Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Beginning of the Soviet Afghan War


In late December 1979, the world held its breath as thousands of Soviet troops were sent into Afghanistan. Moscow said the troops would be there six months, to help bring peace to the country. In fact the Soviet army stayed almost ten years, and Afghanistan came to be seen as the Soviet Union's Vietnam. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to journalist Andrei Ostalski and former soldier Vyacheslav Ismailov about that time.

Louise Hidalgo:

Hello and welcome to the Witness podcast here on the BBC World Service with me Louise Hidalgo, and today I’m taking you back to late December 1979, when the world held its breath as the Soviet Union sent its army into Afghanistan to prop up the Communist led government. Moscow said the troops would stay six months, in the end they stayed nearly ten years. And Afghanistan will become the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.

Vyacheslav Ismailov who served in Afghanistan as a soldier and journalist Andrei Ostalski have been remembering that time.

[Music, Black Tulip* performed by Rozenbaum]


In Afghanistan, in the Black Tulip,

With a glass of vodka, we silently fly over the land.

Across the border, the sorrowful bird carries

Our guys home, to Russian summer lightnings.

In the black tulip, the guys who were on a mission

Fly to dear motherland for rest in peace.

Being torn to shreds, they have gone forever,

They can never hug warm shoulders.

When our tulip was falling down at an angle to the oases of Jellalabad,

We all damned our job.

Again one guy died and failed his company.

In Shindad, Kandagar, and Bagram,

We will again put a heavy stone on our souls,

We will again carry the heroes to motherland

They are 20 years old heroes for which people dig graves,

They are 20 years old heroes for which people dig graves.

But we must climb and find the strength,

If we make an error, we can be shot down here,

The mountains shoot us, a "Stinger" missile takes off,

If the enemy shoots down us, the guys will die a second time.

We fly here differently than in our motherland,

Where there is no war, and everything is familiar for a long time,

Where pilots see bodies of dead soldiers only once a year,

Where nobody shoots down helicopters from the clouds,

And we fly, clenched teeth from the anger,

Wetting our lips with vodka.

Many caravans go here from Pakistan,

It means that there is a job for the tulip,

Yes, there is a job for the tulip.

In Afganistan, in the black tulip,

With a glass of vodka, we silently fly over the land.

Across the border, the sorrowful bird carries

Our brothers home, to Russian summer lightnings.

When our tulip was falling down at an angle to the oases of Jellalabad,

We all damned our job.

Again one guy died and failed his company.

In Shindad, Kandagar, and Bagram,

We will again put a heavy stone on our souls,

We will again carry the heroes to motherland

They are 20 years old heroes for which people dig graves,

They are 20 years old heroes for which people dig graves.

*Black Tulip is a nickname for the Antonov 12 cargo plane that was used heavily during the war to transport men and materials.

Andrei Ostalski:

I was taking my things to go home after my evening shift when I was summoned by the Task Director General Mr. Sergei Losev.

Louise Hidalgo:

It was late on December the 24th Andrei Ostalski was in the Moscow headquarters of TASS the official Soviet News Agency when his boss got a call from the Kremlin.

Andrei Ostalski:

And he told me in great confidence that in a few hours’ time the Soviet troops would enter Afghanistan and then big military operation in support of the Kabul government would start.

Louise Hidalgo:

And he ordered you to stay at the office that night, didn’t he? You couldn’t tell anyone, you had to collate all the reaction that was coming in from abroad. But you were really quite junior at the time weren’t you to have access to news like that?

Andrei Ostalski:

Yes, so I was astonished to learn much later from the memoirs of the Chief analyst of the KGB Foreign Intelligence Service that even he was taken totally by surprise.

Louise Hidalgo:

That night, the next day and the following day December the 26th thousands of Soviet troops entered Afghanistan.

[American archive news report from 1979]

For the past two days some 200 Soviet air transports, the large Antonov 22 and the smaller Antonov 12 literally poured into Kabul.

Louise Hidalgo:

Far away in the Soviet Republic of Dagestan a young teacher heard the short official announcement. His name was Vyacheslav Ismailov.

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

The Soviet Army always seemed to be fighting somewhere and there was so little information. I just remember we were told we were helping these people, the Afghans, and our soldiers would be defending them against bandits – that’s what we called them. And they were going to rebuild schools and hospitals, and roads. There was no mention of military operations.

Louise Hidalgo:

Back in Moscow meanwhile at TASS Andrei Ostalski had been temporarily put in charge of the Afghan news desk as the agency scrambled to find experts who spoke the Afghan languages Dari and Pashto.

And you had this hierarchy of information didn’t you at TASS? There was the uncensored news that wasn’t for public consumption of course but you’d send it to the Politburo and other senior officials. And one day they asked you to go and brief these local party officials, didn’t they?

Andrei Ostalski:

Yes, yes I was telling them that Hafizullah Amin the Afghanistan’s President who was murdered by the Soviet commanders, and then the Soviet Union started supporting the minority faction inside this minority. Led by an alcoholic KGB agent called Babrak Karmal, so the USSR was relying on this minority in one of the most troublesome countries in the world.

Louise Hidalgo:

So, you told the party officials this, and their reaction wasn’t quite what you expected was it?

The audience was totally shocked. Because it contradicted everything they were reading in the Soviet newspapers. So, they started jeering and heckling and I had to cut my talk short, and I was scared. I ran, I physically ran back to TASS to ask to see my bosses and said I am afraid they will denounce me and you will sack me or maybe I will be arrested, well I was totally panicking. But they said ok we’ll try to do what we can and they did.

But they didn’t want to know the truth, the Soviet leader also didn’t want to know it. That was a learning curve I must say.

Louise Hidalgo:

The war ground on. Six months turned into a year, then two, then four. Afghanistan had become a Cold War battleground with Moscow and America fighting through their proxies, flooding the country with weaponry. By 1985 the Soviet Union had a new leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was beginning to realise it was a lost cause. And it was getting harder to hide the body bags bringing home dead Soviet soldiers.

That year Vyacheslav Ismailov who joined the army a few years earlier was sent to Afghanistan.

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

We flew to Kabul which I remember being very dirty and then to Shindad Air base in the west where we were based. When we arrived we were given a lecture by one of the senior officers and afterwards when we were having a smoke he said `You know, the way we’re fighting, this war is going to be going on when our children, our grandchildren are old enough to fight.`

That was when I began to understand it was going badly and it was so different from everything we’ve been told.

Louise Hidalgo:

The next day Vyacheslav was travelling in a military convoy when they passed an Afghan driving a truck loaded with watermelons.

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

One of our officers stopped the man and commandeered the van and started throwing all the watermelons out to our soldiers, ten, twenty, thirty. And the Afghan was sitting there shaking saying `Please, please, this is my livelihood, that’s enough`.

And I remember thinking we’re not bringing peace to this place we’re occupiers, this is how occupiers behave.

Louise Hidalgo:

Your Battalion wasn’t in a combat role, it’s job was to take supplies from the airbase at Shindad down through the mountains and the desert 400 Kilometres to Afghanistan’s second city Kandahar. Tell me about that Journey.

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

We’d set off at first light, we weren’t allowed to travel by night although sometimes we had too. The hardest was the third day going into Kandahar, that was the most treacherous part, they were waiting for us. There was a grain store and once you got past that the gunfire started, it was like a firing zone.

Our forces in Kandahar tried to cover us but sometimes we got hit, then we’d have a day’s rest and we’d set off again.

Louise Hidlago:

What was the most difficult thing?

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

Oh, it’s hard to say, it was on top of you all the time, I was in charge of four hundred men; young 18, 19-year olds you have to feed them, you have to look after them when they’re wounded, make sure their weapons are working properly. You’re just thinking about them all the time.

Louise Hidalgo:

But you knew what was going on didn’t you? Villages were being bombed, civilians killed, you know fields and valleys were being mined.

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

Of course, I knew. I knew when our forces hit a column of Afghans, it was like when the Americans hit the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia. You know, we did the same, our planes dropped bombs on hospitals, on villages it was collateral damage. Some days they wouldn’t let us out of Kandahar for two or three days and all the roads were closed because the planes were bombing. But what can you do? It’s a war, we started it we had to see it through.

Louise Hidalgo:

The hardest thing he had to bear was the fact that one in four of the Soviet soldiers killed in Afghanistan weren’t killed by enemy fire, the were killed by their own side. Or they took their own life.

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

Or it was fights that ended badly, or it was pilots going out drunk and crashing their planes or colliding with another plane. Our leaders were always talking about our achievements and our heroism but really, we were our own worst enemy.

Louise Hidalgo:

And suicide, you mention the high rate of suicides. Did any of your men take their own life?

Vyacheslav Ismailov:

There was one instance of suicide under my watch. We were on our way to Kandahar and a young lad was with us and he went AWOL. We found his weapon, he’d left it behind but he’d taken a few grenades, and the following morning we found his body, ripped apart. And a note, I still remember every word, and it’s more than 30 years ago.

“I’m a coward, people like me don’t deserve to live. Please tell my mother that I died a hero.”
He was 18.

Louise Hidalgo:

The last Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in February 1989. 15,000 Soviet soldiers and 1 Million Afghans had died. Two years later the Soviet Union dissolved. Vyacheslav Ismailov is today a military analyst for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Andrei Ostalski went on to work for the newspaper Izvestia and then the BBC, to day he lives in the south of England.

