I have no neck. I have often wondered, during nocturnal moments of acute bodily awareness spent anticipating the worst, where the blade would have to fall to behead me cleanly. I could think only of my shoulders and my aggressively defensive posture, forged gradually night after night by the nightmares that followed the primal scene of Lesurques' death, which transformed them into a fighting bull's morillo, neck muscles so impenetrable the blade glances off, sending it back to its point of origin, each rebound weakening its original power. It is as though, over time, I had drawn in on myself so as to leave for the blade of la veuve - the widow, as Madame Guillotine is colloquially known - no convenient place and no opportunity for it to make one. In the boxing world, they would say I grew up in a 'crouch', with a curvature of the torso so marked that an opponent's fists slide off without the punches truly hitting home.
From The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir by Claude Lanzmann. Copyright 2009 by Editions Gallimard. Translation copyright 2012 by Frank Wynne. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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