An SS noncommissioned officer came to meet us, a truncheon in his hand. He gave the order:
“Men to the left! Women to the right!”
Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight short, simple words. Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother. I had not had time to think, but already I felt the pressure of my father’s hand: we were alone. For a part of a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisters moving away to the right. Tzipora held Mother’s hand. I saw them disappear into the distance: my mother was stroking my sister’s fair hair, as though to protect her, while I walked on with my father and the other men. And I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever. I went on walking. My father held onto my hand.
—from Night by Elie Wiesel, on his family’s arrival at Auschwitz in 1944
Posts Tagged ‘commonplace book’
“During the tour I became separated from the group, and, searching blindly through the corridors of the Galleria dell’Accademia, I came upon the statue from the wrong direction. Suddenly there it was. My first glimpse of it was from the reverse. It is normally viewed from the front, and from that direction one sees a powerful body firmly planted on the earth, poised, balanced, muscular, set in its essential form, like the triumph of the will.
“But I saw it first from an entirely different vantage point: viewed from behind, the figure appeared to be glancing back over his shoulder. The image of the noble torso was dominated by David’s facial expression. The eyes, the mouth, the brows, and the sinews of the face were taut with an emotion that is so quintessentially human: a split second of uncertainty and a groping for faith, the moment when courage overcomes terror—not as animal instinct but as a spiritual decision. From the front it appears as an embodiment of confident resolve; from the rear it is about doubt. That was the artist’s intention, and that is its word. It is concerned above all with the struggle of the human spirit.”
—from Strangers and Sojourners, Michael D. O’Brien
Early this morning, too early, while The Baby Who Scoffed at Sleep played on the bed beside me, I finished reading Willa Cather’s splendid novel My Antonia. The book was due back at the library yesterday, but I want to copy a few passages into my commonplace book first. This is one of them.
I can remember exactly how the country looked to me as I walked beside my grandmother along the faint wagon-tracks on that early September morning. Perhaps the glide of long railway travel was still with me, for more than anything else I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping, galloping…