Richard Temple

Richard Temple
О книге

This is the story of Richard Temple – prisoner of war, sometime adventurer, lover and artist – told with insight, empathy and drama by one of the world's master storytellers.Captive in a brutal German prison towards the end of World War II, Richard Temple has been stripped of everything that once defined him: pride, courage, his very identity have all been surrendered in a desperate bid to protect his secrets from the Nazis.But with the real Richard Temple suppressed to the point of near-extinction, a sudden respite in his torture allows him a moment of rare release, when he can lower his guard and remember who he is. Huddled in his cell, too badly beaten to move, the action of the novel takes place in the Richard’s mind as he retraces a convoluted course from an unhappy childhood, through a vague and uncertain adolescence to a complex, compromised adulthood, shot through with artistic sensibility and the myriad impulses that make a man.Patrick O'Brian's signature combination of narrative flair, intuitive sympathy and psychological insight make this a fascinating exploration of how passive resistance can be a form of courage and what it truly means to be a hero.

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Richard Temple

For Mary, With Love

Twenty-seven tiles from wall to wall, thirty-five from floor to roof. Nine hundred and forty-five white tiles upon the wall. He knew them all so well that even now, lying on the concrete floor, he could tell that his shoulder was against the row that ran from two hundred and sixteen to two hundred and fifty-one: indeed, the top of his head must come exactly to the tile of the day, the tile that marked Thursday, the twenty-first. Though he might be several days out in his reckoning: the first days and nights of terror had passed uncounted, uncountable because they outlasted all count of days, and he had worked them out later, by estimation.

But now, although he was aware of his position in relation to the wall, he was not interested in his calendar. He was quite motionless on the ground, still in the place where he had fallen when they pushed him in, and if he did not move his body would not hurt – it would not flame out with annihilating pain. As for the dull wretched sickness, he was used to that: it was a passive, indwelling pain, and he could live with it, and think in spite of it.

He lay there, too, from religious caution and respect. If he were to creep over to the wooden bench (although it was no more than four feet away) to lie there more comfortably and enjoy his victory, it might offend. The omen might change if he was to presume; so he lay there still.

Humble: he was humble. He truckled to fate, and although the darkness could not have been more profound he lay there on the concrete with the familiar taste of blood in his mouth, hiding his secret triumph under immobility.

But it grew in his mind like a fire, and in spite of himself a smile spread over his face, slowly changing the deep-cut lines of anxiety and suffering. Two hours earlier they had switched the light on in his cell: the glare had stabbed into his pale eyes and he had staggered to attention, blinking and staring. He had heard them coming, of course, and already, before they had ever touched the light, he had moved with the heavy blundering haste of a terrified half-wit – mouth open, hands dangling, uncouth slouch. Clang, clang, down the corridor praying that they would grow angry soon – it was so much easier in the turmoil of blows and shouting.

The knock on the door, the clash and the stamping. There was another man besides Reinecke and Bauer, a civilian with a briefcase, and they left Temple standing while they finished talking and handing papers. Reinecke was looking tired and dispirited, and suddenly very much older. Temple, from behind his moron’s face, watched him with a more eager intensity than a lover: for this Reinecke was God for him – Jehovah. He was the Almighty, and Temple had been in the hollow of his hand all these horribly counted days. He was Reinecke’s priest and sacrifice: he had learnt, oh so quickly, how to predict Reinecke’s shifting moods, how to propitiate his wrath and how to be as sparing of his sacrifice as possible: for Temple’s own body was the sacrifice.

But now Reinecke had a look that he had never seen before – could not interpret. Was it fright, apprehension, uneasiness? Was it age? Was it an aging night out? Could it be that the squalor of his position had occurred to him? Some idea of his utter corruption might have come to him suddenly, for Reinecke was not a fool, nor without some insight.

The scream that had been coming in from the other room with the regularity and inhumanity of a steam-engine was suddenly choked off, and at the same time the civilian gathered up his files and began to range them in his briefcase. They were talking in low, rapid German; low, not because of Temple, but because their own words were unwelcome to them. Temple could make nothing of it, partly because he did not know German well enough and partly because his knowledge and his hearing were to some degree obscured by the stupidity of his mask. He could not put on the outward appearance of a dolt without his mind taking on some of the disguise. From next door there was one more bubbling shriek, and a noise of feet.

Perhaps that might have been André, thought Temple: poor devil. Reinecke had mentioned his name. But Temple had little room for active pity at this time: André, if it was the real André and not a shot in the dark, would have to go his own road. He only hoped that André would by now have learnt to scream terribly, to scream long before the point of agony, to scream better than any actor upon a stage.

He had learnt that very early, himself. And he had learnt that Reinecke disliked abjectness – an abject victim irritated him. The way to flatter Reinecke was to be brave. Temple could not provide Reinecke with his ideal prisoner, for there were many moral and physical requirements that he could not fulfil, but he could, by the sharpest observation, find out the minimum acceptable qualities, and offer them. He was a third-rate, but just not too irritating fool, with a core of courage to be broken down.

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