A Novel of London
He then hurried to the station and spent some time in the lavatory there. The lavatories at the station were not frozen. They were somehow maintained and in good order. Afterward, he waited for the train, which departed from there into London and went underground. The train filled fast. After just two or three stations it was jam-packed. Like sardine tins are full of sardines, lying flat, trains are also full—before nine, in the morning, and around six in the afternoon—of people standing in the carriages. A million passengers, and often even more, went into London, and returned from London in the evening, every day. The hero of our novel had now been living in that enormous city for over five years, so he had learned well how one needs to grab a seat, and since he did not wish to buy a newspaper, because that, too, was now expensive for him, he had recently occupied himself by reading the advertisements in the carriage. Those ads had become a piece of his life, part nonsense, part sense, although it was strange. A change in his life, which he neither sought, nor wanted, but there it was. Above the heads of the passengers, on the posters, was: the Australian bird, which they used in the advertisements for wool that did not shrink in the wash. Emu. The sign said: “Knit with Emu unshrinkable wools and stop thinking about shrinking.” Here was also the idealized Londoner, a man in a derby: Billy Brown, of London town, always cheerful and smiling, as if the millions of inhabitants of London went round with a perpetual smile on their face. But no one has yet seen them. Reality is different. Very different.