But this year a curtain has fallen all along the frontier. From our ramparts we stare out over the wastes. For all we know, keener eyes than ours stare back. Commerce is at an end. Since the news arrived from the capital that whatever might be necessary to safeguard the Empire would be done, regardless of cost, we have returned to an age of raids and armed vigilance. There is nothing to do but keep our swords bright, watch and wait.

I spend my time in my old recreations. I read the classics; I continue to catalogue my various collections; I collate what maps we have of the southern desert region; on days when the wind does not bite so keenly I take out a party of diggers to clear drift-sand from the excavations; and once or twice a week I set off by myself in the early morning to hunt antelope along the lakeshore.

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1980).

March 1, 2007 | Comments (0)