Waiting for the Barbarians

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The Magistrate Character Analysis

A civil servant of the Empire who’s looking forward to retiring soon, the magistrate is the narrator and protagonist (though his proper name is never revealed) of Waiting for the Barbarians. The magistrate’s dream of living out his last years of service with relative ease and little disruption, however, is thwarted by the circulation of rumors in the Empire’s capital about the nomads beyond the nation’s frontier settlements. Believing these ‘barbarians’ to be plotting an assault on the frontier, the Empire’s army has dispatched military officers to the frontier. When one such Colonel Joll arrives at the settlement under the magistrate’s jurisdiction, the disappearance of quietude and stability in the magistrate’s life begins. Disgusted by Joll’s use of torture to interrogate the barbarians he takes prisoner, the magistrate displays an empathy for the nomads unmet by virtually everyone around him. And, while his fellow servants of the Empire blindly and unquestioningly follow the orders of their authorities, the magistrate possesses a more critical and objective perspective of the Empire informed by his attention to history. The magistrate notes, for example, that every generation seems to have its own bout of hysteria about the barbarians—and indeed, based on his vague historical inquiries into local ruins, the magistrate wonders if there have been past Empires that rose and fell in a similar cycle. Consequently, he views Joll’s campaign against the nomads as yet another renewal of this trend. The magistrate therefore has the makings of an outcast within him from the start of the novel, and his willingness to vocalize his dissent to the various executors of the Empire’s military will ultimately solidifies him in that role. The magistrate’s inner character is also shaped by a complicated relationship with his sexuality. His attraction to the barbarian girl baffles and frustrates him, as it makes him realize just how little control he has over his own sexual desire. The opacity of her personality infuriates him; he feels unable to get past her cold surface and have a deeper connection with her. The magistrate wants to uncover the untold history of her past—to understand and envision her before she was marked by the trauma of Joll’s torture tactics—but he ultimately fails in excavating her psyche as deeply as he wishes. Further, the barbarian girl’s poor vision (also ironically) makes the magistrate more self-conscious about his body, even though she can barely see it, and therefore his sexuality as a whole.

The Magistrate Quotes in Waiting for the Barbarians

The Waiting for the Barbarians quotes below are all either spoken by The Magistrate or refer to The Magistrate. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Empire and Fear of the Other Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Waiting for the Barbarians published in 2010.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Looking at him I wonder how he felt the very first time: did he, invited as an apprentice to twist the pincers or turn the screw or whatever it is they do, shudder even a little to know that at that instant he was trespassing into the forbidden? I find myself wondering too whether he has a private ritual of purification, carried out behind closed doors, to enable him to return and break bread with other men.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), Colonel Joll
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs after the magistrate tells Colonel Joll (who, after staying at the magistrate’s settlement for several days, is preparing to embark with his company on a military campaign against the barbarians) that he shouldn’t rely on the boy he tortured as an able guide.

Repulsed by Joll’s torture tactics, the magistrate can’t help but wonder if, behind Joll’s stoic demeanor and unflinching sense of ease after doling out merciless amounts of pain, there’s a hidden a reservoir of humanity within Joll that secretly mourns the evils of torture. Mustn’t Joll, the magistrate speculates, have—the first time he tortured someone—at least shuddered in the slightest? Did he acknowledge that he “was trespassing into the forbidden”—that he was crossing into a territory of cruelty outside the bounds of all humane decorum? Or, further, how could Joll not frequently repent for his mutilations—mustn’t he have a purifying ritual in order to pass from the hellish hours of his profession to the light of everyday human society? Unable to understand how such gruesome deeds could garner no remorse in a human being, the magistrate feels compelled to question Joll’s emotional relationship with his interrogation practices.

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“The space about us here is merely space, no meaner or grander than the space above the shacks and tenements and temples and offices of the capital. Space is space, life is life, everywhere the same. But as for me, sustained by the toil of others, lacking civilized vices with which to fill my leisure, I pamper my melancholy and try to find in the vacuousness of the desert a special historical poignancy. Vain, idle, misguided! How fortunate that no one sees me!”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs while the magistrate lingers among some of the ruins he likes to excavate; Joll and his men have recently departed on their expedition at this point in the plot.

Here, the magistrate expresses embarrassment at the seriousness and intellectual severity with which he pursues his quest to discover a secretly profound, but hidden and not yet known, historical richness to the desert around him. Even going so far as to sacrifice his reason in order to wager the existence of ghosts in the ruins he explores, the magistrate seems deeply invested in uncovering a connection with the past that will give a surge of intrigue to the present in which he lives. Trying to find “a special historical poignancy” to the frontier, which lacks the metropolitan glamour of the capital, the magistrate ultimately seems to feel shameful and “vain” for trying to unearth and excavate, in the external, physical world, what’s only a product of his imagination—a product of his nostalgia for a non-existent past he’s invented just as a way to “pamper” his own “melancholy.” Unable to realize, or admit to himself with any satisfaction, that the space—the atmosphere of life on the frontier—is ultimately made of the same physical substance proliferating life in the capital, the magistrate sees his life at the settlement as somehow innately predisposed to being inferior and passive in comparison to the intrigue and activity of the Empire’s central urban hub.

