Guru Drivel in Fiction

21 June 2010 at 10:00 pm 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

A funny passage from Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion, the second volume of his Baroque Cycle trilogy. In this scene, set in 1690, a motley crew of galley slaves, victims of Barbary Corsair raiding parties, discuss their plan to escape and get rich. Each is giving his backstory:

“The winter before last, I made the acquaintance of Moseh, who was asking many questions about the market in tutsaklar ransom futures. We had several conversations and I began to perceive the general shape of his Plan.”

“He told you about Jeronimo, and the Viceroy?”

“No, I learned of that on the same night as you.”

“Then what do you mean when you say you understood his plan?”

“I understood his basic principle: that a group of slaves who, taken one by one, were assigned a very low value by the market, might yet be worth much when grouped together cleverly. . . .” Vrej rolled up to his feet and grimaced into the sun. “The wording does not come naturally in this bastard language of Sabir, but Moseh’s plan was to synergistically leverage the value-added of diverse core competencies into a virtual entity whose whole was more than the sum of its parts. . . .”

Jack stared at him blankly.

“It sounds brilliant in Armenian.”

The trilogy is sprinkled throughout with similar anachronisms which add to the fun and help move along the complex narrative. I also enjoyed this bit from the first volume, from a scene in which Isaac Newton is visited at home by his fictional freind Daniel Waterhouse:

He turned off the lane. The house was set back from it not more than twenty feet. Set above the door was a coat of arms carved into the stone: on a blank shield, a pair of human thigh-bones crossed. A Jolly Roger, minus skull. Daniel sat on his horse and contemplated its sheer awfulness for a while and savored the dull, throbbing embarrassment of being English.

The trilogy’s main themes are science, politics, finance, and alchemy, and should thus be of great interest to O&M readers.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Ephemera.

Management Journal Impact Factors 2009 Bailouts in Historical Perspective

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. davispw  |  4 December 2017 at 1:27 am

    I lol’d.

  • 2. Gerold Firl  |  28 April 2021 at 5:02 am

    A more interesting question is whether tutsaklar random futures really were traded by the Barbary Pirates. It would be a logical financial vehicle in an economy based on slavery and extortion. The only question is whether the economy of the Barbary States had reached the requisite level of market complexity to support that kind of paper.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Nicolai J. Foss | home | posts
Peter G. Klein | home | posts
Richard Langlois | home | posts
Lasse B. Lien | home | posts


Former Guests | posts


Recent Posts



Our Recent Books

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).

%d bloggers like this: