The PJ Tatler

Evelyn Waugh on Barack Obama

“Seth, what’s the Imperial Bank of Azania?”

The Emperor looked embarrassed.

“I thought you might ask…Well, actually it is not quite a bank at all. It is a little thing I did myself. I will show you.”

He led Basil to a high cupboard which occupied half the wall on one side of the library, and opening it showed him a dozen or so shelves stacked with what might have been packets of writing paper.

“What is that?”

“Just under three million pounds,” said the Emperor proudly. “A little surprise. I had them done in Europe.”

“But you can’t possibly do this.”

“Oh, yes, I assure you. It was easy. All these on this shelf are for a thousand pounds each. And now that the plates have been made, it is quite inexpensive to print as many more as we require. You see there were a great many things that needed doing and I had not a great many rupees. Don’t look angry, Seal. Look, I’ll give you some.” He pressed a bundle of fivers into Basil’s hand. “And take some for Mr. Youkoumian, too. Pretty fine picture of me, eh? I wondered about the hat. You will see that in the fifty pound notes I wear a crown.”

For some minutes Basil attempted to remonstrate; then quite suddenly he abandoned the argument.

“I knew you would understand,” said the Emperor. “It is so simple. As soon as these are used up we will send for some more…”

It was on that afternoon that Basil at long last lost his confidence in the permanence of the One Year Plan.

—Evelyn Waugh, “Black Mischief”