Yet the magistrate is fully aware of this mental habit of his—he’s aware of why he busies himself with his excavation hobby even to the point of imaginary, delusional excess. The magistrate knows that space is just space, and that the life he lives in the settlement has just as equal a possibility of vivacity and intrigue as that of the capital. Later in the novel, he even displays a belief in a register of time and historical unfolding that transcends the order of human society, such as the way humans like himself break up space by conceiving of it as having different parts with fundamentally different qualities—the way humans define the boundaries of their identities and social worlds by perceiving differences between themselves and others. Ultimately, the Empire’s “othering” of the barbarians exemplifies this way of perceiving space and meaning.

“. . . [I]t is the knowledge of how contingent my unease is, how dependent on a baby that wails beneath my window one day and does not wail the next, that brings the worst shame to me, the greatest indifference to annihilation. I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Colonel Joll has just made his first return to the settlement since departing on his military campaign, and the magistrate, irritated by Joll’s presence, begins to think about how much his life has changed since the colonel’s first arrival in town.

Here, the magistrate shows the unavoidable vulnerability he feels to the emotions taking over his mind—his overwhelming feelings in response to the brutality behind Joll’s interrogation tactics. The magistrate, unable to put his sense of horror and repulsion at the actions of Joll and his assistants in the background of his mind, cannot recover from the emotional instability and severe sensitivity it entails. Durably installed in his daily life, this “infection” of knowledge about Joll’s evils renders even the mere cries of a captured barbarian baby traumatic enough to sink his temperament into total “indifference to annihilation.” Though the magistrate says that he regrets having ever ventured forth to investigate the torture scene at the granary, he seems to imply that, deep down in his mind, he felt irrevocably compelled to discover the truth of Joll’s actions. Therefore, “the knot loops upon itself”—the knot of the magistrate’s own self-knowledge is endlessly undone and reformed. Infected by a knowledge of Joll’s techniques, the magistrate cannot definitively determine whether he’d rather be blissfully ignorant or woefully informed like he’s become. This new knowledge of the terrors of torture, therefore, has made his own self-knowledge—his old, more complete sense of self—loop endlessly upon itself in utter indecision.

“It would be best if this obscure chapter in the history of the world were terminated at once, if these ugly people were obliterated from the face of the earth and we swore to make a new start, to run an empire in which there would be no more injustice, no more pain. It would cost little to march them out into the desert . . . to have them dig, with their last strength, a pit large enough for all of them to lie in (or even dig it for them!), and, leaving them buried there forever and forever, to come back to the walled town full of new intentions, new resolutions.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Colonel Joll has just ceased his interrogations of the barbarian prisoners he’d taken, and re-departed the settlement to continue his campaign.

Here, the magistrate’s characteristic empathy and compassion for the barbarians takes an unusually dark turn. However, instead of wishing to kill the barbarian prisoners out of sheer racist malice, the magistrate seems just to want to “put them out of their misery” and eliminate from the face of the earth the marks of torture indelibly etched on their bodies by the gruesome actions of Joll. For the prisoners’ suffering is a monument to, a reminder of, “this obscure chapter in the history of the world”—the obscure chapter when the evils of Joll and company proliferated and blossomed. But the absence of racism in the magistrate’s fantasy about burying the prisoners alive doesn’t make it any more virtuous. It’s seems (at least until the clarification he offers in the next quote) like a selfish dream motivated by his desire to restore normalcy and tranquility to the frontier—an ideal atmosphere which the “ugly” victims of torture taint through their sheer existence. To wipe them away would wipe away any physical markers of the Empire’s evils, and create a space where “a new start,” one rid of injustice and cruelty, could be forged.

“But that will not be my way. The new men of Empire are the ones who believe in fresh starts, new chapters, clean pages; I struggle on with the old story, hoping that before it is finished it will reveal to me why it was that I thought it worth the trouble. Thus it is that, administration of law and order in these parts having today passed back to me, I order that the prisoners be fed, that the doctor be called in to do what he can, that the barracks return to being a barracks, that arrangements be made to restore the prisoners to their former lives as soon as possible, as far as possible.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs immediately after the last one; Joll has finished interrogating his prisoners and left the settlement to rejoin his expedition.

The magistrate is disavowing his recent fantasy about burying the barbarian prisoners in order to forge a fresh start—an Empire unmarked by any physical reminders of its past evils. For building new starts by erasing the past—by tidying and cleaning up the past through a repressive censorship—is not the magistrate’s style. The magistrate struggles on with the old story and tarries with the pain of the past in order to realize, whenever it ends and times change, and the evil behind such pain is rectified through justice, what made the struggle worthwhile in the first place. When society returns to being good and just, he hopes that the new life it affords him will make him realize—will make him palpably understand—what about life it was that made him keep going.

