UK, September 2022. Second Part

UK, September 2022. Second Part

Adriana Díaz Enciso


I’m sitting at The Whittington Stone pub in north London, watching the funeral procession of Queen Elizabeth II after the religious service at Westminster’s Abbey. The cortege has just crossed Wellington Arch, and everyone’s standing in most solemn silence while the funeral march that has been subjugating us with its drums and sombre, repetitive chords for what feels like an eternity, punctuated by the Big Ben’s tolls, one for each year in the monarch’s life (and it was a long one), resonates in some place in my psyche that I can’t quite identify and didn’t know existed.

I’ve been here for hours, since the funeral started. I’m hypnotised. In the most ceremonious moment, as if coming from a parallel reality, the landlord places just beneath the enormous main screen (there are screens all over the pub) a sign that reads, “Next Big Match Italy V England, Friday, Kick Off 19.45.”  It may not be intentional, but it has the tinge of an act of silent rebelliousness. A man who must be in his seventies comes out of the toilet; he’s wearing a sober grey suit, with two medals pinned to his jacket.

We then hear the national anthem, that “God Save the Queen” that today will be intoned for her for the last time, and a brief silence ensues in the lively conversation (about the event, inevitably) in a corner of the pub. Then the procession goes forward through the packed streets, with the crowd cheering and throwing flowers as it passes by, now by car on its way to Windsor, the coffin having been transferred from the gun carriage to the hearse.

In my previous piece for Literal, which I finished writing when the queen had been dead for three days only, I talked in a more philosophical tone about my experience of those days of the general state of things in the UK. My chronicle was more centred around our common mortality, as well as the questioning about the things that have meaning for an enormous and varied “us”. A couple of days later, watching that other impressive procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall nearby, where the monarch’s body was lying in-State for five days, visited by crowds that were queuing along over four miles and waiting between 9 and 20 hours to “pay their respects”, I realised that I wouldn’t manage to escape so easily. Something important, something big was taking place here, even if I didn’t have a remotely clear idea of why it was so.

Throughout all the years I’ve been in this country, I have lived ignoring the monarchy. Every time there is a royalty street celebration (a royal wedding, a jubilee), I make sure to walk in the opposite direction, with an attitude somewhere between incomprehension and contempt. I briefly broke that rule in 2002, on the occasion of the Queen Mother’s death. I stood in a more modest queue, though no doubt long, for around three hours, to see how it was—a royal wake at Westminster Hall. And it was imponent, for sure. Pomp and ceremony work for a reason. I went in and came out moved by anthropological curiosity about how these things functioned in my adoptive country, where I hadn’t been living for long, and then forgot about royalty again, I thought, forever, until… this happened to us.

This, which I don’t know how to describe, about which I don’t know what to think, this thing that surpasses me and I think surpasses us all, giddy as we are in this atmosphere of collective delirium. I feel my brain’s electrical currents running at top speed in opposite directions. And I write about this subject again because that question in my former piece, “what does it mean that something has meaning for someone”, is beginning to obsess me.

There are, of course, many people ignoring as far as possible (though there isn’t too ample a breadth) this “national mourning” business. I can no longer do so. Whether I like it or not, this has some meaning, I don’t know if good, bad or, as I suspect, everything together and entangled, and if we ignore it, I think, it’s at our peril, because what is happening is real. Where do I start?

The question is still about the meaning of this event, which is obviously strong for millions of people, and not only in the United Kingdom. It’s like an hallucination; as if we were still in the first Elizabeth’s times, the dream of an empire of global influence that no one who lives here can take seriously any longer. The famous British self-deprecating humour owes much to the avowal of the fact that the said empire crumbled long ago, and that what’s been left is tinsel, rather.

But what are they good for?

And then? What is moving these multitudes? For a moment I think that it must be uncertainty: the future of this country regarding its economy, its relationship with the rest of the world and a social welfare system of which it once prided itself so, hangs in the balance. A monarch (who is foremost a symbol) who has been here for seventy years, back from when the country was upheld by post-war ideals of duty and temperance, and who has presided over decades of ups and downs, but not total catastrophe, surely is an emblem of stability, even if illusory. Another word that has been much used these days is “unity”: Queen Elizabeth II as a symbol of unity for the nation and the Commonwealth. I’m surprised by a dear friend’s email, in which he tells me how much the queen’s death has affected him, even though he’s not fervently monarchic, precisely because, he says, the queen has always been there as a symbol of unity, from decades before he was born.

