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Jost, C. (2005). Elisabeth von R. and the Logic of the Parasite. Am. Imago, 62(2):149-155.

(2005). American Imago, 62(2):149-155

Elisabeth von R. and the Logic of the Parasite

Claudia Jost

Translated by:
Jonathan Long

Walter Benjamin relates an anecdote that actually stems from the pen of Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin was subject to censorship on direct order from the Czar due to his irreverent writings. The anecdote in question refers to the periodic bouts of depression suffered by Field Marshal Potemkin, which hampered the functioning of the Russian government whenever they occurred. As nobody was permitted to approach the favorite of Catharine the Great when he was in this condition, paperwork piled up in his offices, while the Czarina nonetheless pressed for action. Once, when Potemkin was depressed for an unusual length of time, the councils of state were thrown into disarray. By chance one day, “an unimportant little clerk named Shuvalkin” (Benjamin 1934, 111), who happened to be in the palace, inquired as to the cause of all the trouble and offered his assistance. Out of sheer desperation, the petty bureaucrat was handed Potemkin's papers. Without knocking, Shuvalkin entered the darkened room where Potemkin, dressed only in nightclothes, sat biting his nails. Shuvalkin silently placed a quill in his hand and presented him with one document after another. Potemkin signed them all without pausing to put down his pen. When the clerk returned, the counselors bent at first eagerly but then in growing dismay over the pile of papers. Finally, Shuvalkin himself glanced at what he had wrought.

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