The Red Notebook
[And now Anna's writing again:]
When I had finished reading this, no one said anything until George said: ‘Good honest basic stuff.’ Which could mean anything. Then I said: ‘I remember having that fantasy myself, every word of it, except in my case I put right the policy for Europe as well.’ Suddenly there was a roar of uncomfortable laughter, and George said: ‘I thought it was a parody at first — makes you think, doesn’t it.’
Clive said: ‘I remember reading something translated from the Russian — early ‘thirties, I think it was. Two young men are in the Red Square, and their tractor has broken down. They don’t know what’s wrong with it. Suddenly they see a burly figure approaching. He is smoking a pipe. “What’s wrong?” he asks. “That’s the trouble, Comrade, we don’t know what’s wrong.” “So you don’t know, eh, that’s bad!” The burly man points with the stem of his pipe at some part of the machinery: “Have you thought of that?” The young men try — the tractor roars into life. They turn to thank the stranger who is standing watching them with a fatherly twinkle in his eyes. They realize it is Stalin. But he has already turned away, with a salute of his hand, on his solitary walk through the Red Square to the Kremlin.’
We all laughed again, and George said: ‘Those were the days, say what you like. Well, I’m off home.’
As we separated, the room was full of hostility: we were disliking each other, and knew it.