Incommunicado in SK’s Fear and Trembling

For God’s sake, you’re a writer, I say to myself. You do words. Can’t you improve on that? Can’t you face down death — well you won’t ever face it down, but can’t you at least protest against it— more interestingly than this? – Julian Barnes

Intelligibility is vital to speech; social intelligibility to action. There was a time when it was so. Therefore, he didn’t do words. The knight of faith is silent– he is sworn to secrecy.

There’s another– a drifter who became a leader. By his idiocy, he sacrificed his daughter: ~ Oh Jephthah, you fool. You made a reckless promise and were in turn imprisoned by it. You should’ve known better– to make an oath is to not be silent. No. You just don’t do words!

But the knight of faith is silent– he is sworn to secrecy. No one will or can understand him. It would be much easier if they did. If someone did. His test had layers and his call to silence is as hard as the command to sacrifice his son.

There’s another, a tragic hero– Agamemnon, who became great via his tragedy. The sacrifice of his daughter would grieve him; yet, it fit a scheme– made him worthy of applause. ‘Iphigenia, my dear daughter. This is for the greater good. Our purpose is, after all, to please Artemis. Your death will save thousands. A commoner dies for nothing, but we nobles die for a cause. You will live in the hearts of those, who, by your death, will live.’

~ This is very intelligible, Agamemnon. It is very noble indeed, that you are willing to sacrifice your daughter. But you at least can grieve openly. And the louder you weep, the greater you are! Your greatness at the far end of grief is your reward. But the knight of faith– he cannot grieve, he is silent, he is sworn to secrecy.

He did speak or so we should imagine– but only in a manner of concealing. “Stupid boy,” he said,

do you think I am your father? I am an idolater. Do you think it is God’s command, no it is my desire….” But Abraham said softly to himself, “Lord God in heaven, I thank you; it is better that he believes me to be a monster than that he should lose faith in you.

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