Both were talking to me Louise Hidalgo for Witness.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

1948 Einstein-Arendt letter to the New York Times

In December 1948 Menachen Begin a Zionist politician infamous for his extreme nationalism -even amongst fellow Zionists- began a tour of the United States, hoping to generate publicity and raise funds and support while his party campaign in the elections of that year.

Appalled at the visit and the warm welcome he was receiving a group of 28 Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt published a joint open letter to the New York Times denouncing Begin, his party, his policies and the general campaigns of atrocity and intimidation in Jewish communities and the Palestinian Arab population carried out by Menachen's followers and fellow far right Zionist paramilitaries. The letter can be found on but the OCR scans are full of errors which make reading difficult, though the scans are clearer.

I think its an interesting document so transcribed it correcting errors.

New Palestine Party

Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed

To the Editor or The New York Times : Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of  the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachen Begin, leader of this .party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit it is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin's political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents. Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin's behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement. The public avowals of Begin's party are no guide whatever to its actual character.

Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly
preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (The New York Times), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants—240 men, women and children— and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre', publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Dein Yassin. The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party. Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority.

Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model. During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, windowsmashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute. The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

Discrepancies Seen

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal. In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin's efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from supporting Begin. The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.


New York, DEC 2, 1948.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Letters of Insurgents - Postscript


Postscript: For the reader

My last letter returned two months after I sent it. Yarostan’s address was completely covered by a large blot of opaque ink, and an arrow pointed to my address. There were no explanations anywhere on the envelope; in fact, there was no indication my letter had gotten any further than the local post office where the stamps were cancelled, there was no clue as to who had returned it or why. During the past eight years I haven’t heard a single word from Yarostan or Mirna or Yara or Jasna. The “police capitalism” that imposed itself by means of its “historically available instruments” still rules today.

I held on to Yarostan’s letters and the carbon copies of mine; occasionally I shared them with friends. Several years ago one of those who read them suggested I share them with a larger circle of friends. I hesitated because there was too much in them that could incriminate people whose lives are under constant police surveillance — and not merely “over there.” When I finally decided to accept the suggestion, I carefully omitted all the names of places, and I changed the name of every person mentioned in both sets of letters, except where I felt this wasn’t necessary (as with my own name: the police files over there never listed me as Nachalo, but as the daughter of the man I called “Alberts”). I hope “Yarostan” forgives me for making a book out of his letters to me: I hope even more that he sees this book.

I’m deeply grateful to all those who offered to help me typeset, proofread and print these letters, particularly to Ted and Tina. I’d like to address these letters to “all my likes” and “all Yarostan’s likes,” as he would have put it. And I want to dedicate it to the people I named Yarostan, Mirna, Yara, Jasna, Zdenek, Jan, Vesna and Irena, and to those I called Ron, Jose, Alec and Tissie,


Bonus Readers Delirium 


Letters of Insurgents - Sophia's Last Letter


Sophia’s last letter

Dear Yarostan,

I gagged as I read about Zabran’s self-exposure and suicide. On the surface some kind of monster died, a monster that left so many corpses in its train. I was horrified when I recognized the monster in myself and in those closest to me, those who gave my life its only meaning and goal, those who helped define my life’s search. My very dreams were contaminated by the monstrosity he stood for: the will to impose mental constructs on living people — which as Zdenek so perceptively pointed out can only be done by means of “historically available” instruments: guns, tanks, police and armies.

You once pointed to a split in my life, the split between my “academic and journalistic world” and the “world of Sabina and the garage.” You included yourself in the latter world. I think the line you drew has to be re-drawn. I think the split was between the world of those who, like Ted, Jan and Mirna, sought to realize their own potentialities among others realizing theirs, and the world of those who, like Luisa and Daman and Titus Zabran, sought to fit human beings into what Sabina called a crystal palace, which in practice was always the same regimented barracks, the hive you’ve rejected. Like Sabina, and like me, you had a foot in both worlds. Don’t tell yourself you’re the only one whose past commitments were clarified by the exposure and the suicide. My life project, my “community,” also died in that modest, barely furnished room.

I responded to your letter the same way I had responded to our emigration twenty years ago. I stared at the walls of my room. But there’s a difference. At that time I still had my illusions: the community Luisa had experienced with Nachalo and on the barricades, the community that I had myself experienced with you. At that time I saw something when I looked at the blank walls; when I left my room I had something to look for and I found it, pr at least approximations to it, with Ron, on the newspaper staff, in Hugh’s project house. You weren’t able to convince me that my commitment rested on rot, that my “community” had been the opposite of community at its very origin, that my adoration of you was an alibi for my inactivity.

I’m writing this letter as much for myself as for you; I don’t really expect it to reach you. I read about the tanks in the newspapers, two or three days before your letter came. Something snapped inside me. I knew, even before your letter came, that I had a connection with those tanks. Part of my life, too, had been devoted to the service of a “historical class” that was going to realize a great “purpose.” Zdenek is so right. I never asked myself what instruments were going to realize my goal. I told myself we, all of us, by ourselves and on our own, were going to realize it. But I obviously didn’t believe that, not in practice, since I never did anything by myself and on my own. My goal wasn’t something I did but something I served, and in that sense I was Titus Zabran’s daughter and the sister of the tank drivers. Who and what carried my project since I and those around me obviously didn’t? Where was the power to realize it since it wasn’t in me? I never dreamed of imposing my goal with a tank or a gun, but apparently Titus didn’t either. And since the great task of history required the elimination of fetters, heads obviously had to roll, categories of human beings had to be liquidated. He had the courage to kill himself. I wonder if he finally knew what it had all led to: the endless corridors with rooms full of breathing mummies, the paved highways with speeding vehicles whose passengers’ potentialities could no longer be distinguished from those of their vehicles.

I trembled the day I walked home with the newspaper announcing the invasion in enormous headlines. The people I passed in the street, even those with newspapers under their arms, walked by me calmly, as if nothing was wrong, as if nothing had happened, as if everything was exactly as it should be. And I saw myself in those people. If I hadn’t been exchanging letters with you for the past months, I would have reacted to those headlines the same way they did. And I realized there’s no such entity as a human species, or rather that it doesn’t recognize itself as such; it possesses no faculty of community. Either it never had such a faculty or it lost it. The beings I was among, including me, were not species-beings but closed compartments. Maybe what we’ve just experienced on both sides of the world shows that the faculty of species-being is something still to be created, and that it’s not the abstract “community” I’ve always envisioned but something very concrete, as concrete as Mirna’s “excursions.” Maybe it’s nothing but the willingness to touch, feel, look at and listen to each other. Maybe there simply weren’t enough people on excursions, there weren’t enough to reach the workers in the tanks. Maybe that’s why the workers in the tanks couldn’t know that the people at whom they aimed their guns were the same as themselves, or had been the same until they began to take excursions. The workers in the tanks were in no way different from the people I passed in the street, from you and me during “normal” times: they were merely workers doing their jobs, each with his own repressed “demon,” each with the same reason to rebel as the people they repressed. And no doubt each of them had rebelled at one or another time, and each had been repressed, always by others who had also rebelled at some other time. I was always one of those others. However insignificant my contributions, they were no less significant than the contributions of a single soldier. I had responded with righteous indignation to your first letter, to your suggestion that prisoners had anything in common with their guards. I no longer have trouble imagining myself, if not as a soldier in a tank, at least as a teacher who helped shape the intellectual horizon of people who became soldiers in tanks. All I have to do is to ask myself what I was doing when others, elsewhere, were rebelling and when they were repressed. All I have to do is ask myself what I’m doing right now, when Mirna and Yara are confronting tanks with their bare hands!

At least I think I’m no longer on the side of the tanks, the side of those who would guide their comrades toward the revealed or “scientific” goal of history. At least I’ve learned that humanity’s “historical goals” are the fantasies of megalomaniacs, that the proletariat’s “organizations” are trains driven by would-be directors, and that weapons are history’s only means for imposing such “projects” on living human individuals. Those are the “lessons” I’ve drawn from my correspondence with you, and they’re awful lessons. My mother was the agent of my father’s murderers. Was it to spare my sensitivity one more time that you didn’t draw that knot? Sabina and i drew it as soon as your letter arrived.

Right after we read your letter Sabina had me reread the letters in which you had told me what you had learned from Manuel during your first prison term. When she had told me that Nachalo and Margarita had to be dead before they could be made useful to Luisa’s organization, she had been much closer to the truth than even she had suspected. She combined Manuel’s accounts with everything she had learned from Alberts; her reconstruction of the sequence of events is almost beyond belief.

