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An excerpt from Volume 5, 'KRISZTUS VAGY BARRABÁS' "War And Peace" of the Collected Works by Frigyes Karinthy.


January 1917.

Presently, at sunset on the third day, He emerged from the narrow opening of the tomb and set out on the road in silence. Black ruins were smouldering on either side.  In front of Pilate's house, lying now at the bottom of a dried up ditch, He found the first of those men that had shouted Barabbas' name. With a tongue that had turned black the man was howling at the crimson clouds.

He stopped in front of the man and addressed him in a low voice:

"I am here."

And the man looked up at Him and burst out sobbing.

"Oh, Rabbi...Rabbi!" he sobbed.

And the Master gently continued:

"Cry not.  Rise and come with me, for I am returning to Pilate's house in Jerusalem to ask for a new sentence upon myself and for you who preferred Barabbas and those with whom he had done this."

And the wretch, staggering to his feet, grabbed His raiment.

"Oh, Master..." was all that the man, choking and in tears, could cry.  "Oh, Master, I am coming with Thee'.  Tell me how to save myself.  Tell me what to do'.  Tell me what to say'." he said.

"Do nothing" He said gently, "but what you ought to have said three days ago, when Pilate standing on his verandah asked of you: "Which one of them is it that you want me to set free; Barabbas, the murderer, or the Man of Nazareth?"

"Oh, I was a fool" the wretch cried, smiting his head with his fists.  "Oh, I was a fool to have shouted the name of Barabbas, Barabbas, who reduced me to this.

"Well, then" the Master gently continued, "come along with me to Pilate's house, heed nothing and mind nothing but me and when I give you the signal, cry out with all your heart and with all the might of your lungs "the Man of Nazareth," as if you were crying out "I want my life."

And the man followed Him.

And as they walked along they came upon another man in misery, a man whose wife had been ravished, his house and children taken away, and his eyes ordered put out by Barabbas. He touched the man's forehead gently and spake thusly:

"I have come.  Come along with me to Jerusalem and when I touch you with my hand, cry out "the Man of Nazareth'." as if you were crying out:  "I want my house, my children, my eyesight!"

And the man burst into sobs and followed Him. 

And they found yet another man whose hands and legs were tied with a rope with a noose around his neck, and he had been pushed with his face down into a putrid swamp to keep company with vermin and creeping things.

He stepped up to the man, undid his bonds and spake thus:

"I know you. You were a poet who professed the exalted ascendancy of the soul. Come with me and when I signal you, cry out "the Man of Nazareth!" as though you cried out "I want freedom! Freedom of thought!  Freedom of the mind!"

And the man kissed His sandals and implored Him only with his eyes, for his mouth was still full of mud.

And as they went on in this fashion, more and more of the maimed, the crippled and miserable lazars, all ruined by Barabbas, joined them. And each and every one of them beat his chest sobbing and imploring Him to give the signal when he was to cry out "the Man of Nazareth" as if they were crying out:  "Peace! Peace! "Peace on Earth!"

By evening they arrived in Jerusalem at Pilate's house.

Pilate was sitting on the verandah having dinner with Barabbas the murderer. There they were sitting, fat and with shining faces, drinking heady wines, eating exquisite meals from the bottom of gold vessels, and their scarlet robes could be seen shimmering a long way away.

At the head of the multitude that had followed Him, the man of Nazareth proceeded to the verandah and, raising His nail-torn hands, began to speak softly.

"Pilate, Passover is not over yet.  It is the law and custom that you release one of the prisoners according to the preference of the people. The people had preferred Barabbas and I was crucified - but I had to return from my death for I saw that the people did not know what they were doing.  This multitude behind me has come to know Barabbas and wants a new sentence now. Ask them anew, even as it is written in our law-books.

Pilate pondered, then shrugged and standing at the edge of the verandah looked wonderingly upon the multitude and said:

"Well, then, which of them will you, therefore, that I release to you, Barabbas, or the Man of Nazareth?"

And He gave them the signal now.

And then a murmur rose and the multitude resounded like a clap of thunder.  And the multitude shouted "Barabbas!"

And they looked at one another in bewilderment for severally each of them had shouted "the Man of Nazareth!"

The Master turned pale and turning round looked them over. And though He could distinguish the face of each of them individually, now in the dusk, the many faces merged into a single face, an enormous face with blood-shot eyes, blinking stupidly, wickedly and brazenly at His own  with a stinking stuff oozing from its mouth as it roared raucously:  "Barabbas!" as if it were rattling:  "Death! Death! Death!1 

Pilate dropped his eyes in embarrassment and said to Him: "Thou hast beheld it..."

He nodded His head and ascending the steps in silence, stretched His hands toward the hangman for him to tie them.



Translated from the Hungarian by L.K. Torok in 1976 August with emendations by Professor Watson Kirkconnell.