British writer Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) wrote two volumes of an autobiography, stopping short of finishing the job with more books in the series. He lived about sixteen years after the publication of the second volume, so he had plenty of time to do more. He just didn’t do it. However, we can be grateful for the two volumes he gave us. The overarching title of his autobiography was Chronicles of Wasted Time. The first book was The Green Stick (1973), the second The Infernal Grove. They are both fascinating books.
Checking the Internet just now for a bare minimum of information on Malcolm Muggeridge before I wrote this blog, it quickly becomes apparent that there were some dark sides to his personality. He has been accused of being a serial groper. This lines up realistically with the man we read about in the autobiographies; he makes it clear, without his going into detail, that he was involved in one or more adulterous affairs.
About the age 60, he was converted to the Christian faith. Then it seems his behavior changed for the better. This too would be in line with the man we read about in the autobiographies. He was a man who could learn and change for the better. He had shown that early on in life.
He was raised in a family where the father was a staunch socialist. Malcolm followed right along in his father’s footsteps. He ended up going to the Soviet Union in the early 1930s as a newspaper correspondent for “The Guardian.” He hoped to stay there–in “a sane world with a future instead of in our crazy run-down one with only a past.” (The Green Stick, p. 205) But he proved capable of learning. Pretty quickly, he began to understand how horrible was the Soviet Union. Because he was a basically honest man–unlike the New York Times’ shill for the Soviet Union, Walter Duranty–he was capable of thinking for himself and thus capable of sifting through the lies of the Soviet Union, and discovering the truth. He got out of the country, joyfully and fiercely celebrating, with others, the departure. (p. 267) About his time in the Soviet Union:
“I felt furious about the whole experience, as though I had been personally cheated, and poured out my righteous indignation and hurt vanity in a series of articles as bitter and satirical as I knew how to make them. They probably struck most readers as being just angry.” (p. 271)
So he learned, as later in life he learned that he needed Christ–and we hope he learned that groping females could not be part of that new life! Here are a couple more quotes from The Green Stick, near the end of the book. He wrote a book, Winter In Moscow, exposing the evil of the Soviet Union, which unfortunately had little effect on the thinking of society at large. The fantasy picture of the Soviet Union remained powerful.
“People, after all, believe lies, not because they are plausibly presented, but because they want to believe them. So, their credulity is unshakeable.” (p. 274)
His concluding paragraph indicates his pessimism that our civilization can survive. The ellipsis below is mine. He sees
“a monumental death-wish, an immense destructive force loosed in the world which was going to sweep over everything and everyone, laying them flat; burning, killing, obliterating, until nothing was left. . . . poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, drivelling dons and very special correspondents like Duranty, all resolved, come what might, to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thorough-going, ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on earth could be relied upon to champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives. All resolved, in other words, to abolish themselves and their world, the rest of us with it. Nor have I from that time ever had the faintest expectation that, in earthly terms, anything could be salvaged; that any earthly battle could be won, or earthly solution found. It has all just been sleep-walking to the end of the night.” (pp. 276-277)
Wisdom says, ‘”All those who hate me love death.”‘ (Proverbs 8:36) Looking on the beliefs and moral “vision” of our “elite,” they do seem to have a “monumental death-wish.” The Soviet Union is gone, but plenty of new fantasies–the urge to export our brand of democracy, our faith in pluralism, our belief in Islam as a religion of peace, the harmlessness of aborting unborn children, the goodness of the welfare/warfare state, among others–provide plenty of scope for a successful suicide. We ordinary people in turn have looked on, and said, “Whatever.” If we are to salvage civilization, we will need to turn to the Christ to whom Malcolm Muggeridge turned late in his life. Still, it should give us much hope that the Soviet Union defeated itself. Maybe these new evil fantasies which grip many of us will come to a similar disastrous end someday, before Christian civilization disappears. Maybe God will not permit us to follow through on our death-wish, just as He did not permit the Soviet Union to continue forever.
Both books are available at the usual places on the Internet, for reasonable prices. If you are looking for some skillfully done writing and thinking from a flawed man who showed himself able to learn, Malcolm Muggeridge’s Chronicles of Wasted time will not waste your time.