I understand what he’s saying, and these days (may the gods forgive me) I even feel it, but the question is, unity of what, exactly? What does royalty, which is a costly burden on taxpayers, do for this country? Will the answer approach somehow Monty Python’s famous one in Life of Brian, to “what have the Romans ever done for us”? I suspect not, but I do some research anyway, and my confusion grows.

Truth is, even if it’s hard for many of us to admit it, that not everyone in the royal family is completely useless, and its most representative figures do work a lot. Their foundation and/or patronage of multiple associations and charities that would probably not exist or survive without their work cannot be denied just because we are antiroyalists or because such work, laudable as it is, doesn’t justify their monstrous privileges. That “just because” is big and weighty, but if we want to consider the matter seriously, beyond some puerile rebelliousness, we’ll have to begin with an attempt at objectivity.

We know in fact that, in his long life as heir to the crown, the now king Charles III has carried out a not inconsiderable work with regard to protection of the environment, organic farming, youth support through The Prince’s Trust, defence of architectonical integrity in cities and other matters with which many of those who consider ourselves “left-wing” (whatever that means nowadays) would normally agree, if the poor man weren’t a Windsor. He’s been ridiculed for his opinions, as well as accused of breaking with constitutional protocols when meddling in these matters. He once declared wondering what “to meddle” meant, saying that if meddling is to be concerned about the conditions people live in in inner cities, he then felt “very proud of it”. On the other hand, there are rumours about the queen not being too happy with the Iraq invasion in 2003, but since all information about communications between the monarch and their prime ministers is confidential, we can’t but speculate. Charles, nevertheless, was more than frank in his criticism of the UK’s participation in the invasion and Tony Blair’s actions.

For years, Charles has replied to his critics that, as a king, he’ll stop expressing his opinions so openly. (“I’m not that stupid”, he’s said.) Perhaps he didn’t believe that his mother would really die one day, and some people wonder if he will be able to refrain himself. Some of us appreciated him as a big-mouthed Prince of Wales, and we can only hope that his influence as a king, even if it’s confidential and we don’t find out, will not be minimal on the matters he’s concerned about, and that he will “counsel, encourage and warn” PM Liz Truss with the full rigour that his Royal Ambivalence will allow.

People get worked up around these issues. What the hell is a royal doing meddling in politics? It’s a constitutional affront, when it is stated that the right and duty of the monarch is only to, precisely, “counsel, encourage and warn” their government. But what if that government is too clever by half? The monarch can only influence but has no bearing on final decisions. For mere mortals, here’s a nebulous area of ambiguity regarding their true power, and how much that “mere influence” affects decisions. The question not only concerns the national sphere. The delirium unleashed by the death of Elizabeth II shouldn’t make us forget the close relationships that the royal family has established with antidemocratic monarchies in other parts of the world. The matter is complex, as you’ll see, and the issues worthy of debate around Charles III are much more interesting and convoluted than the soap opera of his catastrophic marriage to Diana Spencer or his relationship with Camilla. 

That said, once established that the British monarchy does do some useful things, we can still wonder whether they could conduct all that work as normal civilians, without their privileges or their numberless properties reminiscent of Medieval landowning. Is it possible, for example, to unravel the contradiction in the outrage of the fact that a single family owns these properties and acknowledge, at the same time, that many people have received concrete benefits from the immense Duchy of Cornwall (which has been inherited within the royalty for 700 years), and that the latter has been important for the protection of the land? On the other hand, analysts say that, despite all their work, the greatest contribution from the royal family to the country’s economy (and it is huge) is through tourism. Is that then what tradition is good for? All these ceremonies, the pretty red soldiers, the rituals, are they only to entertain tourists? And if that is the case, what is the difference between the UK and Disneyland? And if the value of the British monarchy is not that different from that of Micky Mouse, why do all those who have been in the streets to see the cortege and queuing to see the queen seem to be so genuinely sad when they see the coffin? And why have so many dignitaries from all over the world reacted as if they were part of the British choreography, showing so many signs of respect? Some may be sincere and some not, but the behaviour is univocal. My questions are not baited or rhetorical—I ask because I don’t understand.

