Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 152

152
PARTISAN REJIIEW
our colony-you ·all know about. Our session today also takes on an
added significance as a result of his presence.
Let
us now question this
great scholar as to his opinion of this execution, carried out in accordance
with early customs, as well as of the procedure that led up to it.' Natu·
rally, applause throughout the house, and general approval; I am the
loudest. The commander makes a bow before you and says: 'Then I put
the question in the name of everyone present.' And now you step up to the
balustrade. Lay your hands on it, so that they are visible to everybody,
otherwise the ladies will take hold of them and dally with your fingers.–
And now, finally, comes a word from you. I don't know how I shall stand
the tension of the hours until that moment. You must place no limit on
your speech, blare forth the truth; lean over the balustrade, bellow your
opinion, yes, bellow it, at the commander, your unshakable opinion! But
maybe you don't want to do this, maybe
it
does not correspond to your
character; in your country people act differently in such situations; this
too is all right; this too is quite sufficient; don't get up at all, say only a
few words, whisper them so that they may be heard by the officials below
you, that'll do. You needn't even mention the small attendance at the execu–
tion, the creaking wheel, the broken strap, the repulsive felt gag; no, I'll
take care of everything else. And believe me, if my speech doesn't chase
him from the hall, it'll force him to his knees, so that he will have to
acknowledge: I bow down before you, old commander! - That's my plan;
won't you help me to carry it ·out? But of course you will, what's more,
you must.'' And the officer seized the explorer by both arms and looked
into his face, breathing heavily. He had shouted the last sentences so
loudly that even the guard and the condemned man became attentive;
although they understood nothing, they stopped eating and looked towards
the explorer, chewing the while.
The explorer had no doubt from the very beginning as to the answer
he would have to give. He had experienced too much in his life to vacil–
late now; at bottom he was an honest man, and he was not afraid. Never·
theless, he hesitated, just the time of a breath, at the sight of the soldier
and the condemned man. But finally he said what he had to say : "No."
The officer blinked several times and did not take his eyes off him. "Do
you want an explanation?" asked the explorer. The officer nodded silently.
"I am opposed to this procedure," the explorer then said. "Before you
even took me into your confidence-l'll not abuse this confidence, of
course, under any circumstances- ! had already considered whether I
would be justified in taking steps against this procedure, and whether
there would be the slightest prospect of success in case I did so. It was
clear to me to whom I should have to turn first: to the commander, of
course. You have made it still clearer, hut without having strengthened
my resolution; on the contrary, your honest conviction moves me, even
though it could never influence me.''
The officer remained silent, turned to the machine and, seizing one
of the brass rods, leaned slightly backwards to look up at the draughtsman,
80...,142,143,144,145,146,147,148,149,150,151 153,154,155,156,157,158,159,160
Powered by FlippingBook