The Best Insults in Conrad Black’s “A Matter of Principle”


Conrad Black has a special gift for scathing insults. Black’s description of his ertswhile partner in the dock could have been written by Honor√© de Balzac, while his use of gruesome words is reminiscent of another French author, Emile Zola. His recollection of the jury selection at his trial read like an updated addition to the Rougon-Macquart series.

“As he was brought through the court by the government handlers, or from the elevators to the holding room, he appeared an outcast, even to himself. Hunched, furtive, with darting, fearful eyes, he looked like a man bound for the gallows, worn down as much by a knowledge of his own wretchedness as by the impending punishment.”

“This putrefied gossip’s preoccupation with such lurid public ruminations was apparently inexhaustible.”

“He was a minor pestilence who had festered and pustullated on the edges of journalism and trash books and emerged like the expectant undertaker whenever any prominent financier was under siege.”

“Her rather high hair appeared to be set with magic glue, and her wax-works face was not well served by dollops of red lipstick like Anne Hathaway’s in The Devil Wears Prada.”

“His little porcine face was so puffy it made his spectacles seem smaller, like those of a Stalin apparatchik.”

“The judge wanted twelve jurors and six alternates. I had been conditioned to expect some leftish and podgy housewives, reactionary postal or local government workers, and some utter cretins. These groups were out in numerical strength.”