Some of the more poetic and quotable passages (to me) from war correspondent Anthony Loyd’s books – My War Gone By, I Miss It So and Another Bloody Love Letter:
‘Death wish’ is a tired old cliche – simplistic, absolute and inept in describing my motivations. I do not want to die, but I am prepared to take a chance on it, and the odds are reassessed each morning when I wake. Death is a hooked shark to be skillfully played. My own reckless appetite for the game is cantilevered by a sense of cumulative mortal fear born from every close call in every war zone I have ever attended. The product is far from perfect, but results in a tension that helps keep me alive, to this day anyway.
If I was repelled by the mujahedin’s apparent cold-blooded acceptance of death, then I also saw its attractions. To drive down the empty road or not? Sometimes, I take the chance with a smile that is as heartfelt as any of the leers I had seen on the mujahedin’s faces that day. At other times, I turned back, usually pursued by doubt and self-irritation, sensing I had baulked at the joust.
Was death so unwelcome? In this regard, at least, there is a cross-over between the one-time exemption offered by the escape of war, an attitude shared to some or other degree by drug addicts, smokers, mountaineers, test pilots, racing drivers, almost every war correspondent I have ever met, along with anyone else who gambled unnecessarily with their life. We do not choose death, but neither do we fully accept life. The space between is its own world and definition and I muster there with like-minded comrades under the banner of a mortal procrastination, abjuring verdict and choice. Death looks too final, life too painful for the requirement of either to be acceptable. Both are unavoidable: but as an outsider in another country’s war the terms on offer seem easier to dictate – ensuring that neither surrender or victory are ever options.
It’s a life that involves repeatedly spinning around on the edge of the chasm, and accepting, even embracing the chance that I might similarly slip, while at the same time scrabbling to avoid it.
What disturbs me most in war is neither the prospect of my own annihilation, nor the ease with which humans kill one another. Killing comes quickly enough and most people can do it when certain influences are either removed or exerted. Instead, it is the sight of the bereaved which chills my core. Such cruel, gratuitous suffering seems much more of a mystery than death itself, far harder a sentence to bear than merely dying.
The world wastes even its best without compunction or second thought.
There is no escape for any of us. Peace and age kill just as surely as war. But in war exists the fantasy of a surprise, sudden and instantly fatal bullet one day – nothing too protracted. One shot to clear the tray marked ‘pending pain’. The thought is a powerful tranquilizer, anesthetizing the reality of so many concerns, preserving my suspension in a place between worlds. No more goodbyes.
A gradual surrender to an inevitable force…
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Good choices. I have read both books. His writings on bosnia literally changed my life