I bought a copy of The Son Of Laughter by Frederick Buechner years ago at a second-hand bookstore.
I’ve been reading it on and off over the last year or so, but am committed to finishing it this time.
It is a literary retelling of the narrative of Jacob/Israel from Genesis.
There is an earthy courseness to Buechner’s prose that rings true, though it is disquieting to read this familiar narrative punctuated with details that are alien and yet ring as an authentic representation of the age in which the story is set.

In all of that there is one sentence in particular that has stayed in my mind since reading it.
It comes from a scene set in the aftermath of Jacob’s imagined dealing with his sons as a result of the atrocity they committed upon the men of Shechem.
As the punishment of his sons Simeon and Levi appears to be reaching a point at which their lives are in jeopardy, Leah interposes, not on their behalf as much as on behalf of Jacob himself.
“It is yourself you are killing, Jacob”…”A woman can outlive her children and stay alive inside herself, but when a man’s sons die, the man dies with them. Even if he lives to father other sons, inside himself he is dead. Many times I have seen it happen, Jacob.”

I don’t know if this is true; I guess it feels half true at least as far as the part about the man goes.
I don’t know if it’s half true and half false and the part about woman is wrong while the part about men is true.
But I’d prefer to think that the statement about women is true, just to think they are spared in some way from that inner death.
I’d hope the statement about men is wrong also, but I just don’t know at the moment.

I realise it is an expression of fictional speculation, and not a word of authoritative truth.
Like I said, it’s just a phrase in a book that haunts me presently.

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