Sunday 22 November 2020

ALS: 'Suikerbieten'

 Sugar beets


Next to my house a vast stack of sugar beets has appeared. Heavy tractors have spent two days clearing the surrounding land. The noise has been immense. A man comes to look, perhaps he’s an inspector, perhaps a chance passer-by. I also standing looking at it, for this is the biggest mountain of sugar beets I’ve ever seen. We happen to start chatting about America. He is worried about the way things are going there. He has a daughter in the vicinity of Paterson, New Jersey, she’s already lived there for twenty years. She is divorced, they have two children who live with her. Although he regularly pays them a visit, they are worried about him. He always votes Democrat, but this time Trump was his favourite, and he goes on supporting him, even after his defeat. It seems as if he has really changed, she plans to return with her children to Europe, to be on the safe side. When the sugar-beet inspector walks away, I think of the witticism made by a character in a novel by Saul Bellow:


‘Seven per cent in this country is committing suicide by alcohol. Another three, maybe, narcotics. Another sixty just fading away into dust by boredom. Twenty more who have sold their souls to the Devil. Then there’s a small percentage of those who want to live. That’s the only significant thing in the whole world today. Those are the only two classes of people there are. Some want to live, but the great majority don’t… They don’t, why else all these wars? I’ll tell you more… The love of the dying amounts to one thing; they want you to die with them. That’s because they love you. Make no mistake about that.’


I see the man is slowly disappearing into the distance. I ask myself whether he would agree with Saul Bellow.

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