Surrealpolitik: For Maimie's Sake: A Tale of Love and Dynamite

Author: Grant Allen

San Bernadino, CA: Ulan Press (2013, first published in 1886)

Quick Summary

Early terrorism novel, but really a love story of sorts. Maimie is an impossibly alluring and impossibly childlike young woman who exists only to be loved and admired and has no capacity for real feelings for anybody else. All she wants is for men to adore her. She is ready to throw any woman under the bus, and most men, without ever being mean about it. She's honest about everything and everyone loves her. She ends up marrying Sydney Chevenix, a brilliant chemist who has invented a totally silent explosive. He is the most noble character in the book, sacrificing everything with insane selflessness for Maimie's sake; but he is also a racist in a way that betrays no awareness of the fact on the part of the author. The book also displays constant misogyny and the men are almost uniformly openly condescending and insulting towards the women, and, like Sydney's racism, this is not portrayed as any kind of character flaw. For my purposes, the interesting thing is the terrorists. They are named characters, and led by Vera Trotsky. They are referred to sometimes as nihilists and sometimes as communists, and Allen seems to make no distinction and have no awareness of what either term means. To him they both mean "people who are bent on blowing things up." Allen allows them integrity and they're not unlikeable. The only people they manage to injure in the course of the novel are each other. They are effectively controlled, or so they believe, by a force they call The Unconscious, which is rather like the surrealists' conception of objective chance. It's random chance, good luck, but they attribute it to a design, an intelligence. But this is specifically not "Providence" -- it's the Unconscious. Opposed to Providence, so it contains a kind of menace, and it seems to operate only for terrorists. So they're kind of mystical. It's a pretty good page turner despite ridiculous one-dimensional unrealistic characters and a strong sensation that the author doesn't understand anything about anything.


There are 10 quotes currently associated with this book.

Stanislas Benyowski laughed silently the suppressed laugh of a professional plotter. (page 27)
Tags: [Terror, Literary/Poetic]
They all drew in solemn silence.

As each man unfolded his scrap of paper with trembling fingers, they turned to see who had drawn the one lot bearing the accustomed legend, 'Death to the traitor.'

Stanislas Benyowski held it up, unmoved, listless as ever, between his thumb and finger.

'The Unconscious has selected me for the task of vengeance,' he said quietly. 'Komissaroff shall be removed at the earliest opportunity. I will report progress to the next meeting.' (page 32)
Tags: [Terror, Literary/Poetic, Dreams]
'So these are your foreigner friends, Maimie,' the redoubtable Captain cried out loudly, as he pervaded the one wee sitting-room with his colossal presence. 'These are your new London friends, are they, with the Frenchified name and the trade of painter? Good-morning, sir; good-morning, Mrs. Somebody. I can't screw my honest English tongue around your outlandish crack-jaw foreigner lingo, I'm sorry to tell you; but I'm glad to meet you all the same -- I'm glad to meet you; and Maimie tells me you've been very kind to her.' (page 34)
Tags: [Humor, Terror, Literary/Poetic]
'No, Mrs. Somebody,' the old Captain assented, with a sagacious nod; 'she certainly hasn't. She's been brought up clean away from all nonsense, all hypocrisy, all humbug of every kind; and you won't find a better girl going anywhere than our Maimie. She's been brought up obedient to reason, and to reason only. I've treated her systematically with pure reason. I'm an old sailor, and on board ship we used all to have a great deal too much authority and too little reason. I hate authority -- I detest authority; I'm all for reason. Miami, my dear, I'm opposed to authority, am I not, and all for reason?' (page 36)
Tags: [Humor, Terror, Rationality, Literary/Poetic]
Walking down Waterloo Place, he saw a shabbily dressed man a little in front of him, making his way in the direction of Charing Cross foot-bridge. Benyowski started.

'This is a strange accident,' he thought to himself silently. 'The Unconscious has delivered him at once into my hand. Hartmann is right. It sometimes strangely approaches design in the marvelous patness of its opportune coincidences. The old-fashioned mind would have seen in this the finger of Providence. We see in it rather the working of the Unconscious. Both are inscrutable, divine, mysterious.' (page 46)
Tags: [Terror, Literary/Poetic, Dreams]
'How very lucky that I happened to meet him there just this evening! The Unconscious is kind. But there's design in it, too; human design in it. If I hadn't known Komissaroff was given to boating, I couldn't have laid such a trap for him so easily.' (page 47)
Tags: [Rationality, Literary/Poetic, Dreams]
Sydney had got a book about pessimism on a shelf in his study, written by a Mr. James Sully; and Maimie had read a page or so out of the middle one other gloomy afternoon, and thought it all very nice and melancholy and dispiriting, and extremely demonstrative of the pleasant conclusion that the universe at large is one huge gigantic blunder. Such a clever word, pessimism! Maimie was quite proud of herself for being able to pronounce it, and to use it correctly in conversation without stumbling over it.

It's some consolation on a muggy day to feel that you know what pessimism means! (page 137)
Tags: [Humor, Literary/Poetic]
'Do load again,' she cried, 'Sydney! I love it awfully. It's just beautiful -- for a mere toy, you know -- only to amuse one's self with. I think it's really a lovely invention. I could go on firing all the evening.'

'So could I,' Sydney answered, reloading quickly. 'I love to see the noiseless effect produced so instantaneously on the board opposite one. It seems so like the "Arabian Nights." You pull a trigger, and hi, presto! a man falls down dead at once before you.'

'Would it go through a man like that?' Maimie asked, shuddering, even as she fired.

'To be sure it would. Clean through him at a shot. Its explosive force is, weight for weight, about fourteen times that of gunpowder. You don't care for the exact decimals, I suppose, do you?'

'I don't know what decimals are, I'm sure,' Maimie answered, with a little toss of her pretty round head; 'but I don't like to think about a bullet making a great hole like that right through a human body. I call it awfully wicked of you, Sydney, to go inventing new ways of killing off your fellow-creatures. Load the pistol again for me please, will you?'

Sydney laughed, and loaded gaily. (page 158)
Tags: [Humor, Literary/Poetic, Crime/Noir]
Murder will out, says the old-fashioned proverb -- a proverb of days more believing than our own. But murder will not always out, thought Jocelyn Cipriano; as a matter of fact, how many times a year is the proverb falsified? (page 196)
Tags: [Terror, Myth, Conspiracy, Literary/Poetic, Gaslighting, Crime/Noir]
A woman's sympathy is always grateful to a man in adversity, even though the woman herself who gives it be an adamantine communist. (page 236)
Tags: [Humor, Terror, Capitalism, Literary/Poetic]