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Maxim Gorky: Generals and substitutes for monkeys


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war

Maxim Gorky: Selections on war


Maxim Gorky
From Fragments From My Diary (1923)
Translated by Moura Budberg


Substitutes for Monkeys

Professor Z., the bacteriologist, once told me the following story.

‘One day, talking to General B., I happened to mention that I was anxious to obtain some monkeys for my experiments. The General immediately said, quite seriously:

‘”What about Jews – wouldn’t they do? I’ve got some Jews here, spies that are going to be hanged anyway – you’re quite welcome to them if they are any use to you.”

‘And without waiting for an answer he sent his orderly to find out how many spies were awaiting execution.

‘I tried to explain to His Excellency that men would not be suitable for my experiments, but he was quite unable to understand me, and opening his eyes very wide he said:

‘”Yes, but men are cleverer than monkeys, aren’t they? If you inoculate a man with poison he will be able to tell you what he feels, whereas a monkey won’t.”

‘Just then the orderly came in and reported that there was not a single Jew among the men arrested for spying – only Rumanians and gypsies.

‘”What a pity!,” said the General. “I suppose gypsies won’t do either?…What a pity…!”‘

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