CHAPTER 1

06/04/2011 11:14

 

1

My name is Holden Caulfield and if you really want to hear about it, the first thing you will probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.  I would rather tell you something else. Ill just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here. You probably don’t know this place. And I’ll have to keep it a secret for a while.

Tralfamadore, a city where I used to live before this goddamn thing happened, is the capital of the State of Tralfamadore. It aint that big though, of course it is smaller than New York. I was born there and it wasn’t that bad until the state system started to change. I didn’t care much about the changes until strange things started happening around me.

The Mayor of the Tralfamadore is Mr. Edward Fairfax Vere but instead of Mayor, everyone calls him Captain Vere only. He used to be a captain of the ship Bellipotent and it is where he brought his right hand from – John Claggart. These two men are the most powerful people in the city and their power reaches even further.

In the State, as in the City, it is prohibited to read, keep or distribute books of any kind. Of course, every city has its own library which contains mainly ideological literature approved by the state government. Every citizen has access to this library but otherwise it is forbidden to read the literature that used to be a world heritage in the older days. My father can still remember many authors and famous books that were even compulsory to read at the time he went to school, but he is otherwise unwilling to speak about it. So, actually, at that time, I didn’t have much idea of what the heritage in this sense meant. I went to school where we only read scientific literature and there was no mention of things that existed in the past.

Since it has always been difficult to obey the law, there are national units who take care of it. Apart from the Police, there are Firemen. Among the others, for us only two of them are important, Guy Montag and superior to him, Beatty. If you heard by chance that firemen put fires out instead of starting them, it is true. At the time when houses were not completely fireproof, firemen really helped people survive by putting the fires out. In Tralfamadore Firemen burn houses which contain any books that might be harmful to the whole society. They first burn the banned books and then the house. It has happened several times, or so they say, that people were burnt to ashes together with their books because they were somehow incapable of fleeing from the burning house.

Guy Montag and Beatty are example state workers. They are both married, have no children, and own a super modern hi-tech house in the suburbs. Everything changed when Montag got to know his adolescent neighbour, Clarisse McClellan.

 Cpt.Vere and Claggart were overwhelmed with work. Claggart brought a list of names and introduced it to Cpt.Vere. The list of the Unwanted had appeared at governmental desks just then. It contained the names of those people who were somehow dangerous or enemies of the state. Among the names, there were some Tralfamadorians as well. Cpt.Vere’s task was to come up with a way of getting rid of them easily and quietly, not making it public under any circumstances. As the two were working out the plan, let me introduce the most significant names of all to you.

The first listed was Mr. Billy Budd. Actually, there had been no accusations made against him so far because there hadn’t been direct evidence. But he had been Claggarts bitter enemy since they worked on the same ship and Billy Budd was a very handsome, kind-hearted, nice chap whom everyone liked. Some even said he had noble blood in his veins. Claggart refused either to give him a chance or to befriend him and always conspired against him in order to get closer to Cpt.Vere. Now, when Claggart is in power, he continued in machination and revenge. Poor Billy Budd, unaware of Claggart’s hatred towards him, had no idea such a conspiracy could go so far.

 It was written: “Billy Budd, a factory man, favourite with his co-workers, makes continuous attempts to breach the law by helping emigrants get abroad, printing them false passports and arranging their arrivals in foreign states. Apart from that, he keeps an enormous library in the basement of his house and makes regular sessions where people are allowed to read books that are strictly prohibited by the Law of Tralfamadore. Several attempts to gather direct evidence against him ´failed and it is advised to get rid of him in as unobtrusive way as possible.”

  Number Two was Mr. Billy Pilgrim. He was a soldier in the Second World War and survived the firebombing of Dresden in Germany. He was a wealthy man, owned a network of optometrist companies GF&F, but his mind was fatally disturbed by the war experience. He was accused of reading, supporting, distributing and publicly exhibiting books by banned author Kilgore Trout. There were several attempts at burning down his house but since he was a person of higher social status and still a man too prominent and too useful to the state itself, all of them were stopped. It was high time something was done about it.     

             The name that followed was Mr. Lennie Small. His threat to the state wasn’t that enormous in the field of activity or in the area of violating law. Only his mental condition was the pain in the neck of the government. Slowly, they were disposing of all the mentally and physically ill in order to preserve a kind of pure race. These people were of no contribution to the state anyway. But there was a big problem with Lennie. He was always accompanied by his friend, George Milton, who acted as a brother or father to him. It was not easy to let Lennie vanish because they lived in a farmhouse together with an elderly man, Candy, and so Lennie was never alone.        

            The fourth on the list was the family of McClellans. As refugees, they moved to Tralfamadore from Chicago. They lived in the suburbs and were accused of spreading liberal views, ideas and lies publicly (Clarisse, a nephew of Stan McClellan, was expelled from school for the same reason) and were suspected of keeping a library with banned books in their house.

         Clarisse was only 16 years old. At school, it was Princeton to be precise, she met me. We were in the same year and we became very good friends indeed. We had much to talk about, our never-ending stories and the plots from the books she read were so amazing that I can’t remember any better  times in my life. And when I started to feel something more towards her (she was really cute), she got the axe and we couldn’t meet. They just removed her from school without saying a word. Fucking system! And that’s why my person was also a much debated issue. They considered me dangerous only because I was in contact with Clarisse and spent much time with her. BUT they didn’t act in any way because MY father was a well known lawyer and participated in politics and even if I hate admitting it, we were quite well-off. Anyway, there was nothing but the word against me.      

While discussing, Claggart got the idea:

-- Cpt.Vere, since it is very difficult to get rid of all these people and since we cannot use any of the State Police or Firemen forces, I know of a better way...--

-- What is it, Mr.Claggart? -- asked Cpt.Vere in anticipation.

-- Have you seen the news recently? --

Cpt.Vere wondered where he was heading to. – No, I haven’t, Mr.Claggart. --

-- Haven’t you heard of a multiple murder in the village of Holcomb, in Kansas? Two men have just been arrested and charged with killing all the Clutter family, including two children. They have become the worldwide famous killers who killed in cold blood since there was no money to steal. They only got 50 dollars, I think. -- he started thinking deeply.

-- Yes, I have heard of it, although I haven’t known they have been arrested already. But still, what is the point of all this talk, Mr.Claggart? What’s your point? -- asked he nervously.

-- Ive been thinking of hiring these two men, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, to do the dirty job for us. What do you think? Would it be possible to ask for their release? --

-- I am not sure, Mr.Claggart, if it is a good idea to hire contract killers of world fame to do this dirty job. They are in prison right now, aren’t they? Anyway, I do not think we can convince the Board to send us two foreigners whose fame has been built in such a weird action, to clear up the list. I rather think it is highly improbable. But let me see what I can do. --

To be continued.