Chapter 2 Quotes

“But more often in the very act of caressing her I am overcome with sleep as if polelaxed, fall into oblivion sprawled upon her body, and wake an hour or two later dizzy, confused, thirsty. These dreamless spells are like death to me, or enchantment, black, outside time.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs during one of the magistrate’s massaging rituals with the barbarian girl; this takes place shortly after Joll has left the settlement to rejoin his expedition, after interrogating the barbarian prisoners.

Here we begin to see the conflicts arising around the magistrate’s relationship with the barbarian girl in a concrete form. Perhaps what’s most significant about this passage is the magistrate’s ambiguous association of death, and a simultaneous “enchantment” characterized by blackness and timelessness, to his experience of these sexualized spells. The magistrate’s entrance into these spells, these lulls of “oblivion” brought about by his sexualized massaging ritual with the girl, mark for him an exit from all ordinary experience. It’s as if the magistrate falls asleep while retaining the most minimal degree of consciousness necessary to have self-awareness, such that he goes into the deepest depths of his sleeping mind while still a tiny bit awake.

The magistrate therefore enters a mental state that is totally other to his ordinary experience. It’s significant that this state is triggered by his encounters with the barbarian girl. It speaks to the fact that the magistrate, through his sexualization of the barbarian girl—through his turning the caretaking of her injuries into a less than strictly medical enterprise—is beginning to enter a relationship with her where she’s somehow othered, or made into a figure that he finds himself unable or unwilling to identify with in a way that suggests the presence of empathy. Though this conflict is still in its initial stages at this point in the book, and its relation to the barbarian girl not yet explicit, this moment—where the magistrate notes this radically altered state of experience—signals that there’s something very peculiar about how his engagement with her affects him psychologically.

“It always pained me in the old days to see these people fall victim to the guile of shopkeepers, exchanging their goods for trinkets, lying drunk in the gutter, and confirming thereby the settlers’ litany of prejudice: that barbarians are lazy, immoral, filthy, stupid. Where civilization entailed the corruption of barbarian virtues and the creation of a dependent people, I decided, I was opposed to civilization; and upon this resolution I based the conduct of my administration. (I say this who now keeps a barbarian girl for my bed!)”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Joll has recently left the settlement to rejoin his expedition after torturing the barbarian prisoners he’d captured, and the magistrate has just noted that winter is settling in.

This passage reveals the sense of compassion which the magistrate has for the barbarians, and his willingness to criticize “civilization” when it only means corruption and prejudice. The magistrate isn’t unquestioningly devoted to the Empire, and is capable of seeing past the glittering surface of civility and observing its underlying evils. Further, he’s willing to forge his administration around opposing those evils—a political move which, on his part, is a risk to his own status, since those in power around him are involved in upholding such evils. The magistrate’s ability to see how the barbarians get cast as “lazy, immoral, filthy, and stupid” highlights his insights into the settlers’ racism, how they con the barbarians they trade with only to then blame them for how it impacts their lives. And yet at the same time the magistrate acknowledges his hypocrisy, for he himself “keeps a barbarian girl in his bed,” dehumanizing and “othering” her in his own way.

“Is this how her torturers felt hunting their secret, whatever they thought it was? For the first time I feel a dry pity for them: how natural a mistake to believe that you can burn or tear or hack your way into the secret body of the other. The girl lies in my bed, but there is no good reason why it should be a bed. I behave in some ways like a lover—but I might equally well tie her to a chair and beat her, it would be no less intimate.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs after the magistrate, having just paid a visit to the girl at the inn, returns to his apartment to rejoin the sleeping barbarian girl.

Here, the magistrate unearths a parallel between how he treats the barbarian girl and the way he thinks her torturers viewed her. It’s as if, through applying various techniques of torture to gain entry “into the secret body of the other”—into some hidden truth the girl was withholding about potential barbarian invasion plans—that the torturers were engaging in a process no less intimate than the magistrate’s own way of relating to and sexualizing the girl. Frustrated and disappointed by the girl’s constant elusiveness, by her enigmatic nature which refuses to yield to his sexual expectations, the magistrate feels a “dry pity” for the torturers’ belief that they could enter the girl’s mind absolutely. For he, like the torturers, engages in a similarly futile quest to enter and unravel the mind of the girl—to achieve a state of perfect understanding where the girl’s strange nature can be explained, and even manipulated in a way to conform with his desires.

In this way, the magistrate displays a violence analogous to that of the girl’s torturers. Though disguised as the proceedings of romantic and sexual desire, the magistrate’s relationship with the girl is one characterized by a violent, narcissistic drive to break open her lackluster outer personality and unveil a more desirable cluster of animate passions within. As such, the magistrate thinks that beating the girl would be no less intimate than wooing her, since both are essentially brutal.

