something beautiful that might have been


Millions and millions of lives were lost in the war, many of them under terrible circumstances. And millions have been lost since then. But it is the destruction of one precious life, of an extraordinary young woman whom we have come to know through her most intimate thoughts, that brings out the full horror of this ghastly waste. Of all the entries in her journal, one sticks in my mind more than any other. It was written on October 25, 1943. Hélène is gripped by anxiety at the thought that she might not be there when her fiancé returns:

But it is not fear as such, because I am not afraid of what might happen to me; I think I would accept it, for I have accepted many hard things, and I'm not one to back away from a challenge. But I fear that my beautiful dream may never be brought to fruition, may never be realized. I'm not afraid for myself but for something beautiful that might have been.

more from Ian Buruma at the NYRB here.