On the day of the barricades the fascist army was definitively defeated in the city. It then made some advances in rural regions; one of the places where it met resistance was the village Manuel described. “This village became ‘the front’ for Luisa and the rest of the union apparatus, and also to fighters like Manuel and Nachalo,” Sabina suggested. “For Nachalo and Manuel it was an extension of the battle on the barricades, and they went there, not as a separate armed force, but as an extension of the armed population that had fought on the barricades. But to the apparatus this ‘front’ immediately had a different meaning. First of all it was far away from the city and quickly became almost a mythical place. And secondly, as far as the union apparatus was concerned the revolution was over in the streets of the city and in the factories. The union had taken over production, transportation and distribution, and that was that; it was time to resume the normal activity of daily life. The front was for those whose blood was still hot and whose organs were still ungratified, and it was far away from the city. To the new managers of production, these fighters were only in the way; they were infinitely more useful as dead heroes who had died for the glory of the living union bosses than as living saboteurs, agitators and terrorists. The union leaders were relieved to send them off to fight ‘the revolution’ with official flag-waving. Alberts, who wasn’t an agitator but was shamed by Margarita’s premature death, was drawn to the mythical front only when it became something he could understand: the central focus of a state apparatus and an official war machine. He had come to offer the revolution everything science could provide, and he understood that these offerings could be efficiently used only in terms of their own rules: logically, hierarchically, militarily. He rightly recognized Zabran as the embodiment of applied science and was drawn to enlist in that replacement of the population’s armed might, the popular army.”

Sabina and I figured out that apparently Alberts and Zabran actually did “join Nachalo” at the front, as Luisa told me. Alberts had told Sabina he had served in the firing squad that murdered eight “infiltrators,” and Zabran told you they were together from the moment Alberts enlisted. Just before the “infiltrators” were killed, one of them shouted, “Next time the people rise they’ll turn on the red butchers first.” Zabran told you he never “met” Nachalo. Apparently Alberts told him who had shouted that statement after Nachalo was dead. When Alberts returned from the front, he told Luisa that Nachalo had been a “defector” because he had called his “comrades” red butchers before they murdered him. Luisa and Zabran then proceeded to make the murdered man useful to their “movement.” Zabran “enlisted” the dead man to his cause; the murderer justified his crime wearing his victim’s mantle. The Church burned people and later made them saints, covering its repressive deeds with the rebels’ own mantles. Luisa and her union placed the cape of her dead lover on his murderer and enlisted the dead man’s comrades to his murderers’ cause, helping the murderer shine with the life and deeds of his victim, transforming an assassin into a “revolutionary.”

Sabina also figured out Glavni was wrong when he assumed that Zabran’s later “pacifism” was some kind of moral attitude. On the contrary, it grew out of his “scientific” outlook. The death of Nachalo did not put an end to Nachalo’s influence. Therefore the firing squad is not an effective instrument for dealing with questions of consciousness; it wipes out the patient without wiping out the disease. And since the proletariat’s only quality was its “historical interest,” the qualities Jan Sedlak possessed must have come “from abroad.” They were a virus which Luisa carried in spite of herself, and with which she infected Jan and you, and through both of you the entire production group, and presumably also Mirna, who then infected Yara. “But his understanding had a gross flaw at its core,” Sabina said. “He didn’t understand what Mirna and Yara understand. The negating spirit isn’t imported; the desire for freedom doesn’t come from abroad. It isn’t carried or transmitted. It’s inherent in being human. It’s already there. What is carried and imported is the repression of that desire. The only ‘carriers’ in the carton plant were Titus and Luisa. It wasn’t Nachalo that hounded Zabran to his death, but Zabran’s own gross error.” Sabina was referring to the opera Zabran apparently listened to before he shot himself. When you repeated Nachalo’s last statement to him, he must have thought my dead father’s spirit had come to Jasna’s celebration to hound his murderer.

Your letter came three weeks ago but I postponed answering it. I suppose the censorship has been reimposed together with the rest of the police apparatus, and I don’t want to set off another sequence of events similar to the one set off by the letter I sent at the time of the Magarna rising. Sabina reminded me that it wasn’t my letter itself, but the “historically informed” intervention of Titus Zabran, that caused your earlier arrests, and she doubts if anyone will analyze what is “historically progressive” and what “dangerous” in the content of my present letter. But I couldn’t have imagined anyone would have done that to my earlier letter either. Initially I thought of writing you a short, innocuous note, just to find out if you and your comrades were well, but I wasn’t able to compose such a note. And the thought of receiving a similar note from you, the thought of both of us writing no longer for each other but for a censor, repelled me so much that I dropped the idea. If we can no longer communicate our lives, our innermost thoughts and our desires to each other, I think I’d prefer not to continue our correspondence; that sort of communication would be unbearable to me. It would be like a conversation with an intimate friend who’d had part of his brain surgically removed; I would infinitely prefer silence to letters in which you told me about yesterday’s weather. So I decided to write you as uninhibitedly as I would have if the tanks hadn’t invaded. There’s so much I want to tell you, not only about what we shared, but about all that’s happened to me since I last wrote you, and about what Sabina and I learned during the past few weeks.

During the week after my argument with Luisa, Ted got his car out of the police pound, and he wanted to return to the print shop and to his apartment to clean up the mess. He was upset that Tina still hadn’t turned up; he told me again how impossible the print shop would have been without Tina. I obviously wasn’t up to doing what Tina had done there; I also shared Sabina’s fear that Ted would be shot by the police if he returned to the print shop. I convinced him to stay away from there, but he became increasingly restless. I suggested the three of us explore the possibility of launching a project but the only activity that interested him at all was to “help out” with that press Luisa had showed him at the repression committee office. So the Sunday after my confrontation with Luisa, I went back to that office with Ted. I disregarded everything and everyone in the committee office and accompanied Ted directly to the “press room.” I became Ted’s apprentice. We learned when the office would be open on weekdays the following week, and we went back every day. Ted got the press repaired and he, or rather we, started printing. I found it extremely challenging; Ted let me do every operation as soon as I learned how.

I wasn’t only Ted’s apprentice. I realized that the jealousy I’d felt when I saw Luisa bent over him was real. At first I thought I felt guilty toward Ted because of how grossly I had treated him at the garage. But when I became his apprentice, and then his “fellow printer,” I knew that my feeling toward him was neither guilt nor pity. There’s something of Ron in Ted — something Zabran had immediately recognized in that letter I sent you twelve years ago. It’s that “instinctive” rejection of all official activity. There’s also something in Ted that I’ve never encountered before: a certain modesty that seems to border on an “inferiority feeling,” though that term bothers me. He’s almost grateful to those who treat him as an equal. He has pride in his work, in his deeds, but not in his person; he expects others to respond to him solely on the basis of what he contributes, not on the basis of merely being there; he doesn’t think himself wonderful.

A confrontation with Art Sinich put an end to our activity in the repression committee. It was a very brief confrontation. Art came into the press room while Ted was running some forms off the press. Art patted Ted on the back and told him, “You people are really the salt of the earth!”

Ted exclaimed, “Shit!” He turned off the press and told Art angrily, “What do you mean ‘you people,’ mister? There are just two people at this press, just Sophie and me!”

“You racist bigot!” I shouted at Art. “You fascist! Don’t you know what your mouth is full of?”

Art didn’t show the slightest awareness that he knew. Ted and I walked out. At home Ted told me, “It’s no good, Sophie. It’s not just Art; it’s all over their walls and in their leaflets. All they ‘re into is skin color. Not Luisa, but most of the others. Skin color is all they see. I’ve never worked near someone who looked at me as a color. I don’t like it. He knows all about me before I ever start doing anything. I’m you people’; I’m like a tin can with a label, and I’m the same as all the cans with that label.”

Ted was also angry at me when he said this, and he was right. He had trusted me not to introduce him into that type of environment, or at least to warn him. But I hadn’t recognized it, and I had never imagined Luisa or Daman would ever collaborate with racists. Ted didn’t remain angry with me; he knows that my life has been as shielded as his. Somehow both of us and all the people we’ve known have rarely had contact with any form of racism in a society where canning and labelling is the central activity. Art had exposed himself to me before, but I hadn’t responded. As soon as Ted responded, I was ashamed I’d ever had anything to do with Art. How sickeningly ironic it is that the most revolting trait of this society should turn up as the “political program” of self-styled “radicals.” I’ve never been near anyone like Art either. Even the customers in Tissie’s and Sabina’s bar didn’t express such attitudes. Art had made himself perfectly clear to me the last time I’d talked to him, when I’d treated him to lunch; he had made it clear that human beings didn’t exist for him; only cans with labels. I remembered the horror I’d felt when he’d described how he saw the function of his group: “We aim to coordinate the activities of organizations expressing the will of national and racial minorities.” I shuddered. Ted and I haven’t ever returned to the repression office.

I was even more upset by something that happened a few days after our last visit to the repression committee. I answered the phone. It was Tina. I got all excited. “Tina, where are you? What happened to you?” I shouted.

Tina said to me. in the voice of a robot, “I’m with friends. I’d like to talk to Ted.”

I told her, “We’ve all been nervous about you. When we saw the print shop wrecked, we thought the worst things might have happened to you. Are you with Pat?”

“Neither of us were in the print shop when it was attacked,” she told me. “Our group withdrew before the attack, when the print shop was taken over by counter-revolutionary agents. I’d like to talk to Ted.”

I gave Ted the receiver. In answer to one of Tina’s questions, he told her he intended to start printing again — with me. His summary of the rest of the conversation made it seem awful. “Something must have happened to her,” he told Sabina and me; “she never sounded like that before. She and Pat and their friends want to visit us in a few days. She talked about her group as if it was a secret gang of some sort. She asked me something about ‘continuing the coherent practice in which you were engaged before incoherent agents of repression recuperated you.” Then she asked if I was willing to separate myself from ideologues whose perspectives you don’t share.’ I think it’s time we opened up that print shop again, but the way Tina sounded, I don’t know; I’m worried. I don’t want to become part of something I don’t understand. I think Tina has become a tool, the way Tissie became Seth’s tool.”

