Between London and Paris
I’m on the train that travels between London and Paris.
I’m reading a book. I like its cover. The story is about as good as it gets.
The train enters the long long tunnel.
I look out at the darkness – but there’s nothing to see except the edges of the tunnel. I start reading again.
I reach the paragraph in which a murderer speaks to himself about life and death: He begins:
‘Where was it I read about a man who, one hour before his execution says that if he had to live on some high rock, on a cliff, on a ledge so narrow that there was only room enough for him to stand there, and if there were bottomless chasms all round, the ocean, eternal darkness, eternal solitude, eternal gales, and if he had to spend all his life on that square yard of space – a thousand years, an eternity – he’d rather live like that than die at once. Oh, only to live, live, live! Live under any circumstances – only to live!’
The text is brilliant. I imagine the eternal darkness. I imagine being condemned to hell. And, in the face of the endless solitude, I would jump. I know I would jump.
I look out at the walls of the tunnel.
And then I realised that the man who has but one hour to live would surely, in that final hour, choose to live high up on that ledge, in solitude. He would, at that moment, choose ‘only to live.’
Footnote: The passage (quoted above) is taken from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment.’