Roberto Escobar offers the reader a two-track reflection on the power of metaphors. As in his previous volume, Metamorphosis of Fear, the day-by-day unfolding of political events impels the author to explore a nagging question: how could the 20th century's various, tyrannical "-isms" possibly have come into being, and how did they succeed in conquering the consciences of men of good will? The author addresses this question and related events by examining Aesop, the Brothers Grimm, and "The Thousand and One Nights" and by describing in anthropological terms, with the benefit of distance, the existential dynamics of power mechanisms. Everyday chance happenings thus emerge from an indistinct backdrop, revealing their substance in the immaterial atmosphere of rationality. Reflections on power, and especially totalitarianism, usually assume the standpoint of the victim and scrutinise the dehumanising and painful mechanisms of marginalisation and exclusion. This volume, on the contrary, analyses the inner world of the persecutors, its unique and absolute nature that quells doubts and fears, renders blind with paranoia and obsession, lays waste to otherness. The unveiling of this internal deterioration is useful, in that it allows the reader to understand that the strongest feature of totalitarian outlooks is also their weakest: just as Scheherazade, in "The Thousand and One Nights", manages to avoid death at the hands of the Sassanid king and put a dent in his dominant thought, our freedom depends on the vitality of not one but many opinions, not one but many stories, not one but many worlds laden with meaning.
Roberto Escobar teaches Political Language Analysis at the University of Milan.