M.I,5`Persecutio n ` Ber nard Levi n e xpresses h is v iews

2008-01-01 09:16:48 PM
The article of which part is reproduced below was penned by. Bernard Levin
for the Features section of the Times on 21 September. 1991. To my mind, it
described the situation at the time and in particular. a recent meeting with
a friend, during which I for. the first time admitted to someone other than
my GP that I had been subjected to a {*word*97} of. harassment over the
previous year and a. half.
There. is a madman running loose about London, called David Campbell; I have
no reason. to believe that he is {*word*268}, but he should certainly be
approached with caution. You may know him by the curious glitter. in his
eyes and a persistent trembling of his hands; if. that does not suffice, you
will find him attempting to thrust no fewer than. 48 books into your arms,
all hardbacks, with a promise that,. if you should return to the same
meeting-place next year, he will. heave another 80 at you.

If, by now, the police have arrived and are keeping. a close watch on him,
you may feel sufficiently emboldened to examine the books. The jackets. are
a model of uncluttered typography, elegantly and. simply laid out; there is
an unobtrusive colophon of. a rising sun, probably not picked at random.
Gaining confidence - the. lunatic is smiling by now, and the policemen, who
know about such things, have significantly removed. their helmets - you
could do worse than take the jacket off the first. book in the pile. The
only word possible to describe the binding is sumptuous; real cloth. in a
glorious shade of dark. green, with the title and author in black and gold
on. the spine.

Look at it more closely; your eyes. do not deceive you - it truly does have
real top-bands and tail-bands, in yellow, and, for. good measure, a silk
marker ribbon in a lighter green. The. paper is cream-wove and acid-free,
and the book. is sewn, not glued.

Throughout the. encounter, I should have mentioned, our loony has been
chattering away, although what he is trying to say is almost. impossible to
understand; after a time, however, he becomes sufficiently coherent to. make
clear. that he is trying to sell the books to you. Well, now, such quality
in bookmaking today can only be for collectors'. limited editions at a
fearsome price - #30, #40,. #50?

No, no, he says, the glitter more powerful than ever and the. trembling of
his hands rapidly spreading throughout. his entire body; no, no - the books
are priced variously at #7, #8. or #9, with the top price #12.

At this, the policemen understandably put their helmets. back on; one of
them draws his truncheon and the other can be heard. summoning
reinforcements. on his walkie-talkie. The madman bursts into tears, and
swears it. is all true.

And. it is.

David Campbell has acquired the entire. rights to the whole of the
Everyman's Library, which died a lingering and shameful death a. decade or
so ago, and he proposes to. start it all over again - 48 volumes this
September and 80. more next year, in editions I have described, at the
prices. specified. He proposes to launch his amazing venture simultaneously
in Britain and the United. States, with the massive firepower of Random
Century at. his back in this country, and the dashing cavalry of Knopf
across the water, and no one who loves literature and courage. will forbear
to. cheer.
At the time. this article was written I had believed for some time that
columnists in the Times and other journalists had. been making references to
my situation. Nothing unusual about this you may think, plenty of. people
have the same sort of ideas and obviously the papers aren't writing. about
them, so why should my beliefs not be as false as those of. others?
What makes this article so extraordinary is that three or. four days
immediately preceding its publication, I had a. meeting with a friend,
during the course of which we discussed the media. persecution, and in
particular. that by Times columnists. It seemed to me, reading the article
by Levin in Saturdayís paper, that he was describing in. some detail his
"artistís impression" of. that meeting. Most telling are the final
sentences, when he writes,. "The madman bursts into tears, and swears it is
all true. And it is." Although I. did not "burst into tears" (he seems to be
using a bit of poetic licence and. exaggerating) I did try hard to convince
my friend that it was all true; and I am able to concur with. Mr Levin,
because, of course, it. is.
At the beginning of the piece Levin reveals a. fear of being attacked by the
"irrational" subject. of his story, saying "I have no reason to believe that
he is. {*word*268}, but he should certainly be approached with caution". This
goes back to the. xenophobic propaganda of "defence" against a "threat"
which was seen. at the very beginning of the harassment. The impression of a
"madman running loose" who needs to be controlled through. an agency which
assigns. to itself the mantle of the "police" is also one which had been
expressed. elsewhere.
In the final paragraph of this extract, his reference to. Everymanís Library
as having "died a lingering and shameful death a decade or so. ago" shows
clearly what sort of conclusion they wish. to their campaign. They want a
permanent solution,. and as they are prevented from achieving that solution
directly, they waste significant resources on. methods which have been
repeatedly shown. to be ineffective for such a purpose.