The Blue Notebook
I felt bored and stale, knowing that, without having read the newspapers at all, I could have made a pretty good guess, from political experience, at what had happened in that week. The feeling of banality, the disgust of banality, mingled with my fear; and then suddenly I moved forward into a new knowledge, a new understanding; and this knowledge came out of Anna’s, the frightened little animal’s, sitting on the floor, cowering. It was ‘the game’, but it came out of terror, I was invaded by terror, the terror of nightmares, I was experiencing the fear of war as one does in nightmares, not the intellectual balancing of probabilities, possibilities, but knowing, with my nerves and imagination, the fear of war. What I was reading in the newspapers strewn all round me became real, not an abstract intellectual fear. There was a kind of shifting of the balances of my brain, of the way I had been thinking, the same kind of realignment as when, a few days before, words like democracy, liberty, freedom, had faded under pressure of a new sort of understanding of the real movement of the world towards dark, hardening power. I knew, but of course the word, written, cannot convey the quality of this knowing, that whatever already is has its logic and its force, that the great armouries of the world have their inner force, and that my terror, the real nerve-terror of the nightmare, was part of the force. I felt this, like a vision, in a new kind of knowing. And I knew that the cruelty and the spite and the I, I, I, I, of Saul and of Anna were part of the logic of war; and I knew how strong these emotions were, in a way that would never leave me, would become part of how I saw the world.
But now, writing it, and reading what I’ve written, there’s nothing there, just words on paper, I can’t communicate, even to myself when I read it back, the knowledge of destruction as a force. I was lying limp on the floor last night, feeling like a vision the power of destruction, feeling it so strongly that it will stay with me for the rest of my life, but the knowledge isn’t in the words I write down now.
Thinking how war would explode, chaos would follow, I was cold and sweating with fear, and then I thought of Janet, the delightful rather conventional little girl at her girls’ school, and I was angry, so angry that anyone anywhere could harm her, that I stood upright, able to fight off the terror. I was exhausted, the terror had gone away from me, to be contained in lines of print in newspapers. I was limp with exhaustion, and no longer needing to hurt Saul. I undressed and got into bed and I was sane. I realized the relief Saul must feel, when the hands of madness let go his throat and he thinks: It’s gone for a time.
I lay thinking of him, warm and detached, strong.