Friday, 20 July 2018

Amok by Stefan Zweig

"Once more he gave me a derisive, indeed challenging look, but I felt that it was really only in shame, endless shame."

So, last night, before I started reading this, I was watching Samantha Bee lament the possibility of Roe Vs Wade bring overturned. Now, I don't live in the U.S.A, but the erosion of a female's ability to control her life is something of the utmost concern to me as a woman. Admittedly, I'm reaching the part of my life where control over reproduction isn't so much a personal issue, yet it is a shared concern for an equal society for all.
Clearly I digress in relation to this short tale, and yet it does frame my response to it.
Here we have a Doctor riddled with guilt recounting his tale to a man on a cruise ship in the dark of night, when all good inner turmoil is best dealt with, and over a stiff drink - naturally.

The depth of guilt and concern that rocks the man, as he recounts his initial rejection of assistance to a woman seeking an abortion, and its unpleasant aftermath is interesting. Interesting particularly because a tale published in 1922 ( yes, that's right, the twenties) can still resonate today. This is a tale of shame and maintaining personal reputation over the value of life itself. A lack of choice that women were faced with for centuries and risk facing again.

Personally, I feel those "pro-life" stalwarts should question their connection with a life unrealised versus a potential loss of life for someone already living. For that is the real and horrid choice that women have faced for eons  - a definite lack of control.

The title reflects the state of mind that impacts the Doctor, somewhat out of the blue. However to "run amok" could equally apply to some of the current craziness we see in modern politics, unduly influenced by religious fervour. Zweig poses a moral quandary where compliance with the accepted "pro-life," religiously based, moral choice leads to an outcome which is the opposite of being 'for life' and clearly is against. It is an interesting illustration of the central tension.

What an amazing writer to illicit such an emotional response with such sturdy prose, decades after it was written. He displays an economy of words that transcend the circumstances of the day and retain a timeless quality that is to be applauded.

5 out of 5, strange tales are told on deck. 

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