On the Heroism of Mortals (Vagabonds)
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This is a collection of eleven short stories whose common theme is the heroism of our flawed lives. It explores the arduousness of people s lives and covers such diverse subjects as human solidarity, generational change, single parenthood, domestic violence, the tragic complexity of revolution, police brutality, artistic hubris, and the limitations of rationalism. In `The Hat' , a polish Jew on the run in Eastern Europe goes to a town in search for food and, noticing the large number of German soldiers on patrol, hides himself in a funeral procession. But he stands out as the only mourner without a hat. As he walks along, another man places his hat on the fugitive s head: an example of man s humanity to man. In `Living with the Polish Count' , the young Soviet Republic struggles to keep foreign and reactionary forces at bay and in so doing loses the morality that initially inspired them. In `The Selfish Geneticist' , lunch in a smart restaurant exposes the rift between two academics, both dogmatic and contemptuous of others, but one more strictly rational and the other more influenced by his human emotions.
“you’ll still have done a great thing; you’ll have shown there is another way. If you fail now or you fail in seventy years, you’ll have shown that there is another way, and that’ll make them change their ways – not very much perhaps, but nothing will be the same, and not only here in this starving city.” And I was none the wiser. I believe in the new morality, so I had no intention of recruiting my brother. I could slip him into the party, but who knows what mischief he might get up to. I never
threatened by a friend – a suggestion of what was to come. Two days later, Nadezhda ran to my room, which is a tiny airless space almost entirely filled by a single bed with a straw mattress. The only light comes from a small oblong window that can be opened with a rod. It must have been the bedroom of one of the more senior household servants, when the building belonged to its aristocratic owner. I was stirring after an all-night session of the international committee and no more than three
do so. Another won the Booker and made him rich. Then he became a writer and spent all his time trying to recreate those moments of exhilaration – success with the critics and then with the public. But his writing has no freshness now, and I used to feel sorry for him until one day he came jogging by. I was seated and unusually had removed my cap, because of the heat. It lay upturned on the bench beside me, on top of some papers and the book I was reading. He looked at me quizzically as though
Voltaire believed in anything, he believed in the absolute tolerance of other people’s religious views. But of course we are talking of a higher truth here, and the higher truth is a scientific one, even when science has absolutely nothing to say on the matter. The history of life is the history of the perfect mechanism of self-interest, and while we might have some sympathy for the deification of Chaos, who previously had a rotten press, are we happy with the deification of Over-Simplification?
back, and I could have cried: that was what I wanted to do, if only I had the skill to do it. I had once come close enough to the skill required, for me to appreciate it fully. But I gave nothing away, and the young man was so in awe of me that I could feel his craving for recognition like a magnetic force I needed to resist. But why did he crave? Because I am suddenly prominent in artistic circles? Doesn’t he see through the sham and shambles of this art trade? The idiot got everything he