Sabina emphatically stated, “It’s impossible for Tina to have become a tool.”

The day after Tina’s call, Ted was restless again. He told me, “I think Sabina is wrong; I don’t think the cops are out there waiting for me. But I don’t know if I can get that place going again without Tina. It’s her print shop, not mine.”

I told him, “You’re too modest, Ted. You’ve told me that before, but I saw that it wasn’t quite true.”

He insisted, “It’s she who really got the place together; she brought material and even some equipment from other shops, she taught me how to use it all, or at least how they used it in the shops where she worked. Sure, I can use it all now, but without Tina the point seems to be gone.”

“Couldn’t I do some of the things Tina did?” I asked him.

“You mean you’d actually go there and spend time learning —”

“I’d like to very much, if you’d let me,” I told him. “I enjoyed the few days we worked together last week more than I’ve enjoyed anything since I was Tina’s apprentice in the garage.”

“You weren’t doing that just because you felt sorry for me?” he asked.

I blushed and asked him, “Did you spend all those days showing me how to run a press only because you pitied my abysmal ignorance about machines? Don’t you consider me stupid for having forgotten everything Tina taught me?”

“When do you want to start?” he asked me.

I suggested we wait until Tina’s visit, to see if Tina might be willing to return to the print shop in spite of her new commitments. And in any case I intended to spend the following day with Minnie.

Minnie had called me several days earlier to tell me she had located Hugh. “He’s teaching at a suburban college.” she’d told me, “and guess what? He’s married to Bess! Can you imagine?” Bess had been his managing editor on the university newspaper staff; I’ve always remembered her for the cowardly editorial she wrote after we were thrown off the paper, and for the fact that she had collaborated with the university-appointed staff. “Hugh was very curt on the phone,” Minnie had told me. “For a second I thought he didn’t remember either of us. When I asked if we could get together with him, he told me he was extremely busy. ‘I have a free hour between two and three next Thursday,’ was the way he invited us. I hope you’re not mad at me for accepting such a half-hearted invitation.” I assured her I wasn’t mad.

Sabina opened the door when Minnie came for me. Sabina amazed me by her courtesy. “I was deeply moved when Sophia told me how Alec died,” she told Minnie. “I was surprised to learn I had played such a significant role in his life. I honestly regret the fact that my winning’ that argument cost Alec his life; when I learned that. I felt like Death as she’s depicted in medieval paintings.”

Minnie was equally courteous. “You’re a remarkable woman, Sabina. You made at least as great an impression on me as you did on Alec.”

While Minnie drove me to the suburb where the college is located, we talked about Hugh. Minnie hadn’t seen him since he’d carried me out of the garage the day Seth had pointed his gun at them. I hadn’t seen him since the night when I’d finally found him, at the “project house,” the night when he begged me not to burden his new friends with my “rot.” Neither of us had seen Bess since the last meeting of the newspaper staff, the day before the funeral procession, and neither of us had known what had happened to her after the semester she’d spent on the administration staff.

We drove up to a suburban mansion. Two cars were parked in the driveway, both new; there were toys in the front yard. I had seen such houses before, but I had never been inside one.

Bess answered the door. If I hadn’t been expecting to see her, I’d never have recognized her. Apparently she thought the same thing about us. She even treated us as people she’d never known. “Please come in. My husband will be right with you. He’s on the phone.”

I almost laughed when I asked, “Bess, don’t you recognize us?”

My desire to laugh vanished when she said, “Yes, I recognize you, Miss Nachalo,” and left the room.

Minnie whispered to me, “It looks like she was upset by his inviting us here.”

Minnie and I sat down awkwardly on a cloth-covered sofa in an expensively furnished living room. We heard children playing upstairs; they had apparently been told not to look in on the disreputable guests. Minnie looked at her watch and whispered, “I wonder if he counts his phone conversation as part of the hour?”

Hugh finally entered. Minnie and I both rose; we’d never have risen for a university president. Hugh was dressed in an expensive “sport” suit; he looked and acted very important; he shook hands with each of us in a businesslike manner. “Well, what a surprise! Minnie and Sophie! May I ask the purpose of your visit?”

I couldn’t believe his manner, or his words; I was almost in tears. “Just to see you!” I told him.

“Why yes, of course,” he said. “Would you both like something to drink?”

Minnie told him, “Just coffee.” I nodded.

Hugh walked toward the door through which Bess had left and said, “Honey, would you mind preparing some coffee for our guests?” The phone rang. He told us, “Please excuse me,” and left through the door he had come in from.

Bess came in with a tray that had two cups of coffee on it, as well as spoons, cream and sugar. I remembered the day when the university president had brought Alec and me coffee, but hadn’t brought any for himself. Bess set the tray down and left. I couldn’t hold back my tears.

Hugh returned and apologized for the interruption.

“It’s a gorgeous house,” Minnie told him. “Have you lived here long?”

Hugh answered, “Yes, ever since I started teaching — that’ll be six years now.” I calculated that if he’d spent three years in graduate school before he started to teach, then he must have enrolled only a few weeks after I had seen him in the “project house.”

Minnie asked, “How old are your children?”

“The oldest is seven, the youngest is five,” he told her. So the oldest was born only two years after I had thought he had committed his life to “the people rising from below,” only two years after I had thought I had found someone who resembled you. He didn’t ask either of us any questions. He seemed to be waiting for us to go back out of his suburban life.

Minnie asked, “Hugh — may I call you that? — why is Bess so hostile toward us?”

Hugh cleared his throat; he seemed embarrassed. “My wife is convinced that your visit is motivated —”

I almost choked as I asked, “Your wife, Hugh? Don’t you remember we knew her, we worked together?”

He seemed uneasy. “Why yes, of course. Bess and I had a slight disagreement. My wife was — Bess was convinced your visit had an ulterior motive, such as raising money for one or another political cause. Naturally I made no assumptions —” The phone rang again. He almost seemed relieved as he Tan out saying, “Please excuse me —”

I felt vomit rushing to my mouth. I covered my mouth with my hand and pulled Minnie out of the “gorgeous” living room, out of the suburban house to the street, where I vomited. Minnie held me to keep me from falling. No one came out of the house. The front door closed.

Minnie started to pull me back toward the house so I could lie down. I shook my head and pulled Minnie toward her car. Minnie said angrily, “They’ll at least give you a wet towel so you can wipe yourself!”

I begged, “Please take me away from here, Minnie.” I burst out crying inside the car. I lay down across the front seat with my head on Minnie’s lap.

Minnie drove away from Hugh’s house and parked near a gas station a few blocks away. She patted my head consolingly and told me, “I don’t understand, Sophie. He’s neither the first nor the last to go that way. After all, this is what they call ‘Making good.’ It’s what this society is all about. I admit he was terribly rude, and Bess was nothing less than a beast. But they never were the warmest of people, either of them. What did you expect to find out here? I wasn’t surprised by what we saw: the happy two-car family with two and a half children and the rest of it. How well did you know him, anyway?”

“I didn’t know him at all,” I admitted. I sat up and worked myself into a fury when Art’s abysmally stupid comment about the “salt of the earth” flashed through my mind. I told Minnie, “I saw him for a few seconds in that project house’ near the garage. He was so beautiful then, Minnie! The person we just saw wasn’t anyone I ever knew!”

“The project house!” she shouted. “You’re a real nut, you know that Sophie? You would be the one to admire his project house! It was directly inspired by you!” Then she got out of the car saying, “Come on, I’ll walk you to the station so you can wash up.”

I asked her, “What do you mean that I inspired him?”

She told me, “Hugh was all concern when you disappeared from the co-op dorm, after those frat boys scattered the Omissions we were distributing. I think I’m the one who set off a chain reaction. I called Hugh and told him you’d been evicted from the co-op because you’d helped distribute Omissions, and I got exactly the response I wanted, I got my revenge for our exclusion. Hugh became so concerned for you. So did Daman. They were all concern and guilt. Guilt about your exclusion, guilt about getting you and me pulled into the police station, guilt about your eviction, guilt about the fact that you were the one who’d gotten into most trouble for Omissions without even being a full participant.”

When I returned from the gas station washroom, Minnie was having the attendants change the oil in her car. “I hope you don’t mind if I have this done now,” she told me; “I always have to wait so long in the city.” While that was being done, we walked a block away from the gas station and sat down on a suburban lawn. She continued the story she’d started telling me. “The three of us had regular meetings, and either Daman or Hugh constantly called Alec to get news about you. Hugh’s interest in the project house began after Alec’s first visit to the garage. Alec told glorious stories of your having joined the underclass, about people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. Hugh and Daman were both getting ready to start graduate school, and Alec shamed them; he already had a factory job; I was looking for a job at that time. Out of his sense of guilt, Hugh dropped all his plans for graduate school and took the great leap. He flew ostentatiously past Alec and me to a commitment as pure as yours seemed to be. He was a great admirer of Leo Tolstoy —”

“Hugh admired Tolstoy?” I asked.

