Roger L. Simon

Durbin II Diary - Part 5: Arrivederci, Geneva

Geneva is a beautiful place, but strange and enigmatic, a perfect LeCarre locale (from the good LeCarre of the old days), perfect too for the European home of the UN. The city’s very opacity, numbered bank accounts and endless black Mercedes with diplomatic plates mirror the Palais des Nations itself, a massive labyrinthine structure seemingly built to confuse. Yesterday, one reporter – mistaking me for an old hand – asked me the location of the Media Center. I grinned and gestured helplessly toward a dark hallway. “See you in two years,” I said. He laughed and disappeared. I saw him again several hours, wandering a corridor far from the Media Center.

Actually, the real Media Center, where the press is supposed to get information, is a paradigm of the UN. There was scarcely anyone in it on those rare occasions I could actually find it. When I asked the woman who ran it for help, to locate a delegate or some such, she would stare at me blankly and half nod like a character out of Kafka. Indeed, it is the great Czech who described the Palais des Nations better than anyone even without – as far as I know – ever seeing it, because the Palais is like nothing so much as Kafka’s Castle.

This was even more so in its post-Ahmadinejad silence. The conference pretends to be continuing, but everyone knows it isn’t. I am leaving Thursday for Los Angeles, a day earlier than scheduled. There is no more to do here. The Main Committee (whoever they are – no one has been able to tell me) has accepted the final statement of the conference. A panel on Islamophobia has mysteriously disappeared, though I have found no record of its actually being scheduled. So it goes at the UN. I spent the day wandering around Geneva with our cameraman Andrew Bridgewater. We video-taped the swans cruising on Lac Leman and ate dinner at a recommended steak place called Le Relais de l’Entrecote. As Hemingway would say, it was good.

Yes, Geneva is beautiful. But I’m not sure I want to come back soon.

UPDATE: If you haven’t seen this, check it out.