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Diagnoses, Morals, and Antlers

I found a book of fables and read two fables about harts. They both ended badly. In “The Hart in the Ox-Stall,” the hart hid from the hunter in an ox-stall. The hunter noticed its antlers sticking out of the straw and killed it, proving that “nothing escapes the master’s eye.” In “The Hart and the Hunter,” the hart deplored its legs for being less handsome than its antlers. Later, when it was running from a hunter on its legs, its antlers got tangled in a tree and it got killed. The moral was: “We often despise that which is most useful to us.” In general, the hart’s biggest problem was antlers. Or no, it wasn’t antlers at all, it was hunters.

—Elif Batuman, The Idiot

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