7 March 1960: I didn’t know. I had lived like an idiot, like a beast, like a blind man. In prison, toward dusk, I found what kindness was, heroism, dignity. Big words!
Empty words! Big and empty words for traitors and informers: big and priceless words and full of meaning when you feel their coolness in the depths of fire and you can taste their experimental charm.
Believe what you wish, I have no right to speak of absolute values, I only know one thing: that these big words and the qualities they represent were more precious in prison than shoelaces, thread, a piece of paper, or any forbidden object that could make its owner happy.
H.C. Wells in The Research Magnificent: two big forces: fear and aristocracy. Now I understand him. Fear must be defeated. In this world there is one thing, only one: courage. And the secret is to behave aristocratically. Only gentleness and kindness have grace.
I’m starting to realise that only character matters. Political convictions, philosophical opinions, social origins, religious faith, are nothing more than accidents: only character remains after all the filtrations produced by years of prison – or of life – after all the wear and fatigue.