Deeper Into Circumcision: An Invitation to Awareness

"The Child Was Not Aware of

the Mutilation He Had Suffered"

From The Man Who Laughs, by Victor Hugo

"And in the eyes of connoisseurs,
it was the deformed that was perfect."

      The comprachicos were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today.
      Comprachicos is a compound Spanish word that means "child-buyers."
      The comprachicos traded in children.
      They bought them and sold them.
      They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry.
      And what did they do with these children?
      They made them into monsters.
      Why monsters?
      To laugh.
      The public needs laughter; kings need laughter. Cities require clowns and side-show freaks; palaces require jesters.
      To succeed in producing a freak, one must get hold of him early. A dwarf must be started when he is small.
      Hence, an art. They took a child and turned him into a miscarriage; they took a face and made it a muzzle. They stunted growth; they mangled features. It was a whole science, with its own rules.
      Imagine an inverted orthopedics. Where God had put a straight glance, they put a squint. Where God had put harmony, they put distortion. Where God had put perfection, they put deformity. And in the eyes of connoisseurs, it was the deformed that was perfect.
      The practice of degrading man leads to the practice of deforming him. Deformity completes the task of political suppression.
      The comprachicos' skill in deforming made them valuable in politics. There was the iron mask, but that was awkward. One cannot populate a continent with iron masks. Deformed buffoons, however, can run everywhere. Besides, a mask of iron can be taken off; a mask of flesh cannot. To mask you forever by means of your own face -- what could be more ingenious?
      The comprachicos removed not just a child's features, they removed his memory; at least they removed as much of it as they could. They made him unconscious during the operation with a powder they said was magic, that dulled the pain. The most the child could remember later is that one day some men had seized him, he had fallen asleep, and they had cured him. Cured him of what? He did not know. The surgery left its marks on his face, not on his mind. Of the burning by sulphur and the incisions by iron, he remembered nothing. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered.


The Chinese, over the centuries, have refined another special art and science: the molding of a living man. One takes a child two or three years old and puts him into a porcelain vase more or less grotesque in shape, without top or bottom, so that the head and feet protrude. During the day, one keeps the vase standing upright; at night, one lays it down, so that the child can sleep. Thus the child expands without growing, slowly filling the contours of the vase with his compressed flesh and twisted bones. This bottled development continues for several years. At a certain point, it becomes irreversible. When one judges that this has happened and that the monster is made, one breaks the vase, the child comes out, and one has a man in the shape of a pot.

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