The Golden Notebook
The Golden Notebook
[Here Anna's handwriting ended, the golden notebook continued in Saul Green's handwriting, a short novel about the Algerian soldier.]
This soldier was a farmer who was aware that what he felt about life was not what he was expected to feel. By whom? By an invisible they, who might be God, or the State, or Law, or Order. He was captured tortured by the French, escaped, rejoined the FLN, and found himself torturing, under orders to do so, French prisoners. He knew that he should feel something about this that he did not in fact feel. He discussed his state of mind late one night with one of the French prisoners whom he had tortured. The French prisoner was a young intellectual, a student of philosophy. This young man (the two men were talking secretly in the prisoner’s cell) complained that he was in an intellectual prison-house. He recognized, had recognized for years, that he never had a thought, or an emotion, that didn’t instantly fall into pigeon-holes, one marked ‘Marx’ and one marked ‘Freud’. His thoughts and emotions were like marbles rolling into predetermined slots, he complained. The young Algerian soldier found this interesting, he didn’t find that at all, he said, what troubled him - though of course it didn’t really trouble him, and he felt it should - was that nothing he thought or felt was what was expected of him. The Algerian soldier said he envied the Frenchman - or rather, he felt he ought to be envying him. While the French student said he envied the Algerian from the bottom of his heart: he wished that just once, just once in his life, he felt or thought something that was his own, spontaneous, undirected, not willed on him by Grandfathers Freud and Marx. The voices of the two young men had risen more than was wise, particularly that of the French student, crying out against his situation. The Commanding Officer came in, found the Algerian talking, like a brother, with the prisoner he was supposed to be guarding. The Algerian soldier said: ‘Sir, I did what I was ordered: I tortured this man. You did not tell me I should not talk with him.’ The Commanding Officer decided that his man was some sort of spy, probably recruited while he had been a prisoner. He ordered him to be shot. The Algerian soldier and the French student were shot together, on the hillside, with the rising sun in their faces, side by side, the next morning.
[This short novel was later published and did rather well.]