Saturday, 1 June 2013

Flandry And Desai

Having read about Chunderban Desai in "his" novel, The Day Of Their Return, it is good to be able to move ahead to his only other appearance, a conversation with Dominic Flandry in A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows. If we have read the History of Technic Civilization in chronological order of fictitious events, then we already know both Flandry and Desai but it is good to learn that they know each other.

During a bon voyage party at the Coral Palace before Emperor Hans leaves Terra at the head of a barbarian-quelling armada, Flandry and Desai converse alone after midnight in a garden with an ocean view twenty meters above a courtyard with a floodlit, colored, musical fountain. Desai, teaching at the Terran Diplomatic Academy for a year before retiring to Ramanujan, still uses his ivory cigarette holder. What is of interest apart from the colorful context is the conversational content.

First, he thinks that the Spican sector should be not only reinforced but also restructured with new administrations, laws and economics but that this should be done by a competent viceroy and staff with extraordinary powers. Flandry asks, "Who's both competent and trustworthy...?" (Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra, New York, 2012, p. 385) - apart from those already overworked elsewhere. That rings a bell from the Foundation Trilogy which in turn was based on the Fall of the Roman Empire: in the decadent empire, a competent general was not trusted to stay with generalship and keep out of politics so he was recalled before he could complete the job of securing the disintegrating galactic perimeter. Rereading further, I see that Desai goes on to make the same point: the Empire's "'...competent people become untrustworthy from their very competence; anyone who can make a decision may make one the Imperium does not like. Incompetence grows with the growing suspiciousness and centralization.'" (p. 387)

In any case, Desai thinks that Hans should stay at home to prevent further civil wars. When asked why he speaks of civil wars in the plural, Desai reminds Flandry first of McCormac's rebellion, twenty two years previously, then of the messianic religion that nearly started immediately afterwards on McCormac's home planet. Civil wars have deep causes that persist and generate further conflicts. From his experience, study and reflection, Desai expounds a theory that Flandry had not known and that the Empire would not want.

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