“It is I who am seducing myself, out of vanity, into these meanings and correspondences. What depravity is it that is creeping upon me? I search for secrets and answers, no matter how bizarre, like an old woman reading tea-leaves. There is nothing to link me with torturers, people who sit waiting like beetles in dark cellars. How can I believe that a bed is anything but a bed, a woman’s body anything but a site of joy? I must assert my distance from Colonel Joll! I will not suffer for his crimes!”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl, Colonel Joll
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs shortly after the last one; the magistrate has returned to his apartment from a visit to the girl at the inn, rejoining the barbarian girl in bed.

The magistrate is beginning to feel like Joll’s merciless sense of entitlement and belief in having unadulterated access to the minds of his torture victims has infected his own mind. This brutish way of approaching the world—of standing before the world as if its people held hidden truths and secrets which one was owed and could ascertain with the right method and rigor—is the “depravity” the magistrate is wary has befallen him. For the magistrate now finds himself reading into the external world as if it were a “tea-leaf” possessing a secret, prophetic truth. But how, the magistrate questions here, could he possibly believe there to be some hidden, self-involved meaning behind the surface of things—how could a bed be something more profound than itself, or the body of the barbarian girl a haven of concealed, deeper truths, and not merely a zone of sexual pleasure? Thus, the magistrate feels compelled to assert his distance from Joll in order to “not suffer for his crimes”—to not suffer from the criminal, evil ways he views his relationship to things external to and different from him.

“I wish that these barbarians would rise up and teach us a lesson, so that we would learn to respect them. We think of the country here as ours, part of our Empire—our outpost, our settlement, our market centre. But these people, these barbarians don’t think of it like that at all. We have been here more than a hundred years, we have reclaimed land from the desert and built irrigation works and planted fields and built solid homes and put a wall around our town, but they still think of us as visitors, transients.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

The magistrate has invited the officer of a detachment of new conscripts to his settlement to dinner at the inn, and says this to him as they converse after their meal. The officer has just mentioned that there’s a rumor going around about the Empire launching a general offensive against the barbarians in the spring, and this perturbs the magistrate.

Here, the magistrate asserts his compassion for the barbarians as people who are as equally human as the Empire’s citizens, and who deserve the same possibilities for experiencing and preserving welfare and prosperity in their lives. But the magistrate does not just propose that the barbarians are equals—he goes a step further by condemning the Empire’s sense of superiority and entitlement, and insists that its people are mere outsiders in the desert, which, he emphasizes, is more truly the home and dominion of the barbarians. The willingness to so boldly profess his wish that the barbarians rise up and teach the Empire a lesson testifies to the devotion with which the magistrate upholds his moral convictions.

This passage also shows how the magistrate sees the barbarians as adhering to a more cyclical, “eternal” view of time than the Empire does—and this is partly why the magistrate idealizes and empathizes with the barbarians so much.

“I have hitherto liked to think that she cannot fail to see me as a man in the grip of a passion, however perverted and obscure that passion may be, that in the bated silences which make up so much of our intercourse she cannot but feel my gaze pressing in upon her with the weight of a body. I prefer not to dwell on the possibility that what a barbarian upbringing teaches a girl may be not to accommodate a man’s every whim, including the whim of neglect, but to see sexual passion, whether in horse or goat or man or woman, as a simple fact of life with the clearest of means and the clearest of ends; so that the confused actions of an aging foreigner who picks her up off the streets and installs her in his apartment so that he can now kiss her feet, now browbeat her, now anoint her with exotic oils, now ignore her, now sleep in her arms all night, now moodily sleep apart, may seem nothing but evidences of impotence, indecisiveness, alienation from his own desires.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl
Related Symbols: Blindness and Joll’s Sunglasses
Page Number: 63-4
Explanation and Analysis:

The magistrate has recently persuaded the officer he dined with not long ago to send out a party of men to retrieve the corpses of two soldiers who deserted his party. After saying that he wrote home to the soldier’s families informing them of their loss, the magistrate’s narration shifts to another massaging ritual with the girl.

The tension ushered into the magistrate’s sexuality by the barbarian girl’s enigmatic personality comes to a pinnacle here. The magistrate has liked to think that the tumult and confusion of his passion for the girl was hidden from her injured eyes; he’s considered her to be fully visible, susceptible to his every investigation, and therefore capable of being fully comprehended and understood, despite her ongoing elusiveness. At the same time, while he’s considered himself as looking upon her from this privileged view, he’s thought her to have no such special access to his own body and mind—he’s thought of her as a body which is only looked upon, but doesn’t look back. This habit of viewing the barbarian girl’s blindness, however, is buckling under a new doubt: that the girl, in fact, can see the confusion and weakness of the magistrate—that she can sense, through his actions, his “impotence” and “alienation.”

