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180 pages, Paperback
First published December 1, 1955
Her pain struck at my pain: we were back at the old routine of hurting each other. If only it were possible to love without injury - fidelity isn't enough: I had been faithful to Anne and yet I had injured her. The hurt is in the act of possession: we are too small in mind and body to possess another person without pride or to be possessed without humiliation.
From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afraid of losing happiness. This month, next year... If not next year, in three years. Death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again forever. I envied those who could believe in a God and I distrusted them. I felt they were keeping their courage up with a fable of the changeless and the permanent. Death was far more certain than God, and with death there would be no longer the daily possibility of love dying.
“I stopped our trishaw outside the Chalet and said to Phuong, “Go in and find a table. I had better look after Pyle.” That was my first instinct – to protect him. It never occurred to me that there was greater need to protect myself. Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it; innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.”
"What can you offer her?" he asked me with anger. "A couple hundred dollars when you leave for England, or will you pass her on with the furniture?"
"The furniture isn't mine."
"She is not either. Phuong, will you marry me?"
"What about the blood group?" I said. "And a health certificate. You'll need hers, surely? Maybe you ought to have mine too. And her horoscope - no, that is an Indian custom."
"Will you marry me?"
"Say it in French," I said. "I'm damned if I'll interpret for you anymore."
"To be in love is to see yourself as someone else sees you, it is to be in love with the falsified and exalted image of yourself. In love we are incapable of honour – the courageous act is no more than playing a part to an audience of two. Perhaps I was no longer in love but I remembered."
"No, that woman came earlier. When I left my wife."
"I left her, too."
Why indeed? "We are fools," I said, "when we love. I was terrified of losing her. I thought I saw her changing – I don't know if she really was, but I couldn't bear the uncertainty any longer. I ran towards the finish just as a coward runs towards the enemy and wins a medal. I wanted to get death over."
"It was a kind of death. And I came east."
"We've made it," Pyle said, and even in my pain I wondered what we'd made: for me, old age, an editor's chair, loneliness; and for him, one knows now that he spoke prematurely. Then in the cold, we settled down to wait. Along the road a bonfire burst into life: it burnt merrily like a celebration. "That's my car," I said.
"Have you any hunch," he asked, "why they killed him? and who?"
Suddenly I was angry; I was tired of the whole pack of them with their private stores of Coca-Cola and their portable hospitals and their wide cars and their not quite latest guns. I said, "Yes. They killed him because he was too innocent to live. He was young and ignorant and silly to get involved.”
"She's no child. She is tougher than you'll ever be. Do you know the kind of polish that doesn't take scratches? That's Phuong. She can survive a dozen of us. She'll get old, that's all. She'll suffer from childbirth and hunger and cold and rheumatism, but she'll never suffer like we do from thought, obsession-she won't scratch, she'll only decay."
"'You can rule me out,' I said. 'I'm not involved. Not involved,' I repeated. It had been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action – even an opinion is a kind of action."
Suffering is not increased by numbers: one body can contain all the suffering the world can feel. I had judged like a journalist in terms of quantity and I betrayed my own principle; I had become as engaged as Pyle, and it seemed to me that no decision would ever be simple again.
nothing nowadays is fabulous and nothing rises from its ashes
"I'm not involved." ... It had been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. ...I preferred the title reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action-- even an opinion is a kind of action.
From childhood I had never believed in permanence, and yet I had longed for it. Always I was afraid of losing happiness. This month, next year, Phuong would leave me. If not next year, in three years.
Death was the only absolute value in my world. Lose life and one would lose nothing again for ever.
[he] was a serious type. ... He didn't even hear what I said; he was absorbed already in the dilemma of Democracy and the responsibilities of the West; he was determined ... to do good, not to any individual person but to a country, a continent, a world.
"It's not a matter of reason or justice. We all get involved in a moment of emotion and then we cannot get out. War and Love-- they have always been compared. "