â€œThese men in their zealous strive to achieve immortality, they appropriate those objects that bring them closest to a sense of historicity. It is in fact their impotency to achieve fame by their own means, which drives them to claim those artifacts that radiate immortality the brightest, that is those artifacts that survived the sifting of the nameless dead from the heroes of the past that create the living past. This robbery is what is their greatest crime, not the looting of a clay vase buried deep in the Italian dirt, but their annexation of a fame that is not their own. This rape of historic verity is what truly upsets me and remains unpunished in any court of law. And we can debate endlessly about what measure would truly punish a man who disowns the dirt of forgetfulness of its greatest treasures to ensure rising above his anonymity. Is it a jail sentence of a few years, is it a monetary fine of a certain percentage of his wealth that detectives were able to trace back to illegal sources, is this the appropriate punishment to escape the verdict of history and seek a name in immortality or is it perhaps…”
Here N. paused for a second as if he suddenly realized the gravity of his words, and realizing the possible consequences of letting someone he barely knew peek into his cards, he hesitated. But the fervor of his argument had proven its case to the orator himself already, and having won the righteousness of his argument he regained his attitude of the self-sured solicitor.
â€œOr is it … death itself? Is it to allow history to pass the judgment they attempted to escape?”
N. paused again, but this time without hesitation, but rather to let the effect of his words sink in with the his audience. I must admit, I shrank back from his words, afraid of the consequence of his reason. In principle, I wanted to confirm enthusiastically the right of history to punish these gravediggers for fame, and not let these thiefs of the night get away with the light of day in which they are elevated to the firmament of eternity, of the annals of immortality. But death? Death? The word death, repeated itself, as if not originating from within my own thoughts, but from an evil external entity, an entity, the entity of a murderer. Was I a murderer? Was N. a murderer? Could we be brought to take another man’s life? There seemed nothing wrong with N.’s argument, but to kill, seemed doubtlessly wrong.
“Of course, there’s only one objection to this,” N. tittered, “it is not permissable.”
Here I wanted to object, feeling that the villain was getting away, slipping out of the hands of justice, but I only muttered with relief: “Of course.”