This doubt, therefore, marks a pivotal moment in the magistrate’s psychology. Instead of viewing himself as something completely whole, distinct from, and inaccessible to the girl, yet still capable of accessing the hidden depths of her personality for his own enjoyment and intellection, the magistrate at this moment finds what once was his sense of wholeness fractured and de-completed in a new way, by a troubling prospect: that the girl has more access to his mind, more wit to observe his motivations, than he previously thought.

At this moment, the girl ceases to have the status of a frustrating Other who ceaselessly resists what the magistrate thinks to be his piercing power of comprehension. Instead, she becomes something even more frustrating: an Other who still cannot be comprehended, but who herself comprehends the magistrate almost entirely, and has much more access into his psychology than he has heretofore liked to imagine.

Chapter 3 Quotes

“ . . . it has not escaped me that in bed in the dark the marks her torturers have left upon her, the twisted feet, the half-blind eyes, are easily forgotten. Is it then the case that it is the woman I want, that my pleasure in her is spoiled until these marks on her are erased and she is restored to herself; or is it the case (I am not stupid, let me say these things) that it is the marks on her which drew me to her but which, to my disappointment, I find, do not go deep enough? Too much or too little: is it she I want or the traces of a history her body bears?”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl
Related Symbols: Blindness and Joll’s Sunglasses
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

The magistrate has embarked on his trip to return the barbarian girl to her people, and this quote occurs in the early morning of the eighth day. The magistrate sleeps in the same tent with the girl, and they’ve just had sexual intercourse.

Here, as the magistrate continues to grapple with his inability to dig beneath the surface the barbarian girl—his failure to discover a hidden vitality within her—he wonders whether he’s seeking a depth within her that’s concealed by the marks of her torture, or a depth within the marks of torture themselves. Was he truly attracted to her in the first place, or rather to her scars? The ultimate question, perhaps, is whether the magistrate has dehumanized the girl to the extent that he’s merely using her to uncover “the traces of a history her body bears.” If the latter is the case, then the magistrate’s earlier worries about becoming infected with Joll’s tendency to approach his victims as if they bore a “truth” he was looking for were legitimate.

In approaching the girl’s marks as if they bear a deeper history, the magistrate not only reflects Joll’s obsession with the truth, but also the magistrate’s own earlier claim to tarry with the pain of the past, and not merely sweep it under the rug of history in order to form a “new” Empire supposedly divorced from its past. In remaining fixated on the girl’s wounds, the magistrate reflects this prior vow to keep the past in the view of the presented, but in a perverted form. Whereas the magistrate’s philosophy about remembering the past is divested of personal interest, the magistrate’s desire to uncover the girl’s particular past marks his desire to possess her and assimilate her enigmatic nature to his own understanding.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“I am aware of the source of my elation: my alliance with the guardians of the Empire is over, I have set myself in opposition, the bond is broken, I am a free man. Who would not smile? But what a dangerous joy! It should not be so easy to attain salvation. And is there any principle behind my opposition? Have I not simply been provoked into a reaction by the sight of one of the new barbarians usurping my desk and pawing my papers? As for this liberty which I am in the process of throwing away, what value does it have to me? Have I truly enjoyed the unbounded freedom of this past year in which more than ever before my life has been mine to make up as I go along?”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs shortly after the magistrate, having returned to the settlement from delivering the barbarian girl to her people, is arrested by Mandel on the charge of consorting with the barbarians.

Freed from his allegiance with the “guardians of the Empire,” the magistrate is overwhelmed with glee. Finally, the pressure to conform his own moral outlook to the anti-barbarian perspective fueling the Empire’s military campaign has been lifted. An extraordinary weight taken off his shoulders, the magistrate can now express himself freely; and even though the magistrate’s daring dissent towards the Empire has landed him in prison, the sheer freedom of being openly defiant and not coerced into social conformity is enough to outweigh the freedom lost with imprisonment. For, as the magistrate says, the liberty he possessed as a “free man” brought him no distinct joy.

That the magistrate calls Mandel a “new barbarian” is significant—it shows how, in the magistrate’s mind, the Empire’s military officials (such as Mandel) have usurped the position of the barbarians in his old worldview, in his mind prior to his arrest. Now that his allegiance with the Empire’s military officials has been severed, the magistrate is able to view them as a real foe—he can view the military as they view the barbarians.

“I stare all day at the empty walls, unable to believe that the imprint of all the pain and degradation they have enclosed will not materialize under an intent enough gaze; or shut my eyes, trying to attune my hearing to that infinitely faint level at which the cries of all who suffered here must still beat from wall to wall. I pray for the day when these walls will be levelled and the unquiet echoes can finally take wing; though it is hard to ignore the sound of brick being laid on brick so nearby.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs soon after the magistrate is arrested by Mandel after returning from his trip to return the barbarian girl to her people. The walls of his prison cell, he says, will not reveal the suffering they’ve contained in the past, no matter how hard he stares at them. Nor will the space around him emit the cries of past prisoners, however hard he tries to meditate. Here, therefore, we see another instance of the magistrate trying to connect to the tragedies of past histories, as well as read into the surface of external objects—like the walls around him—some profound meaning that remains as a trace of the past. Further, the magistrate’s prayer that the walls eventually be destroyed such that the “unquiet echoes” of the past will be freed and no longer contained reflects his fantasy, earlier in the novel, about burying Joll’s barbarian prisoners alive.

