Perelandra, by Clive Staples Lewis (C.S. Lewis) – 1944, 1965 [Bernard Symancyk]

perelandra-cs-lewis-1944-1965-bernard-symancyk“My dear Ransom,
I wish you would not keep relapsing on to the popular level.
The two things are only moments in the single, unique reality.
The world leaps forward through great men
and greatness always transcends mere moralism.
When the leap has been made our ‘diabolism’
as you would call it becomes the morality of the next stage;
but while we are making it, we are called criminals, heretics, blasphemers…”

               “How far does it go?
Would you still obey the Life-Force
if you found it prompting you to murder me?”

 Yes.”

“Or to sell England to the Germans?”

“Yes.”

“Or to print lies as serious research in a scientific periodical?”

“Yes.”

“God help you!” said Ransom.

* * * * * * * * * * *

It looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile. 
We have all often spoken –
Ransom himself had often spoken –
of a devilish smile. 
Now he realized that he had never taken the words seriously. 
The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense, sinister;
it was not even mocking. 
It seemed to summon Ransom, with horrible naivete of welcome,
into the world of its own pleasures,
as if all men were at one in those pleasures,
as if they were the most natural thing in the world
and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. 
It was not furtive, nor ashamed, it had nothing of the conspirator in it. 

It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation. 

Ransom perceived that he had never before seen anything
but half-hearted and uneasy attempts at evil. 
This creature was whole-hearted. 
The extremity of its evil had passed beyond all struggle
into some state which bore a horrible similarity to innocence. 
It was beyond vice as the Lady was beyond virtue.

Out of the Silent Planet, by Clive Staples Lewis (“C.S. Lewis”) – 1965, 1969 [Bernard Symancyk]

out-of-the-silent-planet-cs-lewis-1965-1969-bernard-symancyk“…We are only obeying orders.”

“Whose?”

There was another pause.
“Come,” said Weston at last,
“there is really no use in continuing this cross-examination. 
You keep on asking me questions I can’t answer;
in some cases because I don’t know the answers,
in other because you wouldn’t understand them. 
It will make things very much pleasanter during the voyage
if you can only resign your mind to your fate and stop bothering yourself and us. 
It would be easier if your philosophy of life
were not so insufferably narrow or individualistic. 
I had thought no one could fail to be inspired
by the role you are being asked to play:
that even a worm, if it could understand, would rise to the sacrifice. 
I mean, of course, the sacrifice of time and liberty, and some little risk. 
Don’t misunderstand me.”

“Well,” said Ransom, “You hold all the cards, and I must make the best of it. 
I consider your philosophy of life raving lunacy. 
I suppose all that stuff about infinity and eternity means
that you think you are justified in doing anything
– absolutely anything –
here and now,
on the off chance
that some creatures or other descended from man as we know him
may crawl about a few centuries longer in some part of the universe.”

Life and Fate, by Vasily Grossman -1980, 1987 [Christopher Zacharow]

life-and-fate-vasily-grossman-1985-1987-christopher-zacharow-newThe fate of many of them seemed so poignantly sad
that to speak of them in even the most tender, quiet, kind words
would have been like touching a heart torn open
with a rough and insensitive hand. 

It was really quite impossible to speak of them at all..

grossman109_edited-2But an invisible force was crushing him.
He could feel its weight, its hypnotic power;
it was forcing him to think as it wanted, to write as it dictated.
This force was inside him;
it could dissolve his will and cause his heart to stop beating;
it came between him and his family;
it insinuated itself into his past, into his childhood memories.
He began to feel that he really was untalented and boring,
someone who wore out the people around him with dull chatter.
Even his work seemed to have grown dull,
to be covered with a layer of dust;
the thought of it no longer filled him with light and joy.
Only people who have never felt such a force themselves
can be surprised that others submit to it.
Those who have felt it, on the other hand,
feel astonished that a man can rebel against it even for a moment
– with one sudden word of anger,
one timid gesture of protest.

The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

the-moviegoer-walker-percy-1980-1982-gifThat is the way I got to know Mr. Kinsella:
engaging him in conversation about the theater business.
I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to,
no one, that is, who really wants to listen.
When it does at last dawn on a man
that you really want to hear about his business,
the look that comes over his face is something to see.

the-moviegoer-walker-percy-1980-1982-2-cover-art-editNo, I do it for my own selfish reasons.
If I did not talk to the theater owner or the ticket seller,
I should be lost, cut loose, metaphysically speaking.
I should be seeing one copy of a film
which might be shown anywhere at any time.
There is a danger of slipping clean out of space and time.
It is possible to become a ghost
and not know whether one is in
downtown Loews in Denver or surburban Bijou in Jacksonville.

