Chess Board – A Matter Of Life and Death

She was stuck in traffic, amid lines and lines of stationary vehicles. It’s going to be a while, she thought with a sigh. Her iPod had failed her with its dead battery and she didn’t want to be left alone with her thoughts. So she switched the radio to Tuner and started flicking through the stations she had saved until she fell upon what seemed like an interview with an author about his latest novel that tackled death and existentialism, two topics she constantly contemplated.

The interviewer sounded like one of those pretentious radio and TV hosts who ask questions they think are smart and informed when in fact they’re silly and meaningless. But she was intrigued by the author’s confidence – or was it arrogance? – and defiance.

She picked up her mobile phone, dialled the station’s number and waited for her call to go through.

– “We’ve a caller on the line,” the host finally said. “Yes, hello.”

– “Oh, yes, um, hello,” she stammered, as if awakened from a daze.

– “Hello, welcome to the show. What’s your name?” the host asked.

– “Zoe.”

– “Where are you calling from, Zoe?”

– “Um, from my car. I’m stuck in traffic,” she said half smiling, half irritated by the host’s congeniality. “I’d like to ask the author a question,” she said bluntly.

– “Oh, yes, yes, of course. Go ahead.”

– “I think death is an integral part of life. There’s no one without the other. It seems that we do spend our lives defying death, by hanging on to life. But our souls last as long as our allotted bodies. That may be fatalism. But knowing that, accepting that is how we defeat death. When we philosophize, we learn how to die. What matters is how we approach our existence from the moment we are born until the moment we die, as you mentioned.”

– “Yes,” the author concurred.

She sensed her quivering voice live on the radio about to betray her. She took a deep breath to recompose herself, then said: “For me, existentialism is how we live and ultimately die. But I wonder if death were faced with the option of death or life, what would it choose?”

There was a pause on the radio.

– “You’d like me to answer that question?” the author finally asked.

– “Yes, I’d like to hear your take on it. I mean, you said that in your last novel you killed your protagonist because you wanted Death to know that he’d lost the battle, that it was time for him to come up with new ways to deal with human beings…”

“Okay,” the host jumped in. “My director is telling me it’s time for a break. We’ll hear the answer to that question after these messages from our sponsors…”


Note: This post is my first attempt at fiction and Chapter 2 of a story I’m writing with Pascal Assaf, as part of an experiment we decided to embark on. To read Chapter 1, which he authored in Arabic, click here. Now, Pascal has one week to pick up where I left off and continue the story. Feel free to post your feedback and questions in the comment box below.

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11 Responses

  1. Mireille says:

    and btw – topsy is now showing your tweets-how did that happen ?

    and regarding the topic – euhhh – hmmmm …. 3ishitkon sa3beh into l existentialists 😛

  2. Joelle says:

    Yes, yes, Topsy is back. Don’t know how, but it’s back. Yay!

    As for the life of us existentialists, ah, well, I still agree with Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” But yes, you’re right, it is likely to induce many a headache.

  3. Mireille says:

    “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

    haideh bahdaleh bi sharaf.

    will try to examine my life n get back to u

    ka2ano na2esneh waja3 rass – i have enough from programming and tech – ba3d na2es troubleshoot life

  4. Pascal Assaf says:

    Well this is what i call a smart move.
    squeezing my brain 🙂

    fee 7adan 3ishto mish so3beh ??

  5. Mich says:

    I’m hooked! Can’t wait for Pascal’s continuation… What a great project 🙂

  6. Hello Joelle 🙂
    Thank you very much for the continuation of this story 🙂
    Why do you think that “death is an integral part of life”. Why is it that “there’s no one without the other”? Why do we “spend our lives defying death, by hanging on to life”? Why do “our souls last as long as our alloted bodies? “?
    Do you mean that once our bodies parish our soul parish too? ( how sad!!!) Why is it that life and death are connected? Can’t we forget about death and enjoy our lives ? Can’t we look at the light and enjoy the sun while it lasts? Why are we in a hurry for everything that is far away? Why can’t we just enjoy the moment? And leave time for time, and death for death… Fi waet, trust me, fi waet 🙂
    Thank you 🙂
    I really enjoyed your post 🙂 will be looking forward for the rest of the story 🙂
    Take care.
    Zeina 🙂

  7. soha says:

    it’s a gr8 project ktir hilo l 3am ta3mlou 🙂

  8. Joelle says:

    Thanks for the support, Soha.

    Zeina, for those who believe in life after death, maybe the soul lasts longer than our allotted bodies. For me, if there’s a life after death, it’s how our memory, our history, our legacy is carried on by the people who survive us. But that’s another story.

    Life and death are connected because they just are. We live and then we die. And then we live and then we die. It’s a cycle. It’s true that one way to enjoy life is to just leave death till the time it comes. It’s all about perspectives, really.

  9. the old friend says:

    well I’m a friend of Pascal, and I join my voice to my friend’s.
    anyway I was concerned about the alteration that might occur if u wrote about the same person, which u didn’t.
    amazing Jeu de role, and smart definitions for both of u about existentialism, the classical debate about life and death….

    PS: maybe une avant premiere to read a story a chapter in arabic, the other in english and still like both of them. this is particular to Lebanon.
    keep on this unique experience, wish u luck.

  10. Pascal Assaf says:

    no, we the existentialists out there are not are afraid from death, and it is not controlling our minds, we manage it as we manage any other truth. we know that we will die someday that’s why we live our present.

    Glad you liked it

    Waiting… waiting…. 🙂

    @The Old Friend
    Hello 🙂 and thank you for spreading your amazing joyful presence in Joelle’s blog too.

  1. October 14, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Simon Levy, Joelle Hatem. Joelle Hatem said: New #RacingThoughts: Chess Board – A Matter of Life and Death cc @PascalAssaf […]

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