Monarchy and arms

During these days of exception, I haven’t wanted to miss that “big and important” something that escapes my comprehension, precisely because I’m trying to understand. I watch, for instance, the military display in the cortege and ceremonies. After all, the queen was the Commander in Chief of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Before her accession to the throne, she worked as a mechanic for the Auxiliary Territorial Service; her husband, Prince Philip, served in the Navy during that conflict; unspeakable Andrew in the Falklands war, and prince Harry in Afghanistan. The cohesion between the royal family and the military is manifest. And yet, the doubt persists about the true power of the Crown in making decisions. Early this year, and despite a protest letter with over one million signatures, the queen awarded Tony Blair the greatest honour the monarchy bestows, by naming him Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. The justification is that the said distinction is bestowed on all ex-prime ministers (do they really plan to award it to Boris Johnson?), but this doesn’t explain why then they took 15 years to give it to Blair. Some speculate that the delay was precisely because the Iraq invasion was so unpopular, because of the queen’s possible private opposition or Charles’s (much louder). However, no opposition, private or not so much, from the monarchy stopped the British participation in that monstrous and illegal war, the consequences of which are still affecting the lives of numberless people, and they ended up awarding the “honour” to Blair—guilty of war crimes—anyway.

Some might say that it doesn’t matter; that it’s only a medal, a Medieval honour with no genuine meaning in our times. But it is a gesture, and, as we have seen, gestures matter quite a lot in everything  related to the monarchy. I wonder if the splendour of the processions and military parades is also only a gesture, with a purely sentimental value for the royalty, if it is true that they have no real say regarding the recourse to arms.

For anthropologists

As I watch the impeccably choreographed funeral processions and rituals, the imponent discipline of the thousands of men and women who’ve taken part in them, some rather young, with an identical sombre expression on their face, I wonder what they think, how they live, what is their conception, unknown to me, of this country and of the world. Hypnotised as I am by this spectacle, I also acknowledge my human vulnerability to image, sound and ceremony. I consider myself an individual, a woman with a capacity for critical thinking, yet I’m also susceptible, like “the masses”, to the reactions of complex psychology aroused by ritual and ceremony. That is mysterious, and dangerous too. Today I suddenly thought of the crowds who looked in awe at the Nazi parades, themselves rich in symbols and choreography, less than a century ago. Not that I’m comparing, but it is good to listen to the alarm bell. We humans are individuals, but also instinctively social beings, and as such, susceptible to collective whims.

I’ve been noticing how many of the tributes to the queen consist of memories of people who met her only briefly, or just saw her passing, and the immense value they attribute to the fact that she smiled to them. As if she were a saint. Or an actress or pop star. These are utterly irrational reactions, transfers of ideals, wants or who knows what onto a woman that the immense majority of these people didn’t know. I think of the film The Baby of Mâcon, by Greenaway; of how easy it is to lose our mind, en masse, by dint of sheer magical thinking.

Though these musings are serious, comedy hasn’t been lacking. I can imagine the shouts and nervous breakdowns behind the scenes during the coordination of the international dignitaries’ arrival to the funeral, with the real royal power manifest in Biden, who was allowed to arrive in his thoroughly armour-plated limousine, with his security retinue, while all the others had to accept, even if begrudgingly, to arrive all mixed up by coach (just imagine the conversations, the smells)… like tourists. For some reason, Macron and his wife arrived in their own car, more discreet than Biden’s, with French elegance.

And let’s not even mention the royal family’s eternal dramas. What a curious thing, I tell myself, that this spectacle which  is indeed magnificent revolves around a family whose lives and tribulations don’t seem to rise higher than the contents of the Hello! magazine.

For my part, these days, watching as the new king and his siblings follow their mother’s coffin through literally the whole kingdom, with the media’s cameras stuck in close up to their face during every single second of their mourning, I’ve started to feel sorry for them. I feel like referring them to social services, subject as they are to such psychological torture. (And I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that what is inside that coffin is a corpse, ceaselessly carried back and forth.) Today I read a note referring to Prince William’s eldest son, a boy that’s only 9, as “the future king”, and I found it brutal. Queen Elizabeth became a queen only because her father was king against his will, when his brother abdicated. It is well known that George VI would have rather had that cup taken away from him. Perhaps when people really believed that the monarchs were so by divine decree, it was easier to uphold this complicated theatre with some sense of verisimilitude. But now? I don’t think that anyone, among the immense multitudes that have filled the streets of London, Windsor and much of the United Kingdom during the past ten days believes that the queen was the queen because such was God’s will. Furthermore—I don’t think that any member of the British royal family believes that, in this our 21st Century. If they did, it would frankly amount to psychosis. And then, if they do not have, as we are told, true political authority in a constitutional monarchy, and no one, not even themselves, believes they are there by divine decree, what does it all mean?

