Inverted Commas 10: Ideal City
1. Steal Nothing, whether it be an abstract idea or another life.
2. Examine Everything.
3. Pay a Fair Price.
These are the laws of the city state in the Valley of the Golden Cloud, from Michael Moorcock’s fantasy The War Hound and the World’s Pain (1981). The city guard who announces this adds,
“And remember, to lie is to steal another soul’s freedom of action, or some fragment of it. Here a liar and a thief are the same thing.”
As Captain Ulrich von Bek suggests, these laws sound excellent, even ideal, to which his companion Sedenko adds, “And simple.”
Yet, as the guard rejoins, they sometimes require complex interpretation. Which then leads von Bek to muse that it had been many years since he’d been able to believe in absolute justice, and some weeks since he’d believed in justice of any kind. He’s been living through the Thirty Years War after all — and we seem to be living through an equally tumultuous period of modern history, with similar concerns about justice.