“A Society of Scoundrels”
Translated by Michael Hofmann
There was once a society of scoundrels, or rather not scoundrels per se, just ordinary, average people. They always stuck together. When one of them had perpetrated some rascally act, or rather, nothing really rascally, just averagely bad, he would confess it to the others, and they investigated it, condemned it, imposed penalties, forgave him, etc. This wasn’t corrupt — the interests of the individual and the society were kept in balance and the confessor received the punishment he asked for. So they always stuck together, and even after their death they didn’t abandon their society, but ascended to heaven in a troop. It was a sight of childlike innocence to see them flying. But since everything at heaven’s gate is broken up into its component parts, they plunged down like so many rocks.