26 February 2012

Wish and will

A very old copy of Curtain
If you were stranded on an island, what book would you want to have with you?

Any of Agatha Christie's. Why? Because a small island is a suitable place to scare and at the same time fascinate yourself. Not with thoughts of ghosts or wild beasts, but of human beings engaging their darker side.

Literature over and over again proves that man is more frightful than monster; for the former is real and, at least, with the latter, evil without mercy is expected.

In Curtain, where Hercule Poirot solves his final case, the characters are easily recognizable to win the reader's sympathy and sufficiently nuanced to earn their doubt.

Everyone can be (and often is) a murder suspect in a mystery novel, but the genius of Curtain lies in substantiating that everyone is a potential murderer—
In everyone there arises from time to time the wish to kill—though not the will to kill. How often have you not felt or heard others say: "She made me so furious I felt I could have killed her!" "I could have killed B. for saying so-and-so!" "I was so angry I could have murdered him!" and all those statements are literally true. Your mind at such moments is quite clear. You would like to kill so-and-so. But you do not do it. Your will has to assent to your desire. In young children, the brake is as yet acting imperfectly. I have known a child, annoyed by its kitten, say: "Keep still or I'll hit you on the head and kill you" and actually do so—to be stunned and horrified a moment later when it realizes that the kitten's life will not return—because, you see, really the child loves that kitten dearly. So then, we are all potential murderers. And the art of X was this: not to suggest the desire, but to break down the normal decent resistance.
Pertinent to the imperishable themes of taking the law into your own hands and the power of an idea, how that will to kill is sparked and nurtured is the crux of Curtain—making it a thrilling and ultimately a rewarding read.

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