Gravity's Rainbow

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Privilege and fear

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Fear! What nonsense! Looking back over his whole life, Rusanov could not find a single instance of cowardice to reproach himself with. Indeed, had there ever been anything for him to be afraid of? As a man he was not particularly brave, perhaps, but he could not call to mind an occasion when he had behaved like a coward. There was no ground whatever for suggesting he’d have been afraid if he’d had to fight in the front line. It was simply that he’d been a valuable, experienced official, and so had not been sent to the front. It was impossible to say he’d have lost his head under bombing or in a burning building. He’d felt K—— before the bombing started and he’d never been in a fire. Likewise he had never been afraid of justice or the law, because he had never broken the law and justice had always defended and supported him. He had never feared public exposure because the public had always been on his side. An improper article attacking Rusanov would never have appeared in the local newspaper, because either Kuzma Fotievich or Nil Prokofich would have stopped it, while a national newspaper would never have stopped to Rusanov’s level. So he had never been afraid of the press either.

When he traveled by boat across the Black Sea, he was not the least bit afraid of the depths beneath him. Whether or not he was afraid of heights it was impossible to say, because he’d never been such a fathead as to try climbing rocks or mountains, while the nature of his work did not involve bridge building.

from Alexander Solzenitsyn’s Cancer Ward

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