The Black Notebook
‘Hallo,’ exclaimed Paul, ‘here comes another bird. No it doesn’t.’ A pigeon cleaved towards us, saw us and swerved off and away in midair, nearly settled on the other clump of trees, changed its mind and sped into the distance. A group of farm labourers were passing on the track a couple of hundred yards off. We watched them, in silence. They had been talking and laughing until they saw us, but now they, too, were silent, and went past with averted faces, as if in this way they might avert any possible evil that might come from us, the white people.
Paul said softly: ‘My God, my God, my God.’ Then his tone changed, and he said jauntily: ‘Looking at it objectively, with as little reference as we can manage to Comrade Willi and his ilk - Comrade Willi, I’m inviting you to consider something objectively.’ Willi laid down his book, prepared to show irony. ‘This country is larger than Spain. It contains one and a half million blacks, if one may mention them at all, and one hundred thousand whites. That, in itself, is a thought which demands two minutes’ silence. And what do we see? One might imagine - one would have every excuse for imagining, despite what you say, Comrade Willi, that this insignificant handful of sand on the beaches of time - not bad, that image? - unoriginal, but always apt - this million-and-a-little-over-a-half people exist in this pretty piece of God’s earth solely in order to make each other miserable …’ Here Willi picked up his book again and applied his attention to it. ‘Comrade Willi, let your eyes follow the print but let the ears of your soul listen. For the facts are - the facts - that there’s enough food here for everyone! - enough materials for houses for everyone! - enough talent though admittedly so well hidden under bushels at the moment that nothing but the most generous eye could perceive it - enough talent, I say, to create light where now darkness exists.’
‘From which you deduce?’ said Willi.
‘I deduce nothing. I am being struck by a new … it’s a blinding light, nothing less …’
‘But what you say is the truth about the whole world, not just this country,’ said Maryrose.
‘Magnificent Maryrose! Yes. My eyes are being opened to - Comrade Willi, would you not say that there is some principle at work not yet admitted to your philosophy? Some principle of destruction?’
Willi said, in exactly the tone we had all expected: ‘There is no need to look any further than the philosophy of the class struggle,’ and as if he’d pressed a button, Jimmy, Paul and I burst out into one of the fits of irrepressible laughter that Willi never joined.