Whereas now, in his cell, the magistrate wants to let the suffering contained by the prison to be let into the boundless expanse of space outside, before, when he fantasized about burying the prisoners, he considered the possibility of erasing their pain from the face of the earth in order to grant the Empire a fresh start—a future unhindered by any reminders of its former evils. Though the two desires don’t exactly parallel one another, and though he attributes the latter to the likes of Joll, both nonetheless share the magistrate’s fixation with the idea of eliminating barriers so as to let dammed-up potentials be set free. Whereas the magistrate wants to let the pain and suffering of the past rush freely into the atmosphere, so that it’s no longer repressed by history and society, the Empire wants to eliminate the memory of the past entirely.

“Nevertheless, I should never have allowed the gates of the town to be opened to people who assert that there are higher considerations than those of decency. They exposed her father to her naked and made him quiver with pain; they hurt her and he could not stop them (on a day I spent occupied with the ledgers in my office). Thereafter she was no longer fully human, sister to all of us. Certain sympathies died, certain movements of the heart became no longer possible to her. I, too, if I live long enough in this cell with its ghosts not only of the father and the daughter but of the man who even by lamplight did not remove the black discs from his eyes and the subordinate whose work it was to keep the brazier fed, will be touched with the contagion and turned into a creature that believes in nothing.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker), The Barbarian Girl, Colonel Joll, The barbarian girl's father
Related Symbols: Blindness and Joll’s Sunglasses
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

This important quote occurs after the magistrate has been arrested (by Mandel) upon returning from his trip to return the barbarian girl to her people. In his cell, he’s ruminating about the girl. Finally, the magistrate is coming to terms with the enigmatically stoic nature of the barbarian girl’s personality—her lack of animated emotion and her seemingly depthless surface, devoid of passion. As he now begins to attribute her distant persona to the effects of being tortured, the magistrate comes to think: how could the girl be otherwise? Losing her humanity after the trauma of torture, she came to lose “certain movements of the heart.” What, then, might become of the magistrate himself? Under the dehumanizing strain of imprisonment, the magistrate fears that he, too, might soon devolve into the blankness which shrouded the girl’s life. He, too, might be infected by the mad actions of Joll’s men and be “turned into a creature,” not a ‘human’ per se, but a “creature that believes in nothing.”

“For me, at this moment, striding away from the crowd, what has become important above all is that I should neither be contaminated by the atrocity that is about to be committed nor poison myself with impotent hatred of its perpetrators. I cannot save the prisoners, therefore let me save myself. Let it at the very least be said, if it ever comes to be said, if there is ever anyone in some remote future interested to know the way we lived, that in this farthest outpost of the Empire of light there existed one man who in his heart was not a barbarian.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs as the magistrate, who’s escaped from his cell, looks upon the barbarian prisoners who Joll and his men have brought back from their expedition, and who are being lined up in front of the whole settlement to be publicly beaten.

Faced with the horrific possibility of witnessing the brutal mutilation of Joll’s prisoners, the magistrate, for once, decides that he should turn his face away from suffering: that he should resist being both traumatized by the violence itself and overwhelmed with hatred of its perpetrators. Whereas the magistrate has previously defended the virtues of facing suffering directly, he’s always referred to the suffering of the past, saying that one should struggle and tarry with its memory rather than try to erase it in order to forge a “fresh start.”

Here, however, the magistrate is faced with an imminent possibility of suffering, with a future pain—with the public display of anti-barbarian torture that is moments away. Though the magistrate ultimately stays and watches the violence unfold, the fact that he initially opts to turn from it suggests either that he’s become so unbearably dismayed by his imprisonment and the anti-barbarian society around him that he simply couldn’t stand the added distress of witnessing such an atrocity, or that he values struggling with and examining past suffering more than seeing it repeat itself in a future instance, or both.

Further, this passage also reveals the magistrate’s desire to go down in history with the reputation of being a good man among the otherwise evil populace of the Empire. Later, this desire intensifies into an aspiration for martyrdom.

Chapter 5 Quotes

“I am not unaware of what such daydreams signify, dreams of becoming an unthinking savage, of taking the cold road back to the capital, of groping my way out to the ruins in the desert, of returning to the confinement of my cell, of seeking out the barbarians and offering myself to them to use as they wish. Without exception they are dreams of ends: dreams not of how to live but of how to die. And everyone, I know, in that walled town . . . is similarly preoccupied.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

The magistrate has been released from imprisonment, and it’s been months since Joll’s expeditionary force has departed—yet there’s been no news of them at all. This quote occurs as the magistrate, after a leisurely stroll, wades into the lake near the village of the fisher-folk.

