Tuesday 13 October 2009

Permanent Death, Interstitial: End of the Line

I have (in the real world) reached the conclusion of the Permanent Death story. All is on track for the release of the final PDF on October 23. In the mean time, here is an excerpt from George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia", in which he talks about the experience of being shot. I found it singularly illuminating.

“Roughly speaking it was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion. There seemed to be a loud bang and blinding flash of light all around 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.

…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.

…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 have never heard of a man or animal getting a bullet through the middle of the neck and surviving it. The blood was dribbling out the corner of my mouth. ‘The artery is 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 vividly. The stupid mischance of it infuriated me. The meaninglessness of it! To be bumped off, not even in battle, but in this stale corner of the trenches thanks to a moment’s carelessness!

…It may be, though, that if you were really dying your thoughts would be quite different."

- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, from p.177 onwards.


Ben Abraham said...

My God, the man could certainly write, couldn't he.

Daniel Golding said...

I've always wanted to read 'Homage to Catalonia', especially when I was there earlier this year, but I never got around to it. I wasn't aware that Orwell was actually shot: this section makes me very much want to read more. Thanks Ben!

Ben Abraham said...

It's an absolutely fantastic read! I hated Orwell until I read Catalonia because all I'd ever read was 1984, and it annoyed me more than anything.

Catalonia is like the best of travel journalism mixed with Orwell's brand of socially aware commentary. Can't recommend it enough.

Jorge Albor said...

Damn impressive, that Orwell. Try Burmese days if you haven't yet.

Danny said...


There are hungry crowds waiting outside the door here.