The Interrogation

[Sniffs, coughs, scratches his nose.]

Are you a vegetarian? If so, a vegetarian out of conscience, or one who merely looks to his health? Or again, a vegetarian out of an inability to tolerate the sight of blood and guts? Is it all right to eat animals that have died naturally, for instance, a rabbit that has just now, at the prime of its life, given up the ghost right in front of you? How long is a piece of string? Is a long time a long time only for a being that is conscious? What about a slow-moving, dim-witted, semi-aware creature that lives forever, or almost forever, a kind of cosmic sloth, would not a million years be as nothing? And then, what about a zippy little fellow, an electric fly with machine-gun heart who chases after light beams, would not one of his seconds feel like a million years, to me, to you? Have you ever climbed a mountain, a real one, not one of the molehills in our beloved country, and watched the dawn come up from the top, the pinprick of light becoming a flashing blade and then a painter’s

great stroke of pink laid right across the world? Did you steal the crown jewels? Did you think about stealing the crown jewels? Fantasise about it while lying in the dark, on your back, listening to your own breathing, in the dark, your eyes open or shut, it doesn’t matter, watching yourself stealing the crown jewels? Or in your sleep, dreaming that you’ve not only stolen the crown jewels – from the Queen, at that – but got away with it and become a respectable, a wealthy man, a yachtsman, sailing up and down and roundabout, and a major donor to children’s charities, for which services you are knighted by the very Queen whose jewels you have stolen? [He shouts] Well, have you! Sold them to King Croesus, or his modern equivalent, for a fortune and then given a small portion to a charity for unfortunate children – to help the kids! – in order to salve your conscience and get yourself knighted? [Calm again]Are you the kind of being that would dream up that old story, then?

[Sits back in his chair, closes eyes and breathes in deeply. Opens eyes and leans forward again.]

Does the occurrence of natural gases with hallucinogenic properties at the shrine of the Delphic Oracle invalidate her advice to such as King Croesus? Was she not correct in predicting that a great empire would fall if Croesus went to war with Persia? And has it not remained true that there have been no oracles since the very last one she gave, namely, that there would be no more oracles? Is it not the case that the hallucinogenic gas she imbibed at Delphi is as little responsible for the power of her prognostications, whether true or false, as the cheese sandwich that provided the energy that powered Einstein’s brain on the day he came up with the theory of relativity is therefore responsible for the theory of relativity? Is relativity false and E not equal to mc2just because its discovery was made possible by a cheese sandwich or a sausage roll? Well, at what point in your life have you thought about that?


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