“I thought everyone knew that!” Minnie exclaimed. “His leap corresponded to giving his lands to his serfs and moving in among them. But the first time the four of us visited you in the garage, he had already heard something to the effect that your selfless activity was somehow connected with narcotics and prostitution. It was right after that when he threw himself into that so-called project house. I don’t know how much you knew about it, but such institutions were being started in those years by well-meaning people who thought the lower classes, if placed in a proper environment, would acquire the manners of the middle class. Before long corporations funded such places, and eventually the local police ran them so as to keep energetic youth off the street. For Hugh the project house was mainly a method for learning what role the garage and the bar played in that community. By the time we visited you in the garage the second time he’d had his fill of the lower classes, of life among the serfs, and of you. And he threw it all in your face! But you begged him to carry you out of the garage! Were you on drugs?”

I was crying again. I hugged Minnie and told her, “When I first learned you were a lawyer, my thoughts were: Turncoat! Opportunist! Please forgive me for thinking that, Minnie!”

“You really are a nut, Sophie,” she told me. And I felt somewhat proud of myself when she told me that. I may not have filled my life in a way I can consider satisfactory, but the official model of “fulfillment” as exemplified by Hugh revolted me. That trip to the suburbs with Minnie was actually my only visit to the “official world” you once accused me of inhabiting. Daman has his flaws, but he’s positively a rebel compared to that person we visited and his “wife.” Hugh is indistinguishable from his role. I admired him once. But now I have to admit he has a lot in common with Titus Zabran: both devoted their lives to history and science by serving themselves and the State. To serve the State they had to suppress their own humanity; they then repressed in the world the humanity they had suppressed in themselves. I didn’t learn just what kind of chemistry Hugh is involved with, but I’m sure Zdenek’s analysis of Zabran fits Hugh like a glove. I also failed to learn what noble cause Hugh claims to serve while developing life-destroying chemicals, but having known Hugh I suspect that the cause he serves is at least as noble as the proletariat’s historical project. And if Zabran’s theoretical discoveries are continually misused because the social means for using them correctly haven’t yet been developed, I’m sure Hugh’s contributions to human happiness destroy even more lives for exactly the same reason. I suspect Alec was right: the only meaningful human activity is to destroy capitalism in all its manifestations, in every way possible. You’ve certainly taken Alec’s attitude — all of you except Zdenek. I can only admire you; I can’t say I envy you; I’m too much of a coward.

The same day Minnie and I went on our “outing” to the suburbs, Ted had gone to visit Tissie in the prison hospital. That night he was even more depressed from his visit than I was from mine. Tissie told him they weren’t curing her but torturing her with “cures.” But she didn’t want Ted to see if she could be transferred elsewhere because she has friends in that hospital. She told him she thought she was dying and she wanted to see Sabina and me before she died.

The three of us went to that terrible hospital two days later. Tissie started crying the moment she was brought into the visiting room. She looked terrible — not quite as sickly as she’d looked nine years ago when I’d last seen her in the garage, but almost like the corpse of the person I had been with at the research center slightly over a month ago. “I won’t ever get out of here again,” she told us. “They’ve got it in for me this time. I had to tell you, all three of you, some things I kept inside during the short happy moment I just spent with you. I didn’t want to spoil my life’s only happy moment. But I don’t have any reason to keep it inside any more, not in this misery. I’m the one that’s responsible for the garage and the bar falling apart, and also for Jose’s arrest and his death —”

Sabina told her, “You’re just torturing yourself, Tissie —”

“I torture myself more by keeping it all inside, Sabina,” Tissie said. “I’ve tortured myself with it long enough. I think I paid for what I did. Remember when I took you to the bar, Sophie? That first night you stayed with us? Seth asked me who you were, and he told me to get you working right away. He was afraid if you got used to staying around the garage you wouldn’t ever want to work. I tried to take Tina too; Ted remembers that. But I didn’t care about you not wanting to go again; I tried and that was all I could do for Seth. I got to like you, Sophie. When I saw you in Sabina’s bed I was sure you were like Sabina and me. I was never hurt so bad as that night when you pushed me away from you. I was sure Jose had put you up to that, or Jose and Ted together. I was sure I was right when you moved in with Jose. He’d always hated me, and he hated the heroin as much as Ted did. I promised Seth I’d get you and Tina to the bar if he got rid of Jose and Ted. But everything I did backfired. When your friends came, they insulted Jose and got him to side with Seth, and Seth was sure they’d come to help Ted get rid of Vic and Seth. So he got rid of them all and you went with them, and instead of having you and Tina and Sabina to myself, I was stuck with Seth again. I was far gone when you left, Sophie. I thought Jose had planned that whole thing with your friends, and that his fight with Alec had been a fake. All I could think of was getting Jose out of there. I told Seth I’d heard Ted and Jose talking about killing him. I told him after Seth had pulled a gun on their friends, they knew that was the only way they could talk to Seth. I knew Ted could never even hold a gun in his hand, but Seth didn’t know. He believed me. But he told me he was in a jam. He couldn’t get rid of both because then there wouldn’t be anyone left to keep the garage and the bar going. But he couldn’t just get rid of Ted because Jose wouldn’t ever stand for that, and he’d figure out who’d gotten rid of him. But if he got rid of Jose, he said, Ted wouldn’t ever know, and he could get Ted to do Jose’s contacting. ‘And I know just how to get that sonofabitch,’ Seth told me. He got Jose arrested by the state police; he knew the city police would never arrest him because they were paid off by Jose himself; they were the main contact he dealt with —”

Sabina asked, “Jose dealt directly with the police?”

Ted told Sabina, “From the very beginning; he even made the rounds with me once; just in case, he said. But the main thing he told me was, ‘Don’t ever tell Sabina; she’d have a fit if she knew we bought protection.’”

Tissie continued, “When Jose was gone — that was when I thought you and I could go it alone, Sabina. I’d have quit taking heroin if you’d gotten rid of all the rest of them except Tina. Maybe Vic overheard me talking to you about that. However he learned about it, Seth acted on my idea much faster than you did, and he got rid of you and Tina. I wanted to go with you, but Seth was going to stop supplying me if I moved out. ‘You should have thought of that when you wanted women to run this place; it’s Sabina or heroin,’ he told me. I stayed with the heroin. When you were gone, Seth and Vic laughed at me; ‘women running this place would have run it straight into the ground,’ they said. Right after that Seth and Vic ran it straight into the ground. It’s because of me that Seth got rid of you and Tina —”

“No it’s not, Tissie,” Ted objected. “I’m the one who got Seth to get rid of Sabina; I wanted Tina out of there before Seth could do anything to her. I thought when Jose returned you’d want to leave too —”

“I knew you were just waiting for Jose to return; I thought you and Jose had made all my plans backfire on me. Sabina, after you and Tina left, I fell apart completely. Every day was a nightmare from which I never woke. Ted kept saying, ‘It’ll all be better when Jose returns,’ but all my hatred got concentrated on Jose. I blamed him for everything Seth had done. On the day Jose was released, Ted told me he was driving to the state prison to pick him up. They both came back to the bar and argued with me; I thought they were trying to separate me from the heroin. I left them in the bar and walked back to the house. I called the state police, told them about this dope house and gave them the address. Then I went to sleep. Next thing I knew Seth was running all over the house screaming, ‘Where are you, you sonofabitch?’ He shook me and asked me where Jose was. I told him Jose was back in prison. He beat me and called me a liar. He said he and Vic saw Jose and Ted leave the bar. Seth and Vic went in to see if Jose had done anything in there; Seth thought maybe Jose knew who’d got him in jail. They weren’t in there five minutes before the police rushed in and started wrecking; Seth got out by the back door, but they arrested Vic. Then Seth thought for sure Jose knew what had got him in jail, and he thought Jose was doing the same thing to him, he thought Jose had called the police. After he beat me, he figured out Jose must have gone with Ted; Seth knew about Ted’s place because he’d had Vic follow Ted there. Ted, you told me Jose went down to the car to get more of his things. I bet that’s when Seth shot him. That was when they got me too. Vic must have given them the address of the garage, because Seth hadn’t been gone for five minutes before the police were wrecking the garage looking for dope and dragging me out. I knew exactly how Jose died as soon as they questioned me about it. But last year, when you got me released, Ted, I learned for sure that it was Seth who killed Jose.”

“Did you run into someone who saw him do it?” Ted asked her.

