The Black Notebook
A feeling of total unreality came over me, and finally, very late at night, or rather, early in the morning, I translated one of the things I had said out of the safe unreal jargon into something that had actually happened - I told him about Jan, who had been tortured in a prison in Moscow. And there was the same moment when his eyes focused on my face in fright, and the involuntary movement away, as if to escape - I was saying something that, if he had said it in his country, would have got him into prison. The fact was that the phrases of our common philosophy were a means of disguising the truth. The truth was we had nothing in common, except the label, communist. And now with this American woman - we could use the language of democracy all night, but it would describe different experiences. We sit there, she and I, remembering that we like each other as women. But there is nothing to say: just as after that moment with the Russian writer, there had been nothing more to say. Finally she says: ‘Well, my dear, I’ve never been more surprised. I simply cannot understand it.’ It is an accusation this time, and I am angry again. And she even goes on to say: ‘Of course I admire your honesty.’ Then I think: Well if I was in America now, being hunted by the committees, I wouldn’t be sitting at an hotel table saying casually I am a communist. So being angry is dishonest - all the same, it is out of anger that I say drily: ‘Perhaps it would be a good idea to check before you invite writers in this country to dinner, because quite a number might cause you embarrassment.’ But now her face shows that she has gone a very long distance from me: she is suspicious: I am in the pigeon-hole communist, and therefore I am probably lying. And I remembered that moment with the Russian writer when he had the choice, either to meet me on what I was saying, and to discuss it, or to contract out, which he did by putting on a look of ironical knowledge, and saying: ‘Well it’s not the first time a friend of our country has turned into an enemy.’ In other words: you have succumbed to pressures from the capitalist enemy. Luckily, at this juncture, the American appears, standing by our table. I wonder if the balance has been tipped for him by the fact that she had genuinely, and not from calculation, ceased to be aware of him. I feel sad at this, because I think it is true. ‘Well, Jerry,’ she says, ‘I wondered if we’d run into each other, I heard you were in London.’ ‘Hi,’ he says, ‘how are you, good to see you.’ Well-dressed, self-possessed, good-natured. ‘This is Miss Wulf,’ she says, and with difficulty, because what she is feeling is: I am introducing a friend to an enemy, I ought to be warning him in some way. ‘Miss Wulf is a very, very well-known writer,’ she says; and I see that the words well-known writer have taken some of the edge off her nervousness. I say: ‘Perhaps you’ll forgive me if I leave you both? I should go home and see to my daughter.’ She is obviously relieved. We all leave the dining-room. As I say good-bye and turn away I see her slip her hand into his elbow. I hear her say: ‘Jerry, I’m so happy you are here, I thought I was in for a lonely evening.’ He says: ‘My dear Eddy, when have you ever spent a lonely evening unless you opted one?’ I see her smile - dry and grateful to him. As for me, I go home thinking that in spite of everything, the moment when I broke the comfortable surface of our acquaintanceship was the only honest moment in the evening. Yet I feel ashamed and dissatisfied and depressed, just as I did after the night talking to the Russian.