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Days later, Tomas reads in the newspaper about the petition. It doesn't mention that the petition was about releasing political prisoners.
Instead, it says that the petition was anti-state, and it slanders all the men who signed it. Part of him is sorry he didn't sign it. He can't quite remember why he didn't.
The narrator again sees an image of Tomas as he did at the beginning of the novel: standing at the window of his apartment and staring out the window to the walls across the courtyard.
Tomas was born from that image, he says. Characters are always born of an image, a sentence, a metaphor, or something "containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about" (5.15.5).
On the other hand, it may be true that the author can only really write about himself, he says.
Yes, he has known all the moments, images, and metaphors that define his characters. And yet he is not the characters in his novel; in this way, his characters are his "own unrealized possibilities" (5.15.7).
And now back to Tomas. He wonders if he should have signed the petition.
The question is whether it's better to shout and hasten one's own death, or keep silent and prolong one's life.
The problem, as we know, is that human life only occurs once. We can't ever compare the different outcomes of making different decisions.
History works the same way, just like the human life.
We can't know what would have happened if different events in history were to be changed.
Einmal ist keinmal, the narrator says, which means that things, which happen only once, might as well not have happened at all.
Because life and history happen only once, they are light, unbearably light.
Tomas thinks about the editor, who acts with no hesitation, as though his actions are to be endlessly repeated.