Sunday, June 6, 2010

Written in 1962

"This is why people who appear completely defeated by life function 'as if nothing had ever happened' down to the very last minute of their lives. The captain of a sinking ship knows that in a minute the water will swallow him up -- him and his honor, responsibility, duty -- that for all practical purposes these no longer exist, that the water is already reaching his calves...why, then, does he recite his captainhood to the last minute of his life, instead of, let us say, singing or dancing? Perhaps because when there is nothing else to cling to, man can only grab onto himself, the principle of identity. 'I am I' is a fundamental principle not only of logic but also of the ultimate right of humanity; and when everything disappears, there is only the fact that I was someone; such a person and no other; and loyalty toward oneself appears to be the last law we can still obey..." --
Witold Gombrowicz, in the third volume of his diary, splenetic, profound, funny, tinged throughout with the sadness of exile, honest and unafraid. Translated by Lillian Vallee. Published by Northwestern University Press in 1993.

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