The Unknown Terrorist

By: Richard Flanagan

For David Hicks





1


THE IDEA THAT LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH is a particularly painful one. In the face of its truth, humanity has for centuries tried to discover in itself evidence that love is the greatest force on earth.

Jesus is an especially sad example of this unequal struggle. The innocent heart of Jesus could never have enough of human love. He demanded it, as Nietzsche observed, with hardness, with madness, and had to invent hell as punishment for those who withheld their love from him. In the end he created a god who was “wholly love” in order to excuse the hopelessness and failure of human love.

Jesus, who wanted love to such an extent, was clearly a madman, and had no choice when confronted with the failure of love but to seek his own death. In his understanding that love was not enough, in his acceptance of the necessity of the sacrifice of his own life to enable the future of those around him, Jesus is history’s first, but not last, example of a suicide bomber.

Nietzsche wrote, “I am not a man, I am dynamite”. It was the image of a dreamer. Every day now somebody somewhere is dynamite. They are not an image. They are the walking dead, and so are the people who are standing round them. Reality was never made by realists, but by dreamers like Jesus and Nietzsche.

Nietzsche began to fear that what drove the world forward was all that was destructive and evil about it. In his writings he tried to reconcile himself to such a terrible world.

But one day he saw a cart horse being beaten brutally by its driver. He rushed out and put his arms around the horse’s neck, and would not let go. Promptly diagnosed as mad, he was locked away in an asylum for the rest of his life.

Nietzsche had even less explanation than Jesus for love and its various manifestations: empathy, kindness, hugging a horse’s neck to stop it being beaten. In the end Nietzsche’s philosophy could not even explain Nietzsche, a man who sacrificed his life for a horse.

But then, ideas always miss the point. Chopin could offer no explanation of his Nocturnes. Why the Doll was haunted by Chopin’s Nocturnes is one strand of this story. In listening to what Chopin could not explain, she heard an explanation of her own life. She could, of course, not know that it also foretold her own death.





SATURDAY





2


THE DOLL WAS A POLE DANCER. She was twenty-six, though routinely claimed, as she had been claiming since she was seventeen, to be twenty-two. A small, dark woman, her fine-featured face and almond eyes were set off by woolly black hair.

“Her body, hey,” said Jodie, a fellow pole dancer to whom the body mattered and who, at nineteen, was already a Botox junkie, “it wasn’t like, you know, contemporary. You know what I mean?” And everyone listening knew exactly what Jodie’s lack of expression meant.

The young women who flooded in and out of the pole dancing clubs were of every body type, but their bodies, whatever their differences, shared the toning that only hour after hour of swaying and swinging can bring and a diet of amphetamines and alcohol can hone. They aspired to an ideal they had seen starring in a hundred DVDs and a thousand video clips, splashed across an inestimable number of women’s magazine articles and gliding through a million ads. Hard and angular, bones and muscles rippling and bumps and products glistening, it was the ideal of beautiful women as cadaverous children.

But the Doll’s body seemed to belong to some different, older idea of what women were. In contrast to the muscled butts and thighs of the other dancers in the club, the Doll’s body was more rounded, her arms and thighs and buttocks fuller, and her movements were somehow similarly rounded and full.

She suspected her looks didn’t amount to much and did not trust the attention she felt they brought. She did not understand that the attention arose from something else, and that everything that she was—her slow movements, her smile, the way she engaged with people—was what attracted others even more than her looks. But she was twenty-six, pretending to be twenty-two, and looks mattered. She had an open, oval face. It was exactly the wrong face for our age.





3


If the Doll’s looks were exotic, her origins were everyday. She was a westie, though from which particular suburb no one knew. She was always going to leave the west, but she was surprised as a young woman how little she felt she had left behind. It wasn’t that she had no direction home, but that she had little sense she had ever had a home. The Doll had long ago determined that her early life would mean little to her, and she was of the fixed opinion that origins and explanations were not to be hers.

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