Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

As Marx Wrote, History Occurs Three Times: First as Tragedy, Second as a Movie, and Third Enacted by Ducks

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

As Marx Wrote, History Occurs Three Times: First as Tragedy, Second as a Movie, and Third Enacted by Ducks

Article excerpt

One of the ducks that wanders around just outside our front door had nine ducklings a few months ago. Everyone loves ducklings. Little bundles of golden yellow and dark brown fluff and emitting not a horrible, loud quack but a little peeping sound. Any human being who sees a line of ducklings following their mother (always with one smaller one struggling to keep up) is genetically programmed to say: "A-a-a-ah! How sweet!" and make sickly cooing sounds.

And cats love ducklings as well. From the point of view of a cat, a duckling has the huge advantage that it looks like a bird but it isn't going to make the smallest attempt to fight back, or even much of an effort to run away. I don't know what habitat evolution had in mind when it created the duck, but it wasn't this one.

The fortnight or so after the birth of the ducklings was like one of those slasher movies in which a group of female high school students are stabbed to death one by one by the psychotic little runt they were all rude to at kindergarten. One of them keeps saying: "What's that noise out there? I'll just go and check it out."

Then you have a long, slow progress down dark corridors with lots of creaking. The girl opens a door and there's a horrible scream; we all jump, and then discover that it's only a little cat. She gives a sigh of relief, turns around and there's the knife-wielding killer in an ice-hockey mask.

Of course, in the duckling version of this story, when the duckling says "Phew! Only a pussycat", the cat then promptly kills the duckling. That's another problem with ducklings. Not only are they slow-moving and stupid, they also haven't learnt from the films of the past. And as Guillermo Cabrera Infante has said, reworking Marx's dictum that those who have not learnt from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them: "Those who have not learnt from the films of the past are condemned to watch remakes."

The result was the most amazing body count. A couple of the corpses were simply found floating in the water. There was also the answer to the riddle, what's worse than finding a dead duckling among your children's toys? (Answer: finding half a dead duckling. …

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