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Mother night

Kurt Vonnegut

‘I can’t even tell you what the plot of “The Goblet” is’ I said.

So Wirtanen told it to me. ‘A blindingly pure young maiden’, he said, ‘guards the Holy Grail. She will surrender it only to a knight who is pure as herself. Such a knight comes along, and is pure enough to win the Grail.

‘By winning it, he causes the girl to fall in love with him, and he falls in love with her’ said Wirtanen. ‘Do I really have to tell you, the author, the rest?’

‘It – it’s as though Bodovskov really did write it -’ I said, ‘as though I’m hearing it for the first time.’

‘The knight and the girl-’ said Wirtanen, continuing the tale, ‘they begin to have impure thoughts about each other, tending, involuntarily, to disqualify themselves from any association with the Grail. The heroine urges the hero to flee with the Grail, before he becomes unworthy of it. The hero vows to flee without the Grail, leaving the heroine worthy of continuing to guard it.

‘The hero makes their decision for them’ said Wirtanen, ‘since they have both become impure in thought. The Holy Grail disappears. And, stunned by this unaswerable proof of their depravity, the two lovers confirm what they firmly believe to be their damnation with a tender night of love.

‘The next morning, confident of hell-fire, they promise to give each other so much joy in life that hell-fire will be a very cheap price to pay. The Holy Grail thereupon appears to them, signifying that Heaven does not despise love like theirs. And then the Grail goes away again, forever, leaving the hero and the heroine to live happily ever after.’

‘My God — I did write that, didn’t I?’ I said.

‘Stalin was crazy about it,’ said Wirtanen.

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