“No, Ted. I ran into Seth,” Tissie told Ted. Then she told me, “Ted got me released last year, just for a few weeks. I was getting a lot better; I liked working around the print shop with Ted and Tina, and best of all I liked Sabina’s visits. I even went out alone twice to visit girls I’d worked with in the bar. I wanted to see you too, Sophie, but not when Tina and Sabina told me you were having an affair with this professor. Then the not broke out a few blocks from Ted’s house. I heard about it over the T.V. Ted wasn’t home, and Sabina and Tina hadn’t come over yet. I went out and ran into a girl friend I’d known at the bar. We took part in the looting and loved it; we walked to Ted’s place with armfuls of presents for Sabina and Tina, but there still wasn’t anyone there. This was something I wanted to share with Sabina. The two of us went out again and ran into police and soldiers. Someone told us they were shooting people as if they were dogs with rabies. We watched some cops beat a couple of kids, just kept beating and kicking them until they bled. I got sick all over, I couldn’t take it, my whole body was shaking, I thought I was dying. The woman I was with knew where Seth was. He was dealing from a bar right in the middle of the riot section. I went back to Ted’s and took all the money I could find downstairs and upstairs. She didn’t want to come, so I went to that bar by myself. The proprietor wouldn’t let me in. I shouted Seth’s name, but the man said there was no Seth there. It turned out he’d changed his name. But he recognized me and let me in. I lay down on the floor and begged him for a shot, but he wouldn’t give me one. I showed him all Ted’s money, but he still refused. He was trying to hide everything under false floors; he knew the place was about to be raided. I knew how I could threaten him. I told him, ‘In prison they asked me who killed Jose.’ That made him mad. ‘Shut your god damned mouth,’ he told me. ‘Jose squealed, he got them to close everything down, boarded up, destroyed; he got you and Vic in jail. I could kill you now, Tissie, and no one would ever know you weren’t shot by the police; they’ll be here any minute.’ But then he took the money and gave me the heroin. I didn’t tell him it wasn’t Jose but me who squealed, who got the bar and garage boarded up. I left the bar and there was this huge crowd outside shouting about rats that exploited the community. I tried to shove my way through but I probably fainted because someone carried me to an alley. Maybe I didn’t faint; that whole crowd seemed to disappear and there was an awful silence. I heard what sounded like machine guns; I was sure they got Seth —”

“Tissie, that was Alec!” I shouted hysterically. I told her Alec and his friend Carmen must have killed Seth just before they both got gunned down. Tissie didn’t know what I was talking about, since I couldn’t have known anything about that; I was having an affair with a professor. And she was right. I was worlds away from Tissie when all that happened. Sabina and Tina had both known there hadn’t been any point in telling me Tissie had been released and was at Ted’s; they’d both known I was still reacting to Ted and the garage as a trauma. Tissie’s release would have had no more meaning to me than Alec’s intention to rid the community of “rats.” Until the riot I had been staying in Daman’s apartment two days a week. Right after the riot I was busy getting fired from my academic post and breaking up with Daman. Tissie and I would have been as useless to each other then as we were in the guest room of that prison hospital. We were too much like each other. We were equally dependent on others to give direction to our lives, and we couldn’t have filled each other’s gaps because each craved for what the other couldn’t offer. Tissie wanted a woman’s total love and care; I wanted a ready-made project into which I could passively insert myself. I had learned that when I’d lain with Tissie in the forest to which she’d taken me from the research center; I had looked into her eyes as into a mirror; in those eyes I hadn’t seen a loved one, but a variant of myself; I knew then I had nothing to give Tissie. I knew we were both equally unwilling to do what Sabina, Tina and Ted did so easily: define and launch our own projects, join others as active, projecting individuals and not as passive outsiders. The lack of a self-defined project left a vacuum in both of us; Tissie filled it with heroin; I filled it by staring at “blank walls. Although surrounded for most of our lives by people who’ve defined the content of their lives on their own, we’ve both submitted to the degradation of letting those who bought us define us, Tissie as a prostitute and I as a college teacher. During the year after the riot I no longer had an alibi for my lack of a project. I didn’t have a job; I wasn’t waiting for anyone to be released from prison. I had a lot of energy, but I drifted. I don’t want to insult Jasna, but books were my heroin. On cold or rainy days I stayed home and read; on sunny days I took walks and read. I did have something Tissie hadn’t ever picked up. That was my “political radicalism,” the dreams that have turned out to be such grand illusions. It didn’t amount to much in any case, since it was completely locked up somewhere in my mind. I wasn’t able to use it to define a project, to define my activity: my “consciousness” and my behavior had absolutely nothing to do with each other. My first project during that entire year was to formulate an answer to your first letter. I was pulled out of my inertia by you, or I should say by “Yarostan,” with whom I had shared the activity that became the prototype for all the projects I sought later. Ironically, you forced me to defend my “first project” from your own attacks. And without my being altogether aware of it, you thus revived the only project that had ever been altogether my own: my unfinished novel about the community of independent human beings like the ones in Luisa’s stories and like the ones I had known during the days I spent with you. I pulled out manuscripts that had been in a drawer for ten years and I reread them. I started doing what I think Sabina has been doing since Jose died. I started reevaluating the significance of my own life, or rather discovering it for the first time. But I didn’t get very far before I acquired a new alibi. Only four or five days after your first letter came, I got a call from Daman; I hadn’t heard from him for almost a year. There was an opening in a “community college” — think of that! — “community” was precisely what I had been seeking for twenty years! It was only a part-time job; I taught an evening course; but it was enough of an academic position to make me Daman’s “colleague” again. He became positively friendly and forgot all about my faulty “sense of timing,” but I couldn’t dream of patching up the relationship that had ended with the riot, and Daman undoubtedly couldn’t either. After the way I’d been fired and the way Daman had responded to it, I couldn’t count on his support any more than he could count on my “good sense.” After a few months on my new job I convinced Daman that I didn’t only have a miserable sense of timing, but that I had no sense of “reality” whatever; I was an outright psychopath. Ever since then Daman has been “helping” me, and I’m moved by his attachment to me; to Daman I became a person who needed “help,” but what I needed wasn’t anything he was able to provide.

On our way home from the prison hospital in Ted’s car, Sabina sat between Ted and me. She stared directly in front of her as if she were frozen, tears ran down her cheek. She was probably weighing her responsibility for Jose, for Tissie, for Alec. I bit my finger to keep from bursting out crying. I wanted to tell her, “Cry on me, little gypsy; it’s all the help I can give you.” But Sabina doesn’t need that kind of help from me. By the time we got home her eyes were dry and she was ready to plunge the remaining knives into her bosom. She dug into Ted as soon as the front door was closed. “Just exactly what was it that you weren’t ever supposed to tell Sabina?”

Ted started to walk away, telling her sadly, “I shouldn’t ever have brought it up. I thought Tissie was going to tell it all and make it sound ten times worse than it was. Jose asked me never to tell you, and I kept my word —”

Sabina grabbed Ted’s arm and asked angrily, “What was it that was going to give Sabina a fit if she ever learned about it? Did Jose tell you he was nothing but an errand boy for Seth from the very beginning?”

Ted looked down at the ground as he said, “I can’t tell you, Sabina; I’d rather move out —”

Sabina persisted, “On what terms did Seth give us the money to buy the garage? What did Jose tell you about that?”

Ted didn’t answer; tears started to run out of his eyes.

Sabina shook him furiously. “Seth wasn’t just buying a garage, was he? He was buying us, wasn’t he? The garage was going to be a front for his heroin from the very beginning, and you knew it, didn’t you? Jose lied to me and I tried to make you swallow the lie! Seth hadn’t ever been Jose’s friend, had he? He’d always been Jose’s boss! And his money bought the rest of us! Jose was hired to pay off the cops, the rest of us were hired to drum up the business, and that’s all there ever was to it! All my talk about masses rising from below in a world-changing process was just so much hot air! My hot air was nothing but a pack of lies which covered up the fact that we were never anything more than Seth’s employees, we were nothing but hands in a capitalist enterprise! What else did Jose tell you?”

Trying to pull away from Sabina, Ted said to her, “That’s all over now, Sabina, and he never told me that much —”

She shouted, “No, I suppose he didn’t need to tell you that much because you knew all along! I was the only one who didn’t know! Tissie knew all along too. I thought she was dense for not understanding my lofty aims; I thought she couldn’t snap out of the thought habits of this fucked up society! I was the one who was dense! She knew we were nothing but Seth’s employees, and she wanted me to be the big boss instead of Seth; it was always as simple as that! Even Jose finally figured it all out when Alec and Sophia’s friends forced him to see himself as a dope dealer’s errand boy, as a capitalist’s flunkey! And to me it all remained a world-changing process after Seth told me to clear out! What else did he tell you?”

Ted tried to pull Sabina’s hand away from his arm. “You’re forcing me to leave, Sabina —”

I ran between them and begged hysterically, “Stop it, Sabina!” I threw my arms around Ted and begged him, “Please don’t ever leave, us, Ted!”

Sabina walked angrily to her room. Ted tried to hide his tears from me as he walked toward his room, formerly Tina’s. I fell on the living room couch and cried. Then I dragged myself to Ted’s room and kneeled by his bed; he was awake, staring at the ceiling. I remembered the last time I had been by Ted’s bedside: I had tried to scratch his eyes out. I pulled his head toward me, put my lips to his and begged, “If you leave, Ted, please take me with you. But please don’t make me leave Sabina.”

Ted pulled his head away from me. “That’s all over, Sophie, and there’s no use going over it all the time. We’ve all got to start again somewhere. I don’t want to leave either of you, Sophie; you’re all I’ve got now.”

I walked out of Ted’s room in a daze. Ted was right. That was all over. Seth was dead. So were Ron, Jose and Alec. I’d had something to do with those deaths. So had Sabina. But that was all over. The three of us had to start again, somewhere. The following day I saw the headlines that announced the invasion and described the tanks. I realized I would have to start again with very few friends. The very same day when I walked home with that newspaper, the day after our visit to Tissie, I lost two more friends.

