the process is the artwork

Dreamers die first

RFTBAC_DmitryGlukovsky_Metro2033Wallpaper

Selected quotes from Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033, a post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel. It is set in the Moscow Metro after a nuclear holocaust, where the remaining survivors have sought refuge.

It is now two decades since the entire planet was convulsed by the Final War, which flashed across the continents, engulfing all of them in an instant, to close the final chapter in our history. Deployed in this war, the most advanced technologies and greatest discoveries of the human genius drove the human race back into caves, submerging civilization forever in the impenetrable gloom of a final Dark Age. Nowadays, in the year 2033, no one can recall what triggered the hostilities. Absurd. But if you think for a moment, what does it matter who started it? Those who unleashed the war were the first to die… And the inheritance they left to us was a smoldering ember that used to be called the Earth. (…)

***

And now all the railroad tracks, corroded and pitted with rust, lead into nowhere. (…) And the memories of humankind’s former glory are overgrown by the weeds of fiction and fantasy. (…) Exactly seven minutes after the alarm signal, the hermetic gates with which every station in the Moscow Metro was fitted would close for ever, cleaving like the blade of a guillotine through families, friendships and destinies (…) many of us regard our survival not as a reward, but as a curse (…) our world has no tomorrow. There is no place in it for dreams, plans and hopes. People here laugh at dreamers. Dreamers die first.

***

One cartridge – one death. Someone’s life removed. A hundred grammes of tea cost five human lives. A length of sausage? Very cheap if you please: just fifteen lives. A quality leather jacket, on sale today, is just twenty-five so you’re saving five lives. The daily exchange at this market was equal in lives to the entire population of the metro.

***

‘I’ve died,’ Bourbon said. ‘There is no more me.’

***

See, Artyom, you obviously come from a station where the clock works and you all look at it in awe, comparing the time on your wrist watch to the red numbers above the tunnel entrance. For you, time is the same for everyone, just like light. Well, here it’s the opposite: nothing is anyone else’s business. No one is obliged to make sure there’s light for all the people who have made their way here. Go up to anybody here and suggest just that and it will seem absurd to them. Whoever needs light has to bring it here with them. It’s the same with time: whoever needs to know the time, whoever is afraid of chaos, needs to bring their own time with them. Everyone keeps some time here. Their own time. And it’s different for everybody and it depends on their calculations, but they’re all equally right, and each person believes in their own time, and subordinates their life to its rhythms. For me it’s evening right now, for you it’s morning – and what? People like you are so careful about storing up the hours you spend wandering, just as ancient peoples kept pieces of glowing coal in smouldering crucibles, hoping to resurrect fire from them. But there are others who lost their piece of coal, maybe even threw it away. You know, in the metro, it is basically always night-time and it makes no sense to keep track of time here so painstakingly. Explode your hours and you’ll see how time will transform – it’s very interesting. It changes – you won’t even recognize it. It will cease to be fragmented, broken into the sections of hours, minutes and seconds. Time is like mercury: scatter it and it will grow together again, it will again find its own integrity and indeterminacy. People tamed it, shackled it into pocket-watches and stop-watches – and for those that hold time on a chain, time flows evenly. But try to free it and you will see: it flows differently for different people, for some it is slow and viscous, counted in the inhalations and exhalations of smoked cigarettes, for others it races along, and they can only measure it in past lives. You think it’s morning now? There is a great likelihood that you are right: there’s a roughly twenty five percent likelihood. Nevertheless, this morning of yours has no sense to it, since it’s up there on the surface and there’s no life up there anymore. Well, there’re no more people, anyway. Does what occurs above have value for those who never go there? No. So when I say “good evening” to you, if you like, you can answer “good morning.” There’s no time in this station, except perhaps one and it’s very strange: now it is the four hundred and nineteenth day and I’m counting backwards.’

***

Lord, what a splendid world we ruined . . .’

***

Everyone knows that death is unavoidable. Death was a part of daily life in the metro. But it always seemed that nothing unfortunate would happen to you, that the bullets would fly past you, the disease would skip over you. Death of old age was a slow affair so you needn’t think about it. You can’t live in constant awareness of your mortality. You had to forget about it, and though these thoughts came to you anyway, you had to drive them away, to smother them, otherwise they could take root in your consciousness and they would make your life a misery. You can’t think about the fact that you’ll die. Otherwise you might go mad. There’s only one thing that can save a man from madness and that’s uncertainty. The life of someone who has been sentenced to death is different from the life of a normal person in only one way: the one knows exactly when he will die, and the regular person is in the dark about it, and consequently it seems he can live forever, even though it’s entirely possible that he could be killed in a catastrophic event the following day. Death isn’t frightening by itself. What’s frightening is expecting it.

***

He now viewed man as a clever machine for the decomposition of food and the production of shit, functioning almost without a hitch throughout a life without meaning, if by the word ‘meaning’ one has in mind some kind of ultimate goal. The meaning was in the process: to break down the most food possible, convert it even faster, and eliminate the dregs – everything that was left of smoking pork chops, juicy braised mushrooms, fluffy cakes – now rotten and contaminated. Personality traits began to fade, becoming impersonal mechanisms for the destruction of the beautiful and the useful, creating instead something putrid and worthless.

***

Just what can bother people if they don’t have to be concerned about their lives every second and constantly fight for it, trying to extend it at least for a day?

***

The world seemed more deserted and abandoned, but Artyom understood that it was an illusion: the earth had not been abandoned and lifeless, it had simply changed owners.

***

Man is good. The meat is tasty.

***

However, instead of a wave of happiness, Artyom was experiencing an incomprehensible bitterness. He was beginning to understand that some secrets should remain as secrets because they do not have any answers, and there are questions the answers to which it is better no one knows.

***

His mission and man’s attempts to survive in a changed world were worthless. There was nothing: just an empty, dark tunnel he was supposed to plod his way through, from ‘Birth’ station to ‘Death’ station.

***

‘What’s the sense of such a life? You cling to it, you endure all this filth, humiliation, you trade your children, stuff your face with moss, for what?’

***

Any faith served man only as a crutch supporting him. When Artyom was young, his stepfather’s story about how a monkey took up a cane and became a man made him laugh. After that, apparently, the clever macaque no longer let the cane out of his hand because he couldn’t straighten up. He understood why man needs this support. Without it, life would have become empty, like an abandoned tunnel

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