“Kristu-Du” and the Architecture of Tyranny
an accursed thing it is to gaze
On prosperous tyrants with a dazzled eye1
PETER CAREY'S EARLY SHORT STORY “Kristu-Du” concerns a Western architect, Gerrard Haflinger. Haflinger is designing a building in what would then have been called a 'Third-World' country. The country is ruled by a vicious dictator, Oongala. The architect, defying the uneasiness of his wife and the prompting of his conscience, stays on to finish and implement the design of his building. He thinks that it is going to be the ultimate socially conscientious act. His building, the Kristu-Du, is described in the most utopian terms possible:
It had been designed to the brief of Oongala's first victim, the late president,
as a unifying symbol for the eight tribes, sited in the holiest place, a neutral
ground where a new democracy would start to spread its fragile wings.
Gerrard, in the early days when the plan had been selected, had spoken of its
function with a fierce obsessive poetry, likening it to a vast machine which
would take an active role in the birth of a new democracy. It was not a
symbol, he said. It was not a building. It was one of those rare pieces of
architecture which would act on the future as well as exist in the present.2
1 William Wordsworth, “Here Pause: The Poet Claims at Least This Praise,” in
Poetical Works of William Wordsworth (London: Longman, 1852): 284.
2 Peter Carey, “Kristu-Du,” in The Collected Stories of Peter Carey (1994; St Lucia:
U of Queensland P, 1997): 20–21. Further page references are in the main text.