To rest from politics and riots, I’m reading Agatha Christie’s 1970 Passenger to Frankfurt. It’s a meh novel but is a superb 2020 prophecy.
Agatha Christie was born in 1890, Torquay, England, meaning that she came of age in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nevertheless, thanks to almost five decades of writing murder mysteries, I believe she is still the best-selling novelist of all time.
I happen to be a huge Christie fan. I started reading her books before I even hit my teen years, so you’d think I would have aged out of them, but I haven’t and, in fact, when I’m tired or find the world a bit overwhelming, I like re-reading her books. They’re “comfort reading.”
It doesn’t matter to me that I know “whodunnit.” Her mysteries are usually quite clever. I also like the world she creates. I like the English “types” that people her world, and am willing to tolerate the fact that her early books sometimes used racial stereotypes, often ugly ones, about Jews, blacks, and other decided non-English or Western European peoples.
Christie was a creature of her time, writing about a world she understood, rather than someone deliberately advancing racist or even genocidal tropes. Unlike today’s snowflakes, I have enough perspective and knowledge to handle a few flies in the ointment.
Christie died in 1974. In the last few years before her death, her books were not as carefully plotted but, in some ways, they were more interesting than her old books. Christie was dismayed by the leftist revolutionary fervor in the late 1960s. Indeed, she’d been aware of it even earlier, with hints showing up in books from the late 1950s and early 1960s. She was a stalwart, upper-middle-class late Victorian Englishwoman and, having lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, and the Cold War, had no liking for communism or any type of societal instability.
All of this came to full flower in her strangest book, 1970s Passenger to Frankfurt. In some ways, it’s almost more of a free-form essay about the attacks on Western society in the late 1960s. I read Passenger to Frankfurt not long after it was published, so I must have been 11 or 12 then. I didn’t like it because it wasn’t a conventional cozy English mystery. Instead, she has her main character, Sir Stafford Nye join a crusade of people dedicated to world stability, which means exposing the mastermind behind a worldwide cabal trying to attain total power. The background is the actual escalation of violence all over the world in the late 1960s — crime, rioting, student uprisings, etc. When I last read the book, maybe in 1972 or ’73, it didn’t work for me at all.
When I re-read Passenger to Frankfurt now, though, I was struck by the fact that much of what Christie writes perfectly describes 2020 America, right down to Soros and the tech billionaires helping to foment the revolution. Let me just quote some passages I marked, none of which will give away the ending should you choose to read the book:
What is being promoted, you must understand, is the growing organization of youth everywhere against their mode of government; against their parental customs, against very often the religions in which they have been brought up. There is the insidious cult of permissiveness, there is the increasing cult of violence. Violence not as a means of gaining money, but violence for the love of violence. That particularly is stressed, and the reasons for it are to the people concerned one of the most important things and of the utmost significance.
What a world it was nowadays, he thought. Everything used the whole time to arouse emotion. Discipline? Restraint? None of those things counted for anything any more. Nothing mattered but to feel.
Don’t you remember in 1919 everyone gong about with a rapt face saying Communism was the answer to everything. That Marxist doctrine would produce a new heaven brought down to a new earth. So many noble ideas flowing about. But then, you see, whom have you got to work out the ideas with? After all, only the same human beings you’ve always had. You can create a third world now, or so everyone thinks, but the third world will have the same people in it as the first world or the second world or whatever names you like to call things. And when you have the same human beings running things, they’ll run them the same way. You’ve only got to look at history.
There a lot going on [in the USA] that’s very interesting indeed. Especially in California —
“Universities?” Sir Stafford sighed. “One gets very tired of universities. They repeat themselves so much.”
[Monsieur Poissonier] was a member of the French government to whom the word “student” was anathema. If he had been asked he would have admitted to a preference for the Asian ‘flu or even an outbreak of bubonic plague. Either was preferable in his mind to the activities of students.
“As for the magistrates,” said Monsieur Grosjean, “what has happened to our judicial authorities? The police — yes, they are loyal still, but the judiciary, they will not impose sentences, not on your men who are brought before them, young men who have destroyed property, government property, private property — every kind of property.
“Do we contemplate, can we contemplate a corrupt state subsidized from some outside source?”
“In Italy too,” said Signor Vitelli, “in Italy, ah, I could tell you things. Yes, I could tell you of what we suspect. But who, who is corruption our world? A group of industrialists, a group of tycoons? How could such a thing be so.”
All of that’s almost weirdly prescient, isn’t it?
Older Americans in the late 1960s and very early 1970s, who were watching play out the same things that caught Christie’s imagination, responded in 1972 by giving Nixon a sweeping mandate. Had he remained president, without Watergate, the world would be very different.
In 2016, the anarchists and power-seekers didn’t wait for an actual Watergate. They sought to create one out of whole cloth — and failed.
It’s to be hoped that, in 2020, Americans will again look at the creeping chaos and put the brakes on by voting for Trump. Moreover, I believe that Trump is too smart, having dodged the crocodiles for four years now, ever to slip into Watergate mode.
If we can win on November 3, I think we’re safe. If not, the worldwide revolution that Christie envisioned, one using Marxism as a vehicle for raw power-seeking, could become real.
Oh, and regarding Christie’s disdain both for students and the left’s push for feelings over facts, this video seems apropos:
(By the way, regarding that young man in the video, if he’s wise, he’ll break up with his girlfriend really fast. Someone that stupid and that emotion-driven is very dangerous in a relationship. Of course, looking at his meek metrosexuality, either he’s as bad as she is or he’s already “broken.”)
Image: Man burning his draft card at an anti-War protest in Washington, D.C., 1970 (cropped). (No known restrictions on publication.)