Once again, the magistrate’s preoccupation with the linear, beginning-to-end structure of time characteristic of the Empire’s society, and its conflict with the cyclical time of the seasons and natural world at large, comes to the fore here. This passage is significant because it shows how even though the magistrate is thinking about such possible escapes from life under the Empire as “groping [his] way out to the ruins in the desert” and “seeking out the barbarians” to offer himself to them, the linear patter of start-to-finish still plagues his way of thinking. The pattern has inscribed itself as such a deep level of his psychological processes that it’s become the very structure of his thought itself—it therefore seems inescapable. Even though he’s become an outsider to the Empire’s society, he still thinks like everyone “in that walled town,” who are “similarly preoccupied” with “dreams of ends.”

“What has made it impossible for us to live in time like fish in water, like birds in air, like children? It is the fault of Empire! Empire has created the time of history. Empire has located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the season but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe. Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 153-4
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs shortly after the last one. The magistrate has been released from imprisonment, and it’s been three months since Joll’s expeditionary force departed. After a leisurely walk, the magistrate is wading in the lake near the village of the fisher-folk.

Here, the magistrate distinguishes between two orders of time: the cyclical time of the season, and the linear time of human history, which rises and falls and is caught going from one pole to another—from beginning to end. Members of the Empire like the magistrate, he claims, are unable to experience the cyclical register of time, for the Empire’s way of plotting against history has tainted their perception of time. Instead of organizing itself according to cyclical structures which mirror the seasons, the Empire organizes its society according to survival: “how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era.” Therefore, the Empire “dooms itself to live in history and plot against history,” since it lives in a linear mode of time that naturally proceeds from beginning to end, yet simultaneously endeavors to prevent that natural procession, and forever forestall the arrival of the end. This meditation by the magistrate gives a sense that the “submerged mind of Empire” is profoundly alienated from the natural order of the world.

“To the last we will have learned nothing. In all of us, deep down, there seems to be something granite and unteachable. No one truly believes, despite the hysteria in the streets, that the world of tranquil certainties we were born into is about to be extinguished. No one can accept that an imperial army has been annihilated by men with bows and arrows and rusty old guns who live in tents and never wash and cannot read or write. And who am I to jeer at life-giving illusions? Is there any better way to pass these last days than in dreaming of a savior with a sword who will scatter the enemy hosts and forgive us the errors that have been committed by others in our name and grant us a second chance to build our earthly paradise?"

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

During what are thought to be the last days at the settlement in anticipation of a barbarian invasion, after having regained his leadership of the town, the magistrate notes that none of the remaining townspeople truly believe that the end is near. “The world of tranquil certainties” in which they have grown up, it appears, is too hard to give up; ultimately, the remaining settlers are incapable of being disillusioned about the supposedly insurmountable strength of their Empire and the safety they’ve always considered guaranteed. They cannot possibly accept that the primitive barbarians have defeated the military sophistication of the Empire’s army.

However, the magistrate says, how can one not endure these final days without such “life-giving illusions?” The belief in a savior who will defeat the barbarians and wash away the sins of the Empire’s army is almost a necessary delusion for survival. We might read this moment as the first time in the novel, therefore, that the magistrate forgoes his criticism of forging “fresh starts”—the mentality characteristic of the “new men of Empire,” and the Empire’s tendency to live in a linear register of time always proceeding from start to finish. Yet the magistrate asks for a savior who will forgive him and other dissenters like him for the misdeeds of people such as Joll—in this case, then, we might read the magistrate as not so much asking for a “fresh start,” but rather a chance to merely fix the wrongdoings of the past. In this way, the magistrate is still consistent with his previously stated beliefs.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“This is not the scene I dreamed of. Like much else nowadays I leave it feeling stupid, like a man who lost his way long ago but presses on along a road that may lead nowhere.”

Related Characters: The Magistrate (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Magistrate’s Dream
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

These are the last two sentences of the book, which the magistrate speaks after noting that winter is on its way again. His settlement (over which he’s regained leadership) is mostly deserted, and those who remain fear an imminent barbarian invasion. The magistrate then passes a scene similar to that which he’s often dreamed about—children building a castle in the snow—but he cannot find any meaning in this encounter, and so leaves it feeling “stupid” and continues on his way.

That the magistrate continues to press on along a road that guarantees no destination—that he forges on surviving without any indication of what his future will look like—indicates that the linear, start-to-finish, historical time characteristic of life in the Empire is fading from his perception of the world. The cyclical time he once romanticized—the time of the seasons, of the natural world indifferent to the aims and ends of human affairs—is now sweeping him up in the uncertainty of utter aimlessness. Though the magistrate puts this way of viewing the world on a pedestal—as something superior to linearity, and which still flourishes in the untarnished, uncivilized minds of children (and perhaps barbarians), and is as natural, so he says, as the relationship which fish have with water—he seems to have always thought of this cyclical way of living as something which humans themselves should celebrate through the way they organize their society. This way of perceiving the world, he thinks, should be expressed through human action.

