Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I am ashamed to have had nothing to say about Alexander Solzhenitsyn; it is years since I read him. I am, however, grateful once again to Frank Wilson for this extract from a 1978 lecture at Harvard. The line that catches my eye is 'To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die....' A readiness to die is, as Solzhenitsyn notes, rare in a materialist society. But it is a very healthy thing - not just in self-defence, but also as the primary aspect of nobility. 'Men must endure/ their going hence, even as their coming hither/ Ripeness is all.' In which context, I read somewhere that the favourite movie line of David Simon, The Wire's presiding genius, comes from Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. It is 'Let's go', spoken by William Holden's Pike Bishop. It means 'let's go and die because that's what we are here to do'; it is a summary of the entire movie and, though spoken by a villain, it should be a summary of the life well lived. We are all here to die, death is a duty. 'We owe God a death.' All of which is, I suppose, barely comprehensible out there in the anaesthesia of the shops, offices and cafes, but I thought I'd say it anyway. For Solzhenitsyn.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:10 am