Amitava Kumar on Joseph Anton


Does the bodyguard’s principal make conversation with the bodyguard, as they wait for the light to change, in the dull grey Citroën? With the second bodyguard, who is driving? What is the tone? Does the bodyguard’s principal comment on the tanned young women who flock along the boulevard? On the young men? On the traffic? Has the bodyguard ever enjoyed a serious political discussion with his principal?”

The lines I have quoted above are from a short story by Donald Barthelme published in the 16 October 1978 issue of The New Yorker. The story, which was titled Concerning the Bodyguard, is a wonderful piece of work and is made up entirely of questions. “When the bodyguard delivers the son of his principal to the school where all of the children are delivered by bodyguards, does he stop at a grocer’s on the way and buy the child a peach? Does he buy himself a peach?”

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