Because of their quickness, I think, I always imagined a gun to kill a person instantaneously, maybe by sending a fireball that somehow is also a shot of electricity (these ideas can only be entertained when never thought through in detail) directly through the heart. To my mind a real gun was basically a cap gun with magic powers. Only after seeing a photograph of the barren valley of Fedioukine near Balaclava, years after the battle, still strewn with large, rusted cannon balls, did I fully realise that a gun, like a cannon, simply throws out a metal object very forcefully, no magic involved. The same photograph, it seems worth relating, made the Dutch essayist Rudy Kousbroek (who knew too much to not know how a gun works) think about the dead bodies of the young soldiers (absent from the picture) and how terrible it was that all their healthy reproductive organs remained unused, such beautiful, ingenious organs.

© 2009–2023, Martijn Wallage