someone's style is, in itself, fascist? Or someone's mind. You're just showing off.'
I was tempted to reply by imitating his way of speaking: 'If you can't spot it four paragraphs into a book or after talking to someone for half an hour, then you know bugger-all about literature or people.' But I stood there thinking a little, thinking superficially. It really wasn't that easy to explain how, nor even in what that mind or style with all its many faces consisted, but I was able to recognise them at once, or so I thought then, or perhaps I was just showing off. I had been doing so, of course — although only to myself — when I spoke of four paragraphs and half an hour, I should have said or thought 'a few hours', and even that would have been pushing it. It takes perhaps days and weeks or months and years, sometimes you see something clearly in that first half-hour only to feel it fade, to lose sight of it and to recapture it, perhaps, a decade or half a lifetime later, if it ever comes back. Sometimes it's best not simply to let time pass, or to allow ourselves to become entangled in the time we grant to others or to become confused by the time we ourselves are granted. It's best not be dazzled, which is what time always tries to do, all the while slipping past. It isn't easy any more to define what fascist meant, it's becoming an old-fashioned adjective and is often used incorrectly or, of course, imprecisely, although I tend to use it in a colloquial and doubtless analogical sense, and in that sense and usage I know exactly what it means and know that I'm using it properly. But with De la Garza I had used it more than anything in order to annoy him and to put the dreadful fascist writers he so admired firmly in their place, I had taken an instant dislike to the man, I've seen so many of his sort from childhood on, and they never die, they just disguise themselves and adapt: they're snobbish and vain and extremely pleasant, they're cheerful and even, in form at least, affectionate, they're ambitious and rather false (no, they're not even entirely false), they try to appear refined and, at the same time, pretend to be one of the lads, even common (a very poor imitation, they don't fool anyone, their deep aversion to what they are imitating soon unmasks them), that's why they're so free with their language, thinking that this makes them seem more down-to-earth and will win round the reluctant, which is why they combine stiff refinement with the manners of the barracks and the vocabulary of the prison, military service served them perfectly to complete the picture; the final effect is that of a perfumed boor. De la Garza's mind did not strike me as fascist, even by analogy. He was merely a flatterer, the kind who cannot bear anyone to dislike them, not even people they detest, they aspire to be loved even by those they hurt. He was not the sort who would, on his own initiative, stick the knife in, or only if he needed to earn a few brownie points or to ingratiate himself or if he were given a special assignment, then he would have no scruples at all, because people like him are very adroit with their own consciences.
But I postponed these thoughts for later, and merely cocked my head and raised my eyebrows in response, as if agreeing or saying: 'What more can I say?' and let the matter drop, and he didn't press it, indeed he took advantage of my silence to tell me that he also knew a hell of a lot — purely as an amateur, he explained, not this time as an expert — about literary fantasy, medieval stuff too (that's what he said, he said 'a hell of a lot' and 'medieval stuff too'). From the way he said this, it was clear that he considered literary fantasy to be chic. I thought he would one day be Minister of Culture, or at the very least
Secretary of State of said branch, to use the old expression, although I've never known exactly what 'branch' meant in the bureaucratic rather than the botanical sense.
Those few seconds