For, I must insist, it means something. All those TV presenters dressed in mourning for ten days, the black bow every day in Google; all those pictures of the queen, obituaries and books of condolence scattered all over the country. The impeccable organisation of surely infernal logistics, so that crowds the likes of which have never been seen in the streets of London can come to pay their respects to the monarch—transit routes, food, drinks, public toilets, and an unprecedented police operative in the streets, the rooftops and God only knows where else, that wasn’t seen even during the 2012 Olympic Games. It goes without saying that these are ideal conditions for a terrorist attack, or to fulfil the dream, during the funeral, of getting rid once and for all of the whole throng of world leaders. And yet, the streets have been opened to those the queen called “my people” in an atmosphere of kind welcome.

The spontaneous signs of affection, admiration and sadness have been mixed up with the media avalanche and the bombarding of official messages in a way that is impossible to unravel. If this is a manifestation of the opium of the people distributed from above, there is no doubt that the people sow it readily themselves. A bank holiday is called for the 19th of September, the day of the funeral, but in the curious balance that Great Britain usually holds in the conciliation of opposing positions, it isn’t mandatory. It depends on each business whether they want to open or not. Most close anyway, including museums and supermarkets. Some cinemas suspend their normal programme and project the funeral instead, for free. It can also be seen at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Southbank is offering to the crowd food, drinks and the use of toilets.

Equally confusing are the endless polls in press and TV: what do people think of all this? Are they sad or happy about the queen’s passing, or completely indifferent? Does Elizabeth II matter, or not? Does monarchy have some value, or should it be immediately overthrown? The responses among all sorts of British citizens, of all ages, and citizens of other countries in the Commonwealth, are diverse, paradoxical, contradictory, and not necessarily predictable. There are people who have surprised themselves queuing through the night to enter Westminster Hall without having the faintest idea why they’re doing so, and even more disquieting, without regretting it.

Talking with friends and acquaintances doesn’t make things clearer at all. We all think different things, and many of us frankly don’t know what we think. Something, yet, is clear—“this”, whatever it is, is a collective phenomenon, and as such, it is contagious. An ideal field study scenario for anthropologists.

In the crowd

On the Sunday prior to the funeral, I go with a friend to the Walter Sickert exhibition at the Tate Britain.

That’s where the queue for disabled persons who wish to say goodbye to the queen or pay their respects start. When I take the tube on the other side of the city, I see a sign that says there’s no more capacity in the queue and asks people to please stop trying to join it, but I doubt the warning was heeded.

At the Tate, the café opened early to offer its services to those who come to join the queue. There are groups of kind volunteers and police giving information, and a detachment of young soldiers with a red beret speaking in a language I can’t identify. There are also piles of water bottles to give away. Some of the persons coming to the queue are severely disabled. There is also a blind man. Most are elderly, and several are evidently army veterans, formally dressed, wearing their medals, some in wheelchairs. An old man walks slowly and proudly, with his bright red jacket and a black hat from some military corps or other, a bit like Napoleon’s.

I can think whatever I want about the monarchy and the armed forces, but I also know that I must learn to respect other people’s feelings. What right do I have to tell these men, about whose lives I know nothing, “sir, your feelings and your loyalty to your queen are worth nothing”?

Inside the Tate, there’s a condolence book. I read some of the messages, no doubt sincere.

As we leave the gallery, my friend, who initially had no great interest in all this business about the queen, decides to come with me “for a short while” as I take a look at the situation in the street. We end up spending the entire day together, ensnared by collective delirium. Believe me: it is extremely hard to escape. The day is most beautiful, a bridge between summer and autumn. The queue to Westminster is immense; it comes from somewhere beyond Lambeth. Westminster Palace is going through restoration works, so when people get to the hall where the queen is lying in-State, they find themselves facing a scaffolding castle. Across the road are the white tents of national and international press. From there we go to St James’s Park to see the flowers; it’s no longer possible to enter Green Park, and people are being warned to please stop bringing floral tributes.

Those we see at St James’s Park are by children, and again, as I suggested in my previous piece, they are the most moving and cool. We see some families with their children. At least in appearance, they don’t match the prototype of conservative right-wing people that supposedly supports the monarchy. They are all kinds of people, really, and the children draw near to leave their flowers, with curiosity and their forms of reverence. You can find in their cards all sorts of things, from a casual one with its “Bye, Qeen [sic], thanks for everything”, to a rather philosophical one in which the monarch’s dress, hat and handbag, and some trousers, hover in the air, empty, while the queen is nowhere to be seen. In another one we read, “Dear Queen, you didn’t deserve to go so soon”, signed by a seven-year-old boy.

