Cowardly Provincial Assholes

Jeremy Klemin in Agni:

During schoolyard spats between young boys, conflicts rarely end in punches. There is, instead, a perpetual appeal to those higher up in the food chain—all grade-school boys magically have a big brother who is ready, apparently, to fight someone half their age, or, if necessary, beat up the rival’s hypothetical older brother. Because of an eight-year-old boy’s inability to really hurt anybody, harkening to brothers capable of real violence is a means of confirming one’s own capacity to provoke fear in others.

In Ottilie Mulzet’s beautiful translation of László Krasznahorkai’s Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, which won the 2019 National Book Award for Translated Literature, Big Brother is no mechanism of the state but instead the omnipresent Big Brother that eight-year-old boys constantly reference. Brute force is the only higher power in this book, and everyone constantly attempts to either exploit or gain the favor of the richer and more powerful.

More here.