A Smell of Burning
(Included in the volume A SMELL OF BURNING AND THEN)
THE STORY: A married couple sit at the breakfast table, clucking over bits of gossip in the newspaper and bickering about whether the eggs are properly done. In the distance, explosions are heard, and then a rather mysterious gentleman appears, announcing that he is from the City Surveyor's office and concerned with supervising "certain alterations in the structure of the status quo." As he darts in and out busily tending to his duties, the couple remain absorbed in domestic trivialities—as the sounds of violence come ever nearer and the actions of the visitor change from mysterious to sinister. But even as their doom approaches the couple cannot seem to grasp the reality of what lurks outside their cozy flat, cannot comprehend the anarchy that will engulf them. "Strange," muses the old gentleman (who is only doing his job) "that you never notice what is happening."
A comic but provocative work in absurdist style, by one of England's most adventuresome writers, which probes into the vulnerability of the "little man" to officialdom and its impersonal dictates.