Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: The Thirty Year Book

 

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.

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  1. Arahant Member

    It is interesting to think about the connections in time and print that we each have.

    • #1
    • February 17, 2020, at 4:27 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Suspira Member

    Congratulations on finishing. I admit I haven’t. I checked it out from the library, then somewhere in the middle realized there was no way I could keep the book long enough to get to the end. I know I can’t start it over, if ever I acquire my own copy, because the beginning is so very grim.

    • #2
    • February 17, 2020, at 5:43 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. OldPhil Coolidge

    I read it last year for the first time.

    http://ricochet.com/658839/archives/quote-of-the-day-wrong-side-of-the-tracks/

    • #3
    • February 17, 2020, at 5:52 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. James Hageman Moderator
    James Hageman

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Congratulations on finishing. I admit I haven’t. I checked it out from the library, then somewhere in the middle realized there was no way I could keep the book long enough to get to the end. I know I can’t start it over, if ever I acquire my own copy, because the beginning is so very grim.

    Yes! It is grim, beginning to end. What really helped me in the first half was to read it on Kindle. I could read bits and pieces practically anywhere. When I reached the bit I mention in the article, it felt like I was on a roller coaster that had been ratcheted to the top of the track. The rest of the book was the “whee!” that followed.

    • #4
    • February 17, 2020, at 6:24 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. Kay of MT Member

    Doesn’t have to be a storm of nature when you cry out.

    • #5
    • February 17, 2020, at 8:14 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Al French of Damascus Moderator

    I also was a member of the Conservative Book Club, but I got my copy of Witness much earlier. (I read Cold Friday in the late sixties while in college. I probably bought them close together.) After many starts, I finished reading it late last year. I don’t recall what got me going again. Maybe @oldphil’s review?

     

    • #6
    • February 17, 2020, at 8:45 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Vectorman Thatcher

    Join other Ricochet members by submitting a Quote of the Day post, the easiest way to start a fun conversation. Wednesday is the only day left on the February Signup Sheet. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #7
    • February 17, 2020, at 10:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  8. KirkianWanderer Coolidge

    My overwhelming memory of that book (which I loved and my copy of which, a combined edition with Odyssey of a Friend, absolutely reeked of pipe smoke, to the point that I was not allowed to read it anywhere around my mom) is this quote “It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury it secretly in some flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of love and truth.” It is only a little tarnished by the fact that I read it on the floor of a high school girl’s locker room, hedging to see how late I could be to gym without the teacher asking questions. 

    • #8
    • February 17, 2020, at 3:27 PM PST
    • 7 likes