Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

46. The Bokononist Method for Handling Caesar

I talked to the Mintons about the legal status of Franklin Hoenikker, who was, after all, not only a big shot in “Papa” Monzano’s government, but a fugitive from United States justice.

“That’s all been written off,” said Minton. “He isn’t a United States citizen any more, and he seems to be doing good things where he is, so that’s that.”

“He gave up his citizenship?”

“Anybody who declares allegiance to a foreign state or serves in its armed forces or accepts employment in its government loses his citizenship. Read your passport. You can’t lead the sort of funny-paper international romance that Frank has led and still have Uncle Sam for a mother chicken.”

“Is he well liked in San Lorenzo?”

Minton weighed in his hands the manuscript he and his wife had been reading. “I don’t know yet. This book says not.”

“What book is that?”

“It’s the only scholarly book ever written about San Lorenzo.”

Sort of scholarly,” said Claire.

“Sort of scholarly,” echoed Minton. “It hasn’t been published yet. This is one of five copies.” He handed it to me, inviting me to read as much as I liked.

I opened the book to its title page and found that the name of the book was San Lorenzo: The Land, the History, the People. The author was Philip Castle, the son of Julian Castle, the hotel-keeping son of the great altruist I was on my way to see.

I let the book fall open where it would. As it happened, it fell open to the chapter about the island’s outlawed holy man, Bokonon.

There was a quotation from The Books of Bokonon on the page before me. Those words leapt from the page and into my mind, and they were welcomed there.

The words were a paraphrase of the suggestion by Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”

Bokonon’s paraphrase was this:

“Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.”

Turn page.