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That’s what I believe in – mind, free mind, trying to understand itself as well as the world without, and to hell with the little men who try to stop free enquiry and the State is all that matters and no one has a right to hear Beethoven while the Third World starves.

-- 1985 by Anthony Burgess

I want to understand what the author means by this part because it is a little bit controversial. I understand that the author believes in mind and free mind. And he doesn't like people who try to stop free enquiry. But the third part "the State is all that matters" is controversial to me. Does the author mean that the State is important, or does he dislike the people who say the State is important?

The last part is controversial too. Does the author think that "no one has the right to.." or does he dislike the people who say "no one has the right"? These really confuse me.

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  • I haven't read the book, but after looking at a summary I think he probably means "To hell with the little men... and [with people who say that] the State is all that matters and [that] no-one has a right to hear Beethoven while the Third World starves". Nov 19, 2023 at 17:00

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Like a commenter, I also haven't read the book, but it reads like a passionate speech, which would explain the lack of punctuation - it's easy to imagine this being delivered by a very fired up speaker.

The way I read it is:

That’s what I believe in -
     mind, free mind, trying to understand itself as well as the world without, 
 and to hell with { the little men who try to stop free enquiry 
                  { and "the State is all that matters" 
                  { and "no one has a right to hear Beethoven while the Third World starves"
.

That is, he believes in a good thing: "mind" etc; and he is against a bad thing, three items that can go to hell.

Those ought-to-be-hellbound items are:

  • "little men" etc
  • [the maxim that] the State is all that matters
  • [the maxim that] no Beethoven is allowed while there is starvation in the world.

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