 

Forever Flowing, by Vasily Grossman – (1970) 1986 [Christopher Zacharow]

There is nothing more difficult than to be a stepson of time;
there is no heavier fate than to live in an age that is not your own. 
Time loves only those it has given birth to itself:
its own children, its own heroes, its own labourers.
Never can it come to love the children of a past age,
and more than a woman can love the heroes of a past age,
or a stepmother love the children of another woman.

forever-flowing-vasily-grossman-1986-christopher-zacharowAnd so he asked: “I was right, wasn’t I?”
Lyudmilla shook her head.  Decades of intimacy can also divide people.
‘Lyuda,’ said Viktor humbly,
‘people who are in the right often don’t know how to behave. 
They lose their tempers and swear. 
They act tactlessly and intolerantly. 
Usually they get blamed for everything that goes wrong at home and at work. 
While those who are in the wrong, those who hurt others,
always know how to behave. 
They act calmly, logically and tactfully – and appear to be in the right.’

grossman-vasily-forever-flowing067_edited-2Why had his life been so hard?
He had not preached nor had he taught –
he had remained exactly what he had been from his birth:
a human being.
The slope of the mountain opened before him.
From behind the pass the peaks of the oak trees showed.
In his childhood, he had gone there into the forest twilight,
and searched out the remnants of the vanished life of the Circassians –
the fruit trees gone wild,
the traces of the fences around their obliterated houses.
Perhaps his own home was still standing there just as changelessly
as the streets and the stream seemed changeless.
Here was one more bend of the road.
For a moment, it seemed to him as if an impossibly bright light,
brighter than any he had ever seen in his life,
had flooded the earth.
A few steps more and in this light he would see that home,
and his mother would come out to meet him, her prodigal son,
and he would kneel down before her,
and her young and beautiful hands would lie upon his gray,
balding head.
He saw the thickets of thorns and hops.
There was nothing left of the house nor of the well –
only a few stones that shone white in the dusty grass,
burned by the sun.
He stood there – gray, bent, and changeless.

(1955-1963)

 

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder [Mary Drevenstedt]

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 00 1 Thornton Wilder - 1967The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Washington Square Press Edition, 1967

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 00 0 - Thornton Wilder - 1927 (Amy Drevenstedt)The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Grosset & Dunlap, First Edition, 1927

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 01 - Frontspiece (Drevenstedt)(Frontspiece)

From all this saddening data

Brother Juniper contrived an index for each peasant.

He added up the total for victims

and compared it with the total for survivors,

to discover that the dead were five times more worth saving.

 

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 37 - Marquesa de Montemayor (Drevenstedt)Marquesa de Montemayor (37)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 65 - Marquesa de Montemayor (Drevenstedt)Marquesa de Montemayor (65)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 77 - Marquesa de Montemayor (Drevenstedt)Marquesa de Montemayor (77)

It looked almost as though the pestilence had been directed

against the really valuable people in the village of Puerto.

 

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 86 - Marquesa de Montemayor (Drevenstedt)Marquesa de Montemayor (86)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 91 - Esteban (Drevenstedt)Esteban (91)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 113 - Esteban (Drevenstedt)Esteban (113)

And on that afternoon

Brother Juniper took a walk along the edge of the Pacific.

He tore up his findings and cast them into the waves;

he gazed for an hour upon the great clouds of pearl

that hang forever upon the horizon of that sea,

and extracted from their beauty a resignation

that he did not permit his reason to examine.

 

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 149 - Uncle Pio (Drevenstedt)Uncle Pio (149)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 173 - Esteban (Drevenstedt)Esteban (173)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 205 - Uncle Pio (Drevenstedt)Uncle Pio (205)

The discrepancy between faith and the facts

is greater than is generally assumed.

 

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - 221 - Perhaps an Intention (Drevenstedt)Perhaps an Intention (221)

Heaven’s My Destination, by Thornton Wilder – 1934, 1960 [Unknown Artist]

“It seems to me I live.”

heavens-my-destination-thornton-wilder-1960-henry-koerner_edited-1“Now listen!  Listen to me!” she said, emphatically. 
“You make me sick. 
Where do they get yuh, your the’ries and your ideas? 
Nowhere! 
Live, kid, – live! 
What’d become of all of us sons-of-bitches,
if we stopped to argue out every step we took? 
Stick down to earth.”
Brush looked at her with furrowed brow and said in a low voice,

“It seems to me I live.”

* * * * * * * * * *

George Brush is my name;
America’s my nation;
Ludington’s my dwelling place
And Heaven’s my destination.

(Doggerel which children of the Middle West were accustomed to write in their schoolbooks.)