Tina and Pat graced us with their visit on that day. They came with two other young men whom they didn’t deign to introduce to us. I opened the door and let the four of them in. Tina acted like a complete stranger to the house. Pat acted as if he’d never met Sabina or me. Their two friends placed themselves against a wall and stood there rigidly, like cops. Ted and Sabina came to the living room to greet the guests.

Tina addressed her first comment to Sabina and me. “I’d like to make my perspective clear to both of you, but I don’t have the time now. The four of us came to communicate with Ted, and only with Ted. You two can stay, or leave, as you please; it’s your house.” Tina couldn’t have found a better way to arouse our suspicion as well as our curiosity.

Ted asked Tina, “What’s happened to you?”

Tina told him, “We’ve come to find out what happened to you.”

I asked her impatiently, “Where were you during the repression, Tina? And you, Pat? Damn you both, don’t you think I might worry about you?”

In a hideously authoritarian tone, Tina said to me, “Apparently I failed to make myself clear, Sophia. We came here to talk to Ted!”

I shouted at Tina and Pat, “What the hell is wrong with you two?”

Sabina said sarcastically, “I have a gun in my room. Do you want one of your guards to hold it and to shoot in case either of us opens her mouth?”

Tina turned to her friends and told them, “We obviously can’t talk to him here.” Then she asked Ted, “Are you willing to accompany us to our quarters?”

“And have us miss the theatrics?” Sabina asked. “Don’t you dare, Ted!”

Ted told Tina, “I’m staying here, so say what you’ve got to say or don’t say it —”

“Let’s see your act, Tina,” Sabina told her.

Tina, clearly intimidated by Sabina, said nothing; her friends seemed momentarily unsure of themselves. Pat came to their rescue. He told Ted, “We’ve come to clarify the possibility of carrying on a common practice, specifically the possibility of rehabilitating the printing plant —”

Ted told Pat and Tina, “I’d like nothing better. Sophie and I have been waiting for you, Tina, in order to do just that. It seemed impossible to go ahead without you. If you want your friends along, they’d be welcome as far as I’m concerned —”

Pat interrupted, “We would also like to discuss the perspectives on which this common practice is to be based —”

Ted misunderstood that observation and told Pat, “I really don’t believe the police are interested in that shop any more —”

Tina snapped at Ted, “That’s not what we mean! By perspectives we mean the theory on which our practice is to be based. Theory is what allows one to consciously dominate one’s situation as well as the. material means for transforming that situation. We engaged in a practice of appropriating means of production without having a coherent critique —”

Pat took up Tina’s refrain, “For us the problem of group organization is the problem of the coherent organization of our own practice, our common will and effort to clarify and resolve all contradictions between our practical activity and our revolutionary theory. Our aim is to apply the radical critique to the real world, our own practice included —”

“What does any of this have to do with reopening the print shop?” Ted asked.

Tina answered, “Revolutionary theory isn’t only a critique of the world; it demands a critical attitude toward the activities of every individual who claims to be engaged in revolutionary practice!”

Ted told her, “I never made any claims about my printing except that it was well done, and neither did you, Tina!”

“That’s not true!” Tina shouted. “You act as if our project had never been anything more than an artsy-fartsy craft shop on the fringes of capitalist society! You know perfectly well that our practice always aimed to overthrow the ruling society —”

“The impression I got certainly confirms Tina’s observation,” Pat told Ted. “When I arrived, the practice in the print shop was consistent with the highest levels reached by the revolutionary movement, namely with councilist organization. By organizing in councils proletarians have throughout history lain the practical foundation for their appropriation of the world —”

Sabina asked, “As illustrated last month?”

Pat said angrily, “It is because of lack of consciousness that the practical movement appropriating the world allowed bureaucrats and parties to appropriate its power. A group which pretends to be revolutionary cannot function below the level reached by the revolutionary movement. Such a group must be able to define the practical tasks which will allow it to install everywhere the conditions for the establishment of the power of the proletarians!”

“I’ve heard that before,” Sabina told him. We also heard it again a few days later when we got the letter describing, in gruesome detail, the nature of Titus Zabran’s noble commitment.

Ted said to Tina, “I thought you came to talk about the print shop.”

“That’s precisely why we did come,” Tina told him. “But the only basis for engaging in a common practice is the existence of common perspectives pursued with equal ability and effort.”

Ted objected, “I thought the basis for keeping the print shop going was whether or not a person cleaned up after using a machine, whether or not the equipment was left in functioning order for the next person. I don’t understand your game, Tina. You’re mixing up printing with revolution. What we did together was draw, photograph, print —”

“If you consider this discussion a game,” Tina shouted, “if you think we’re muddling something that was clear before, then this means I no longer define my practice the same way you do. It’s in no one’s interest for that confusion to continue to exist. I admit we printed together. But by virtue of our common practice we constituted a group, an organization, despite the fact that we didn’t define ourselves in those terms.”

Ted told her, “If organization means mouthing what your friends want to hear, Tina, then we were never an organization. We just printed together,”

Tina retorted, “For you it wasn’t an organization, Ted, but only a print shop, because for you the question of organization is apparently a non-question. I find that odd for someone who confronts every practical problem by first defining what you called a strategy. I realize only now that you were never clear about the overall strategy! Yet this is precisely the key question, this is what was unclear about the nature of our past collaboration! Such lack of lucidity and such relations of non- critique lead to incoherent group practice, which is what destroyed the print shop!”

Ted told her, “It’s the police that destroyed it.”

“That’s only superficially true,” Pat said to him. “The fact is that in the print shop we never defined strategy correctly, we never defined how our group activity inserted itself into the revolutionary movement which was developing everywhere in the world.” Pat’s comment made me uneasy. It’s certainly true that I never connected my activity in the occupied university with what any of you were doing at that time; Mirna made a similar observation in your previous letter. But Pat’s way of “connecting” our activities appalled me.

Ted told Pat, “The only strategy I ever had in view was about the concrete problem I was facing: repairing a machine, designing a poster, laying out a pamphlet. Tina ought to know I never defined strategies for others —”

Tina told Ted angrily, “In that case Pat and I are the only ones who regard our activity in the print shop as group practice in which we participated, and therefore we charge ourselves with the task of clarifying our past and present practice. Your attitude proves that you don’t recognize either the problems we’re posing nor our perspective toward them —”

“I don’t understand your tone,” Ted told her. “This isn’t how friends talk to each other, Tina, friends who worked together for years, who never did each other any harm —”

Tina cut in, “That so-called friendship is what caused us to hold on to our illusions for so long! The remains of a friendship that had never understood its reasons caused us to take positions far below the level reached by the world revolutionary movement. Our friendship originated in a common practice, and it should not have survived after that practice deteriorated.”

Sabina got up and walked to her room; her face was a mask of frustration. She had been ready to congratulate Tina for her “act.” but the “act” reached levels of inhumanity Sabina herself had never explored.

I told Tina, “I never imagined you capable of such cold, premeditated cruelty. You’re just like a —”

Pat interrupted me and said to Ted, patiently, pedagogically, “There’s no such thing as abstract friendship, Ted, friendship which exists independently of its origin. Without a common project, without shared perspectives, there is no friendship.”

Ted sadly asked Tina, “Why did you and your friends come here?”

Tina told him, “To clarify an unclear situation that has existed for years and that urgently needed clarification six weeks ago —”

“Six weeks ago?” Ted asked. “When others began to cooperate in using the equipment? Wasn’t that the situation we had looked forward to for years, Tina?”

“I’m talking about six weeks ago when the print shop disintegrated because the participants were unable to organize their activities on the basis of a common perspective,” she told him.

“The print shop was open to people with all kinds of perspectives,” Ted reminded her.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about!” Tina shouted. “It was open to union organizer Luisa Nachalo, party hack Professor Daman Hesper, not to speak of the hundreds of petty bureaucrats who only spread confusion, who transformed radical theory into ideology!”

“Are you telling me we should have read the minds of everyone who came to the print shop and then decided whether or not to let them use the equipment?” Ted asked.

Tina answered, “Only by posing the-problems of organization. autonomy and coherence will the revolutionary movement give itself the organized means for realizing its project! Everyone whose practice falls short of the level reached by the international movement is outside that movement. The ideological hodgepodge which mixed radical theory with a practice that negated it should not have existed and should have been denounced!”

I felt nauseated. “You sound just like the police Yarostan has been describing in his letters,” I told her.

Ted said, “Sophia is right, Tina. The project we shared was printing. What you’re talking about now is policing. I think all those who used the print shop were in some sense participants —”

Tina shouted, “You’re definitively confirming your position of separating what cannot be separated, namely theory from practice! This separation is what enabled you to engage in partial projects with partial ideologies, and exempted you from taking a critical attitude towards the activity of others to the point of leading you to actively collaborate in the projects of ideologues. You claimed a place in the real revolutionary movement without assuring the minimum of practical coherence that this presupposes.”