I genuinely want to understand what the queen’s death means for these children. Is the impulse to make their cards a reflection of their family’s reaction, their school’s, or all together? Where does this sadness come from for those who make the most moving cards? One thing that is clear is that this queen was really loved. We may wonder why, whether that’s right or wrong, or if it’s mere alienation, but we cannot ignore the reality of such a manifestation of public affection. And what is it, this phenomenon that we call public affection? What is it made of? What is the proportion of reality and illusion in these manifestations?

The day’s atmosphere, it has to be said, is most enjoyable. You can feel the solemnity of a mournful event, but there is also a somewhat festive mood, and people (the crowds, volunteers, the police) take part kindly and with humour. It somehow reminds me the sensation in spontaneous public acts of solidarity after some terrorist attacks. I gather that in this country we have a certain talent for being together in the streets, be it for partying, demonstrating, mourning or anything in between, and I like that.

Then the crowd grows, with those who’re coming out from Westminster Hall. We can’t decide how to leave the park; the barriers and the police mark a single way, surrounding Buckingham Palace. Suddenly, there’s a group of police in motorcycle, followed by a couple of black cars with darkened windows. There’s some edginess in the air. We have no idea of who’s in those cars, though later we’ll know that the now king Charles is holding a reception that evening for some of the international dignitaries who’re arriving. We end up in a bottleneck, slowly trickling out through a narrow gate, because we’re not allowed to use the broad one through which now and then pass more police and cars evidently carrying Important People. I start to have a panic attack, that my friend helps me control with infinite serenity. I must say I seem to be the only one who’s terrified; there are young and elderly people in that crowd, and children too, all patiently waiting their turn, something quite admirable if we think that most of them have just made a queue lasting at least nine hours, often much more than that.

On the rooftop of the building across we can see two dark figures. Snipers, I think, because we know that, behind the scenes, behind this atmosphere of astounding respect and civility, there’s a security operation with units armed to their teeth.

When I manage to find a bus that will take me out of the congested area, Westminster Palace is shining under the early evening sun with a beautiful glow, like a jewel upon the river. I’m full of questions around power and splendour, and about the malleability of collective consciousness. There is no doubt that I have spent not only an interesting, but pleasant day, but it’s still troubling to see how I’m being dragged by the collective impulse. Next day there are pictures in the press of a rainbow stretched above Westminster, which must have been formed shortly after I left, and comments about how much this meteorologic phenomenon moved and fascinated the crowds. “Beware”, I think. “Thus are legends born.” But, of course, we humans like legends, and perhaps we even need them. Later I wonder, is it absurd to be moved by the rainbow formed during the last evening of a queen’s wake, but not if it’s formed during the funeral of a great Buddhist teacher? Why, or why not? Again (it’s, as you have seen, an obsession): what is it that gives meaning to human existence, and how are collective meanings created? There’s so much that is irrational in what we’re living through these days… And the crowds have surrendered to it most willingly.

Tradition and transformation

Those who support the monarchy are always talking about the importance of tradition and continuity. I suppose that most of us will agree that a people’s traditions matter; they are part of their identity, and deserve respect. If it is harder to respect the traditions of the British monarchy, so appreciated by many of the natives in these islands, it is no doubt because of the immense privileges and fortune of which the royal family is beneficiary; because in modern life it is more and more impossible to understand why those privileges, fortune and authority are bestowed on certain individuals just because they were born in a specific family, and because of the brutal legacy of the British Empire. It troubles me to think that it’s almost impossible to hold an objective conversation about this issue without being blinded by our ideological baggage, whatever its sign. I wonder if we in the UK can really write off as stupid all those for whom the monarchy matters. As we have seen these days, they are many, probably many more than some of us imagined. True, among them we can find those inspired by a hideous nationalist discourse, or those spellbound by the pathetic soap opera of the Windsors’ private life, victims of celebrity culture, but to reduce the multitudes that have crowded the streets these days to those two yardsticks is a lazy exercise that doesn’t reflect the whole reality. I realise that to conceive a United Kingdom without the monarchy will require a feat of the imagination much more refined than what we’ve been using so far, repeating that they’re all parasites and it’s about time for them to go, and perhaps we’ll even have to admit that there might be losses in that dreamt-of republic. Even the loss of no longer having them there to hate them, that debate being as it is an integral part of British society

Antiroyalists (among whom I generally include myself) talk about privileges. The queen, for her part, often talked about her place in society and her work as “fate”, and always as duty. She highlighted the above-mentioned importance of tradition and continuity. I have no doubt that she believed it, and, as it’s already been said, she indeed worked.

