Just in case you don’t think you shit what you eat.
author’s note, pg ix:
I have always believed that in the lives of individuals, just as in society at large, the profoundest changes take place within a very reduced time frame. When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.
Then the voice--which identified itself as the prince of this world, the only being who really knows what happens on Earth--began to show him the people all around him on the beach. The wonderful father who was busy packing things up and helping his children put on some warm clothes and who would love to have an affair with his secretary, but was terrified of his wife's response. His wife who would like to work and have her independence, but who was terrified of her husband's response. The children who behaved themselves because they were terrified of being punished. The girl who was reading a book all on her own beneath a sunshade, pretending she didn't care, but inside was terrified of spending the rest of her life alone. The boy running around with a tennis racquet, terrified of having to live up to his parents' expectations. The waiter serving tropical drinks to the rich customers and terrified that he could be sacked at any moment. The young girl who wanted to be a dancer, but who was studying law instead because she was terrified of what the neighbours might say. The old man who didn't smoke or drink and said he felt much better for it, when in truth it was the terror of death that whispered in his ears like the wind. The married couple who ran by, splashing through the surf, with a smile on their face but with a terror in their hearts telling them that they would soon be old, boring and useless. The man with the suntan who swept up in his launch in front of everybody and waved and smiled, but was terrified because he could lose all his money from one moment to the next. The hotel owner, watching the whole idyllic scene from his office, trying to keep everyone happy and cheerful, urging his accountants to ever greater vigilance, and terrified because he knew that however honest he was government officials would still find mistakes in his accounts if they wanted to. There was terror in each and every one of the people on that beautiful beach and on that breathtakingly beautiful evening. Terror of being alone, terror of the darkness filling their imaginations with devils, terror of doing anything not in the manuals of good behaviour, terror of God's judgement, of what other people would say, of the law punishing any mistake, terror of trying and failing, terror of succeeding and having to live with the envy of other people, terror of loving and being rejected, terror of asking for a rise in salary, of accepting an invitation, of going somewhere new, of not being able to speak a foreign language, of not making the right impression, of growing old, of dying, of being pointed out because of one's defects, of not being pointed out because of one's merits, of not being noticed either for one's defects or one's merits. Terror, terror, terror. Life was a reign of terror, in the shadow of the guillotine. 'I hope this consoles you a little,' he heard the devil say. 'They're all terrified; you're not alone. The only difference is that you have already been through the most difficult part; your worst fear became a reality. You have nothing to lose, whereas these people on the beach live with their terror all the time; some are aware of it, others try to ignore it, but all of them know that it exists and will get them in the end.'
'...Ahab, even though he was converted to Christianity by St Savin, had serious reservations about the influence of priests. Since the majority of the early inhabitants were bandits, he though that all the priests would do, with their threats of eternal damnation, would be to send them back to their criminal ways. Men who have nothing to lose never give a thought for eternal life 'Naturally, the first priest duly appeared, and Ahab understood what the real threat was. To compensate for it, he instituted something he had learned from the Jews--a Day of Atonement--except that he determined to establish a ritual of his own making. 'Once a year, the inhabitants shut themselves up in their houses, made two lists, turned to face the highest mountain and then raised their first list to the heavens. '"Here, Lord, are all the sins I have committed against you," they said, reading the account of all the sins they had committed. Business swindles, adulteries, injustices, things of that sort. "I have sinned and beg forgiveness for having offended You so greatly." 'Then--and here lay Ahab's originality--the residents immediately pulled the second list out of their pocket and, still facing the same mountain, they held that one up to the skies too. And they said something like: "And here, Lord, is a list of all Your sins against me: You made me work harder than necessary, my daughter fell ill despite all my prayers, I was robbed when I was trying to be honest, I suffered more than was fair." 'After reading out the second list, they ended the ritual with: "I have been unjust towards You and You have been unjust towards me. However, since today is the Day of Atonement, You will forget my faults and I will forget Yours, and we can carry on together for another year."' 'Forgive God!' said the stranger. 'Forgive an implacable God who is constantly creating and destroying!'