Thursday, April 13, 2006

GEORGE ORWELL IN SPAIN III


It was at the corner of the parapet, at five o'clock in the morning. This was always a dangerous time, because we had the dawn at our backs, and if you stuck your head above the parapet it was clearly outlined against the sky. I was talking to the sentries preparatory to changing the guard. Suddenly, in the very middle of saying something, I felt--it is very hard to describe what I felt, though I remember it with the utmost vividness. Roughly speaking it was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion. There seemed to be a loud bang and a blinding flash of light all round me, and I felt a tremendous shock--no pain, only a violent shock, such as you get from an electric terminal; with it a sense of utter weakness, a feeling of being stricken and shrivelled up to nothing. The sand-bags in front of me receded into immense distance. I fancy you would feel much the same if you were struck by lightning. I knew immediately that I was hit, but because of the seeming bang and flash I thought it was a rifle nearby that had gone off accidentally and shot me. All this happened in a space of time much less than a second. The next moment my knees crumpled up and I was falling, my head hitting the ground with a violent bang which, to my relief, did not hurt. I had a numb, dazed feeling, a consciousness of being very badly hurt, but no pain in the ordinary sense. The American sentry I had been talking to had started forward. 'Gosh! Are you hit?' People gathered round. There was the usual fuss--'Lift him up! Where's he hit? Get his shirt open!' etc., etc. The American called for a knife to cut my shirt open. I knew that there was one in my pocket and tried to get it out, but discovered that my right arm was paralysed. Not being in pain, I felt a vague satisfaction. This ought to please my wife, I thought; she had always wanted me to be wounded, which would save me from being killed when the great battle came. It was only now that it occurred to me to wonder where I was hit, and how badly; I could feel nothing, but I was conscious that the bullet had struck me somewhere in the front of the body. When I tried to speak I found that I had no voice, only a faint squeak, but at the second attempt I managed to ask where I was hit. In the throat, they said. Harry Webb, our stretcher-bearer, had brought a bandage and one of the little bottles of alcohol they gave us for field-dressings. As they lifted me up a lot of blood poured out of my mouth, and I heard a Spaniard behind me say that the bullet had gone clean through my neck. I felt the alcohol, which at ordinary times would sting like the devil, splash on to the wound as a pleasant coolness. They laid me down again while somebody fetched a stretcher. As soon as I knew that the bullet had gone clean through my neck I took it for granted that I was done for. I had never heard of a man or an animal getting a bullet through the middle of the neck and surviving it. The blood was dribbling out of the comer of my mouth. 'The artery's gone,' I thought. I wondered how long you last when your carotid artery is cut; not many minutes, presumably. Everything was very blurry. There must have been about two minutes during which I assumed that I was killed. And that too was interesting--I mean it is interesting to know what your thoughts would be at such a time. My first thought, conventionally enough, was for my wife. My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and done, suits me so well. I had time to feel this very vividly. The stupid mischance infuriated me. The meaninglessness of it! To be bumped off, not even in battle, but in this stale comer of the trenches, thanks to a moment's carelessness! I thought, too, of the man who had shot me-- wondered what he was like, whether he was a Spaniard or a foreigner, whether he knew he had got me, and so forth. I could not feel any resentment against him. I reflected that as he was a Fascist I would have killed him if I could, but that if he had been taken prisoner and brought before me at this moment I would merely have congratulated him on his good shooting. It may be, though, that if you were really dying your thoughts would be quite different.

15 Comments:

Anonymous WhattheH said...

One more post to give me pause for thought. Thank you.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Private Partz said...

It has always fascinated me, the way the intelligentsia descended upon the Spanish Civil War. The Hemingways, Orwells, etc., not only there to witness history or tumultuous change, but to partake in it, to make a difference. These are the men we miss in this day and age, for I am certain they would be driving ambulances in Darfur as we speak.

9:20 PM  
Blogger durrati said...

you're welcome whattheheh, heck of a place to be hit, we are lucky he survived to write...

Partz,

Well, the stakes were huge, if the so called liberal democracies had had the foresight of these men WW II might have been avoided. And the world was so vast and mysterious then, no omnipresent glaring eye to show one what was happening....

4:39 AM  
Blogger durrati said...

Whattheheh,

Your and Marks-O's questions answered in the comments of previous post :)

5:23 AM  
Blogger durrati said...

And I implore you all again to check the previous 3 or 4 posts, I usually try to answer all of the comments... :)

5:42 AM  
Blogger Joe Don Martin said...

Vis a vis, P.Partz,

On the humanitarian front, Darfur is a worthy place for young freethinkers to go and be a part. But, the fight against fascism begins right here at home, with the phalanx of Generalithimo Jorge Arbuthto advancing. Fortunately, they seem to shoot themselves in the foot every other step and their tertiarily syphilitic minds are increasingly swiss cheesier.

Perhaps, an autopsy of the Smirking Chimp will reveal mercury poisoning.

Don Jose

9:00 AM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

Is it just me, or does the august Orwell look a hell of a lot like Sean Penn?
His final comment on congratulating the soldier who shot him for him marksmanship tells me everything I need to know about him. He realized he was fighting not so much against individuals, but against what we followers of Christ would know as "principalities and powers", the rulers and forces who would drag Spain into total fascism.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:46 PM  
Blogger durrati said...

Don Jose,
You are exactly right, in this decade it must be the home front....

Kid

Perhaps Penn with a touch of Don Amichi.....

2:53 PM  
Blogger durrati said...

Has anyone heard from Jacq? I shouldn't fret but it sounds as if she was having it rough....

2:54 PM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

She is fine. She is doing lot's of PT right now and her computer may or may not be functional. At any rate, she has pain in both shoulders so we shouldn't be too worried if she doesn't post as often as the rest of us.

3:32 PM  
Blogger durrati said...

Thanks, Kid....

4:24 PM  
Anonymous WhattheH said...

Durrati, if you have occasion to send an e-mail to Jackie, please send our kindest thoughts and hope for a speedy recovery, both of her body and of that computer that is causing her problems. Also mention that the voice activation software is much more sophisticated these days and might solve her problem of pain from typing. I'd be willing to cough up some money to start a fund to get her working. I miss her pithy humour and informed comments.

4:36 PM  
Blogger durrati said...

what,

I am somewhat embarrassed at the moment, but would also do what I could, Kid is the pointman in comms with Jacq., perhaps he could breech the idea....

5:00 PM  
Blogger KidKawartha said...

Guys-
You can rest assured she reads here everyday, or every chance she gets. She knows how much we care about her, and now she knows that if she would let us pick up some voice-recog software as her friends, we would. I believe she's still fighting to use her hands, and her struggles with adusting are her own, just like mine with obsession/depression and arthritis are my own. Remember that for many of us this blog is our little clearing house, where we can be together despite our distance and differences. This is not a lecture of any kind, just a reminder to my caring and thoughtful friends. She knows.

8:24 PM  

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