Invitation to a Beheading

Many years ago I saw a stage adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. The protagonist, a writer named Cincinnatus C., had been condemned to death by a distant, vague, and disdainful government. However, he has not been told the date of his execution. Trapped in a surreal existence in his prison cell, Cincinnatus pleads with his jailers to learn the date. He can not write, he can not think. If only he knew how much time he had, he might be able to focus, to decide whether to undertake a novel, a short story, a poem.

Finally, he is told the date of his death, and he is crushed and paralyzed. Consumed by the vista of his shrinking allotment of time, Cincinnatus realizes how sweet life was when the orders of execution seemed somehow less real, when there was the tiniest spark of hope, the chance to believe that his death was not truly ordained yet.

In the wake of Friday’s passage of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill, I feel a bit like Cincinnatus. I certainly don’t feel like writing about it. Hey, Mal Brough couldn’t be bothered to read it, either.

Luckily, Jane Simpson and the mob at Transient Languages and Cultures have been doing a superb job of documenting the travesty and tragedy of it all. Be sure to read all the way to the end of the post, “Those who do not learn from history..” for referrals to more incisive commentary by Banduk Marika, Senator Andrew Barlett, and several articulate bloggers. That post also provides a few choice quotes from Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion, a man I am coming to loathe more with each new report about him in the media.

Please check out Jane’s excellent reporting. Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow with something uplifting.

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