In Fay Weldon's short story "Ind Aff or Out of Love in Sarajevo" I found the following passage:

“The Hungro-Austrarian Empire,” said Peter to me, “didn't so much collapse as fail to exist any more. War destroys social organizations. The same thing happened after World War II. There being no organized bodies left between Moscow and London and for London read Washington, then as now—it was left to these two to put in their own puppet governments. Yalta, 1944. It's taken the best part of forty-five years for nations of West and East Europe to remember who they are.”

I have trouble understanding this passage. My questions are:

  1. What are "social organizations"? What are some examples?
  2. Is "organized bodies" referring to the same thing as "social organizations"?
  3. What does "read" mean in the phrase "London read Washington"?
  4. Why does it say "these two", and who are they? (I thought it was referring to the nations at the Yalta conference, but there were three of them)
  5. What does it mean for Europe to "remember who they are after 45 years"? (Does it have something to do with the Iron Curtain?)

1 Answer 1


Peter has a rather unusual view on certain historical events and entities.

  1. Based on the context in the story, Peter appears to be referring to countries and states as "social organizations". In a way, they are, but the term "social organisation" is more commonly used to refer to organisations within a society.
  2. "Organized bodies" may refer to countries and states again, but it might also refer to intergovernmental organizations. However, it would be incorrect to claim that there were no countries or states left between Russia ("Moscow") and the UK ("London"). On the other hand, the League of Nations was an intergovernmental organisation that was founded in 1920, i.e. only after World War I. Before the League of Nations, there were changing alliances such as the Triple Entente between the Russian Empire, France and Great Britain.
    After World War II, countries that had been occupied by Nazi Germany needed to resurrect their political structures, their economy etc. In some cases, governments that had been in exile returned to their respective countries. So it is a bit of an overstatement that there were "no organized bodies left between Moscow and London".
  3. The phrase "for London read Washington" means that Great Britain was somehow subordinate to the USA in the aftermath of World War II.
  4. The phrase "these two" refers back to Moscow and Washington, representing the two dominant military powers whose armies met in the middle of Europe in April-June 1945. There were indeed three countries represented at the Yalta Conference, i.e. the United States, the United Kingdom and Soviet Russia. But in Peter's view, the UK was subordinate to the USA and hence didn't really count.
  5. The short story "Ind Aff or Out of Love in Sarajevo" was published in 1988, almost 45 years after the Yalta Conference and one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is not obvious what Peter is referring to here. Since he had earlier used the name "Hungro-Austrarian Empire" instead of Austro-Hungarian Empire, he may have in mind an opinion that is his alone.
  • 1
    Relevant to point 3. (That question is about a different piece of literature, but reflects a very real mindset.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 8, 2020 at 22:33
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor Thanks, but I don't think that Peter's view of the UK-USA relationship is quite as extreme as Orwell's description of Airstrip One.
    – Tsundoku
    Nov 8, 2020 at 22:36

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