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Some thirty years ago I joined the Conservative Book Club. As a premium, I received some books for a cut-rate (you remember: five books for a dollar, or a penny, or some such). Among them was Witness by Whittaker Chambers. I am proud to announce that on February 1, 2020, I finished reading Witness. The first half of the book took thirty years. The second half, two weeks.
The turning point (which, it turns out, is the name of the chapter in which it appears) for me was this:
When I was a small boy on Long Island, sitting up in bed to listen in awe to the ocean pounding the beaches on winter nights, Rainer Maria Rilke stood one day on the tower of the castle of Duino near Trieste. There, while a storm hurled the Adriatic Sea, two hundred feet below him, at the tower’s base, he heard a voice, partly within and partly without him, ask this question:
Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich aus der Engel // Ordnungen?
Who, if I cried out, would hear me from among the orders// Of the angels?
It fills me with hope that, in my own lifetime, a few years before the war that would change the life and destiny of mankind, there was still left in the world a man who could hear such a question in a storm. The question is as changeless as the voice that asks it. The failure of an age or a man is not to hear it.
Chambers heard the voice of truth, and at great cost to himself and his loved ones, testified to it.Published in