Pat said to Ted, in the.same condescending, professorial tone he had used earlier, “This was a serious problem, Ted. The role of the various radical groups had to be defined at the very outset. Among those you call participants, it was necessary to recognize and denounce the bureaucratic canaille. It was a mistake to attribute to these groups roles they didn’t play. Not one of the groups in the print shop played the role you attribute to them. This is why our group, practice was not in line With the international revolutionary project. Coherent groups with concrete strategies for the appropriation of the productive forces are still to be created. It is the evasion of this (question that allowed us to engage in practical activity with people whose perspectives we did not share.” Pat looked at me as he said this. “Such practice contradicts the perspectives of a radical group and works against the possibilities of the entire revolutionary movement. It is nothing less than a practical negation of the radical critique —”

“And the only way to deal with such dangerous practice is to acquire the power to liquidate the incoherent!” I shouted hysterically. Ted reached for my hand to calm me, and also “to demonstrate his solidarity with me.

Tina shouted at Ted but her comments were aimed at me. “A strategy for appropriating the means of production is precisely what you’ve always lacked, Ted! That’s why you’ve always collaborated with your enemies: first with Sabina, then with an anthill of petty bureaucrats, now with a new bordello of nostalgic sentimentalism and eclectic, half-digested platitudes!”

“If that’s how you and your friends see me,” Ted told her, “there’s no reason for you to talk to me. I’ll continue to be the one who decides who my friends are.”

Pat said to Ted, with that same tone of the self-righteous missionary converting an ignorant savage, “Your attitude toward us stems from your decision to collaborate with those whose perspectives you don’t share, Ted. You’re turning against those with whom you seemed to agree because they reject your separation between theory and practice. Your decision to collaborate with your enemies and refuse collaboration with your friends contradicts your own past practice.”

Tina shouted, without any of her colleague’s patience, “The only basis for my future collaboration with you is your supersession of your past contradictions! We can maintain neither an organizational nor any form of abstract relationship with you unless and until you admit your incoherence and clarify your practice, and we’re here solely to inform you of this!”

“Get out of this house and take your police with you this minute, Tina!” I shouted, unjustly, I know, since this is Tina’s house at least as much as it is mine. I added, “I’m not in the habit of entertaining inquisitors and aspiring murderers!”

Tina looked at the other three; she and Pat rose and all four of them walked toward the door. “Is that your last word, Ted?” she asked. Ted didn’t answer.

Pat still hadn’t given up. He told Ted, “We had hoped to reach an understanding and to clarify the basis of that understanding. Think about it, Ted. We’ll call in three days for your final answer.”

Tina told him, “I hope we’ve made it clear that there can be no partial cooperation between us, and that future cooperation will be impossible unless all past errors are corrected, unless there is complete theoretical and practical agreement between us.”

“Get out of here!” I screamed at her.

Tina still went on, “If you can’t give your practical activity the same content and perspectives we give to it, no future collaboration is possible between us, do you understand that, Ted? Half measures aren’t possible any longer —”

“Good-bye, Tina,” Ted told her, turning his back to her and heading toward Tina’s former room.

Pat Clesec did call three days later to ask if Ted had reached a decision. Ted told him he was already starting to clean up the print shop with me, and that Pat, Tina and all their friends were more than welcome to help us with the clean-up. Pat hung up. Neither he nor Tina nor any of their friends have come to help us.

Ted and I went to the print shop the day after Tina and Pat presented him with their “ultimatum.” On the first day we made a list of all the things that needed to be done to get everything back in operation. Then your letter arrived. I spent two days home, depressed, speculating with Sabina about what might happen to all of you. I can’t tell you how much we both love every one of you, and how sad your letter made us, all three of us. Ted never knew any of you but he cried too.

Since then Ted and I have been going to the print shop almost every day. Sabina went with us several times. We still don’t have everything on our list checked off, and we’ve had to add some more “tasks” to the list, but the place already looks neater than it did when I first saw it. I’ve become familiar with what things are and what they’re used for, and I’ve loved every minute of it. The past three weeks have been like a combination of the tour you gave me of the carton plant, the tour Ron gave me of this city, plus what I imagined took place in Hugh’s “project house.” We haven’t actually done any printing yet, and the few discussions we ‘ve had about what we’ll do with all that equipment have been vague, but I found them enormously stimulating. Even Sabina seemed excited by some of the prospects.

Ted is opposed to doing any commercial printing of whatever nature. He and Tina had done some before. He speculated, “Maybe that’s what Tina meant to say about our earlier practice. She was right about that. It’s no different from what Seth did. We’ll have to support the place some other way.” We don’t yet know how we’re going to do that.

We’ve talked about putting together and printing a critical analysis of the recent revolutionary events we all experienced, “if possible a coherent one,” Sabina commented semi-sarcastically. We’ve also talked about sharing our modest means of expression with others who want to use them. Sabina and I agree with Ted’s desire not to produce commodities for any markets; we also agree to try to do work of a quality that “shows respect for our readers,” whom we don’t yet know, but who we assume will be friends of ours.

Ted is still staying with Sabina and me. We’ve talked about using his former living quarters above the print shop as a space for doing typesetting and layout; Ted also has his “painting studio” up there. I’ve already decorated our house with several of his as well as one of Tina’s paintings. One night last week when we returned from the print shop very late he told me, “I enjoy working with you a lot, Sophie — more than with little Tina in the garage days. I couldn’t ever like Tissie the way I like you.” I pulled him to my bedroom, kissing him, crying. I told him, “I love you more than I love anyone in the world.” and I meant it.

My week-long love for Ted hasn’t been like my love for Jose or my moment of passion with Pat. It’s not the total self-abandonment, the self-annihilation Luisa accused me of wanting. I haven’t felt any desire to be “Ted’s woman,” to be “possessed” by Ted. Maybe we haven’t reached the peaks of passion Mirna sought to reach, but I don’t have Mirna’s strength; I’m not able to climb to such heights without losing myself. But my love also hasn’t had anything in common with the “political love” by which Luisa tried to entice independent spirits into “history’s” armored train. I did experience that type of love once, ironically with Jose — the changed, imprisoned Jose with whom I shared my books, the Jose who finally flew past me by taking my books seriously. I’ve been neither Ted’s guide nor his slave, and I’ve gotten up every morning looking forward to my day’s activities and looking forward to our coming days together. Without the activity I’ve shared with Ted, without his appreciative hugs and gentle caresses. I couldn’t have risen from bed the morning after your letter came. I would have stared at the walls of my room exactly the same way I did after we emigrated twenty years ago; if I’d left the house, I would have drifted among strangers along crowded or empty sidewalks, a lonely tourist who had lost all interest in continuing her journey; I might have tried to bury myself in a suicidal job like the one I had in the fiberglass factory. I think Ted is making it possible for me to orient my life in a direction consistent with what I’ve learned from my recent experiences and from your letters. In an earlier letter you pointed out to me that during the general strike, when others were trying to explore and realize their creative potentialities, I was busy playing the bureaucrat, the coordinator of other people’s activities, the “councilist official.” What I now share with Ted has nothing to do with coordinating the activity of a third person. What I share with him is the activity itself: the gesture, the motion, the creative act, the discovery — the possibility of creating beautiful objects to share with friends, and ultimately the prospect of a world where none accept any constraints to the free self-expression of the whole being, where all develop each potentiality because each develops all potentialities.

But even as I write this I’m not sure. My love for Ted has little in common with my passionate love for Jose or Luisa’s political love for Nachalo, but it does have something in common with my twenty-year long love for you, Yarostan. I’ve already, mentioned that my activity in the. print shop reminds me very much of the days I spent with you in the carton plant. He doesn’t feel toward me the way you did, but I suspect I feel toward him the way I felt toward you. Ted is my teacher, my guide. I’m his apprentice. Of course it’s possible for an apprentice to remain independent. But I know myself too well to make any claims about my independence; I didn’t even regard myself as Tina’s equal when I was her apprentice in the garage ten years ago. I’m not so sure that I’m not repeating a not-so-new dependence. Ted doesn’t only provide me with friendship; he also provides me with a ready-made project, with activity that I didn’t define or create. And even the activity itself isn’t very far removed from something yon criticized in very unambiguous terms. We have all the equipment that’s needed to print books, and two people can print a book on it in a finite period of time. When Ted explained this to me I was very excited. Being a book lover, I can think of no better way, given the choices presently available, of expressing myself creatively. But would this be a break with my past, with Luisa, with the experience I shared with you? The printing of books is terribly similar to the activity I wandered into when I joined you twenty years ago: what you taught me was to print, if only slogans on posters. What’s a book? Is it a self-realization of an individual’s life in the context of living others? Or is it self-realization as a closed compartment, for example an “insurgent,” a category that remains separate from all the other separate categories?

I’m happy with my present activity with Ted, but I’m uneasy and I’m trying to locate the root of my uneasiness. The comments I just made may be true, but I don’t think they’re on the right track. In one of my first letters I told you I felt cut off from you by walls which I wasn’t able to climb. I still can’t climb those walls. I know this letter won’t reach you, and I don’t know what to do about that. My present happiness is a miserable thing. It’s a close relative of Titus Zabran’s commitment. It’s defined, shaped and cut to size by the “historically available instruments.” I suspect that something was frightfully right about Alec’s and Carmen’s final commitment. Even Zabran must have known that in the end. Maybe Zabran did to Nachalo what Mirna’s mother did to Mirna’s “devil”: gave him a name and located him outside the individual. Sabina is convinced that what Zabran called “Nachalo” is at the root of every living individual. Maybe “Nachalo” is “the devil.” But you don’t need me to tell you that.


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