterious Pennine Hills and Dales. Here in Central Europe, the cradle of Facism, Communism, Nazism, and almost all the other -isms you can think of, things appear to be not so rosy. The Bulgarians have no gas. Today somebody powerful turned off their small tap. We received 10% of our normal daily supply from Siberia today. Fortunately the Austrian gasometers are full, or so they tell us. In Bulgaria it's -15c. There's no old persons heating allowance in Bulgaria that I'm aware of. There they sleep 5 or 6 in a bed, just like the old days, just like the Road to Wigan Pier. And no gas. Or prospect of any.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.