Paradise and Inferno

The World War I poet Ivor Gurney wrote: “There are strange Hells within the minds War made.” If a new Vietnam War poem is ever written in America, it will be a descent into that hell. It will have to be written by a veteran or one capable of living in a veteran’s brain—a poetry of one who has killed and was almost killed. And if a new Vietnam War poem is written by those of us who stayed home, it will have to acknowledge the truth of our paradise: that we delighted in friends while babies charred in napalm.
–Eliot Weinberger

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live everyday, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
–Italo Calvino

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