Some parts of that tradition are spectacular, but there is much in it that is only intelligible, and therefore of any value, to a bunch of aristocrats who live in a planet quite distant from that of the rest of mortals, with absurd protocols sustained by dint of sheer repetition. We can, for instance, respect the person on the throne, but to curtsy? To curtsy to a head of state like any other, a human being like us, just because he or she was born in this or that family? The observance of British monarchy’s rules and esoteric protocols has taken a high toll on many members of the royal family, if not all. I can’t imagine the degree of psychological resilience that is needed to survive, simultaneously, royalty’s inner impositions and the media’s barbaric intrusion. I hope that by the time that little boy, prince William’s son, is grown up, things have changed, whether the monarchy’s still here or not, so that he can decide for himself whether he wants to be “the future king”, without having to face the threat of an inhuman storm of dishonour.

Many people love the royals for their commitment to that duty that has been imposed on them from birth, even if its meaning is obscure for many of us. Perhaps there is also a psychological element involved—to confer meaning to all their apparatus because they offer an illusion of stability, when in democracy’s sacrosanct terrain we watch the parade of so much naked ambition, ineptitude and, of late, manifest baseness.

Be it as it may, something moves the hordes in the street, roads and motorways out to bid farewell to Elizabeth II. Think of the ever more solemn and sombre journey of the funeral cortege on its way from London to Windsor, each and every single mile packed with people (come on, you surely watched a bit!). I have watched indeed, caught by the dramatic effect of such consummate theatricality. I only wake from my hypnotic state when the cortege enters Windsor castle and an expletive escapes my lips: that’s a whole village rather than a castle, and that’s just one of the royal family’s many properties. Surely no consideration about the monarchy’s possible virtues justifies such excess.

They say that it is Charles III’s intention to transform and modernise some aspects of the monarchy. He has already stated that his coronation won’t be as lavish as his mother’s, since, he says, he’s sensitive to the financial crisis we’re going through; there is also talk about his wish that the enormous monarchic apparatus becomes less onerous for the country, and of opening to the public some of the royal residences. We’ll have to see how the implementation of those changes comes through. The issue is not without importance.

The fact is that the passing of Elizabeth II has been an event impossible to ignore in the UK, and it has forced us to acknowledge how intricate and contradictory the relationship between the monarchy and the people in this country is, as well as the magnitude of the power that this institution still holds. As for the collective imaginary, I still can’t understand how the death of a single woman attracts the attention of millions of people (me among them!) in the entire world, or that in the 21st Century the death of a public figure can be ritualised on this scale.

And yet, the commotion will pass, as everything does. It is already passing. By the time you read these lines, it will already be just one piece of news, among others. At Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel, after having covered miles all around the country on top of her coffin, the crown, sceptre and orb were removed and the body was lowered into the vault. The queen has died, which is our common destiny.

Life in the “kingdom”, in this complex nation, whose history is woven with the most astonishing extremes, will follow its way, which, nowadays, is one of troubling uncertainty. In Russia there are some who still think, as a presenter over there said a few days ago, that we deserve nothing but total extinction; she said they should have dropped the nuclear bombs during the queen’s funeral and turn the whole country into a desert. It may be bluff, but for us who live here, it’s not easy to take it out of our mind. And there are of course other concerns, easier to assimilate, but nonetheless still extremely urgent: the financial crisis, social inequality, the environmental emergency. As we start to awake from this national mourning’s collective delirium (which, as you can appreciate, has left me dizzy and confused), we’ll have to keep our eyes wide open to find the way forward.

Adriana Díaz-Enciso es poeta, narradora y traductora. Ha publicado las novelas La sedPuente del cieloOdio y Ciudad doliente de Dios, inspirada en los Poemas proféticos de William Blake; los libros de relatos Cuentos de fantasmas y otras mentiras y Con tu corazón y otros cuentos, y seis libros de poesía. Su más reciente publicación, Flint (una elegía y diario de sueños, escrita en inglés) puede encontrarse aquí.

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