Jan 052001

My bathroom shelf is a mini-library. There I keep old books I might want to re-read, and this is how I found Romain Gary’s Promise at Dawn. This book was published in Great Britain in 1962 and I must have read it soon after.

When I picked it up on the last day of the old year, the book fell open on the page of the ancient gods.

“First comes Totoche, the god of Stupidity, with his scarlet monkey’s behind, the swollen head of a doctrinaire and a passionate love for abstractions; he’s always been the Germans’ pet, but today he prospers almost everywhere, always ready to oblige; he is now devoting himself more and more to pure research and technology, and can be seen frequently grinning over the shoulders of our scientists; with each nuclear explosion his grin gets wider and wider and his shadow looms larger over the earth; his favorite trick is to hide his stupidity under the guise of scientific genius, and to enlist support among our great men to ensure our own destruction.”


“Then there is Merzavka, the god of Absolute Truth and Total Righteousness, the lord of all true believers and bigots; whip in hand, a Cossack’s fur cap over one eye, he stands knee-deep in a heap of corpses, the eldest of our lords and masters, since time immemorial the most respected and obeyed; since the dawn of history he had us killed, tortured and oppressed in the name of Absolute Truth, Religious Truth, Political Truth, Moral Truth; always with a capital T raised high above our heads, like a scaffold. One half of the human race obsequiously licks his boots, and this causes him immense amusement, for well he knows that there is no such thing as absolute truth, the oldest trick to goad us into slavery or to drive us at each other’s throats, and even as I write these words, I can hear above the barking of the seals and the cries of the cormorants the sound of his triumphant laughter rolling toward me from the other end of the earth, so loud that even my brother the ocean cannot raise his voice above it.”


“Then there is Filoche, the god of Mediocrity, full of bilious scorn and rabid prejudice, of hatred and petulance, screaming at the top of his voice: “You dirty Jew! You nigger! Jap! Down with the Yankees! Kill the yellow rats! Wipe out capitalists! Imperialists! Communists! – lover of holy wars, a Great Inquisitor, who is always there to pull the rope at a lynching, to command a firing squad, and the most eagerly listened to; he is to be found in every political camp, from right to left, lurking behind every cause, behind every ideal, always present, rubbing his hands whenever a dream of human dignity is stamped into the mud.”


“And Trembloche, the god of Acceptance and Servility, of survival at all costs, shaking with abject fear. Covered with goose flesh, running with the hare and hunting with the hounds, a skilled persuader, he knows how to worm his way into a tired heart, and his white reptilian snout always appears before you when it is so easy to give up and remain alive takes only a little cowardice.”


Pausing between paragraphs I wondered why my attention was drawn to all those ancient gods that I have, at least in this life-time, fought against with missionary zeal.

And a small voice says: You have been feeding them. They thrive on your anger. They relish your arrogance.

And now Totoche and Merzavka are grinning. Filoche giggles and Trembloche roars with laughter. Got wise to the game, have you? They say as they bow out and disappear from the screen.

Let me once more remind myself and share with you The Mikao Usui secret art of inviting happiness – the miraculous medicine for all diseases.

Just for today
Do not anger
Do not worry
With gratitude devote yourself to your work
Be kind to people.

Happy 2001 !

  One Response to “Promise at Dawn”

  1. I (luckily) discovered “Promise at Dawn” at the age of 17, and it was as if I had heard what I had recognized but never would have been able to put into words …. a wonderful author! I tried introducing people to Romain Gary, but he -for reasons I do not understand- never became widely popular or well known.