Free Women 2
‘Content then. Yes you are. Much more than my mother — or anyone I know. But when you get down to it, it’s all a lie. You sit here writing and writing, but no one can see it — that’s arrogant, I told you so before. And you aren’t even honest enough to let yourself be what you are — everything’s divided off and split up. So what’s the use of patronizing me and saying: You’re in a bad phase. If you’re not in a bad phase, then it’s because you can’t be in a phase, you take care to divide yourself up into compartments. If things are a chaos, then that’s what they are. I don’t think there’s a pattern anywhere — you are just making patterns, out of cowardice. I think people aren’t good at all, they are cannibals, and when you get down to it no one cares about anyone else. At the best people can be good to one other person or their families. But that’s egotism, it isn’t being good. We aren’t any better than the animals, we just pretend to be. We don’t really care about each other at all.’ Now he came and sat down opposite her; apparently himself, the obstinate slow-moving boy she knew. Then he gave a sudden bright frightening giggle, and she saw the flash of spite again.
She said: ‘Well there’s nothing I can say to that, is there?’
He leaned forward and said: ‘I’m going to give you another chance, Anna.’
‘What?’ she said, startled, almost ready to laugh. But his face was terrifying, and she said, after a pause: ‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m serious. Now tell me. You used to live by a philosophy — well didn’t you?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘And now you say, the communist myth. So what do you live by now? No don’t use words like stoicism, it doesn’t mean anything.’
‘It seems to me something like this — every so often, perhaps once in a century, there’s a sort of — act of faith. A well of faith fills up, and there’s an enormous heave forward in one country or another, and that’s a forward movement for the whole world. Because it’s an act of imagination — of what is possible for the whole world. In our century it was 1917 in Russia. And in China. Then the well runs dry, because, as you say, the cruelty and the ugliness is too strong. Then the well slowly fills again. And then there’s another painful lurch forward.’
‘A lurch forward?’ he said.
‘In spite of everything, a lurch forward?’
‘Yes — because every time, the dream gets stronger. If people can imagine something, there’ll come a time when they’ll achieve it.’
‘What you said — goodness. Kindness. The end of being animals.’
‘And for us now, what is there?’