Now, however, with the society around him crumbling and the threat of an imminent barbarian invasion, the prospect of one day creating an ideal society uncorrupted by the Empire’s lust for expansion and self-preservation (the preservation of its identity’s rigid contours as cut-off from and separate the barbarians) and more attuned to the ambiguous fluidity of a heterogenous, cyclical world, has dimmed. Though he’s left with a sense of the cyclical time he once idolized, it’s now only a force of destruction. With no stable social world around him to cultivate and celebrate cyclicality through its culture and organization, the magistrate is left alone with the destructive shadows of what once was a wondrous force.

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The Magistrate Character Timeline in Waiting for the Barbarians

The timeline below shows where the character The Magistrate appears in Waiting for the Barbarians. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Waiting for the Barbarians opens onto a conversation between the magistrate and Colonel Joll; the magistrate narrates, beginning the novel with a comment on Joll’s sunglasses—he’s... (full context)
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Joll describes a hunt he participated in, and killing a “mountain” of animals. The magistrate discusses hunting and fishing in the settlement, emphasizing the cycle of the seasons and migrations... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration then cuts to another conversation with Joll. They are in a hut next to... (full context)
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...prisoners are a young boy and his uncle. Going up to the barbarian boy, the magistrate says “we want to talk to you,” but the boy does not respond. A guard... (full context)
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The magistrate then turns to the barbarian man, and explains why he’s been arrested. He explains that... (full context)
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The magistrate tells Joll that they haven’t taken any prisoners in a very long time, and explains... (full context)
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The magistrate then once again suggests that the barbarian man, the older prisoner, was telling the truth... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration then shifts to a point after Joll’s interrogation. He notes that, despite peoples’ claims... (full context)
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The magistrate quotes the report that Colonel Joll gave him regarding the interrogation. With robotic formality and... (full context)
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The magistrate then says he summoned the guard present at the interrogation to make a statement, since... (full context)
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After dismissing the guard, the magistrate visits the granary, where the barbarian boy is still being held. He notices that the... (full context)
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The magistrate and the guard then carry the corpse out of the granary into the yard, where... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that he never wanted to become embroiled in such an ugly situation—he just... (full context)
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The magistrate, however, says that ever since stories began to circulate from the capital about “unrest among... (full context)
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The magistrate then notes that, in the capital, the primary concern was that the northern and western... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration shifts to an account of a dream-—later on we realize that this sequence of... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration then shifts to his arrival at the granary; he’s decided to investigate what was... (full context)
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The magistrate then wakes the barbarian boy up, and tells him that he’s been having a bad... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that he called in the only doctor at the fort to tend to... (full context)
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While Joll hears the magistrate out, the magistrate thinks that the Colonel is leading him on a little, and suspects... (full context)
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The magistrate notes that Colonel Joll and his company of soldiers begin to make preparations for their... (full context)
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The magistrate notes that, since Joll’s second day at his fort, he’s been too upset by Joll’s... (full context)
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The magistrate says that, later that night, he dreams of a body lying on its back, with... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that his last act of courtesy to Colonel Joll is to ride out... (full context)
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As the magistrate is returning to the fort, he passes a cluster of sand dunes in the distance,... (full context)
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The magistrate then describes how, one evening, heeding the rumors of children, he went out to the... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration then shifts to the fourth day after Colonel Joll’s campaign has departed, and he... (full context)
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After a couple of days pass, the magistrate notes that the prisoners “seem to forget they ever had another home,” as they are... (full context)
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The magistrate notes that after a few days of the “barbarians’” captivity, he and the guards begin... (full context)
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Then, in the middle of the night, Colonel Joll returns. The magistrate looks upon Joll’s company of men with dread: they’ve brought back a group of prisoners... (full context)
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After Colonel Joll takes a day to rest, he begins his interrogations. The magistrate mentions that, though he once thought Joll lazy, he now sees that the Colonel is... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that the joy has gone from his life. He spends the day “playing... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration then goes directly to the next night with the girl at the inn, and... (full context)
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The magistrate describes a meeting he has with Joll in his office back at the barracks. Wearing... (full context)
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The first thing the magistrate does after Joll’s departure is to release the prisoners back into the yard. When he... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The magistrate notices that a barbarian woman is in the town begging; after giving her a coin,... (full context)
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The magistrate then tells the barbarian woman that they don’t allow vagrants in the town, and that,... (full context)
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After a day passes, the magistrate finds the barbarian girl (he no longer calls her a woman) again and tells her... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration shifts to presumably the next day; he watches the barbarian girl eat, still unconvinced... (full context)
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The magistrate describes another instance of washing the barbarian girl’s feet. This time, the encounter is more... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration then shifts to yet another washing and massage, this time referring to the procedure... (full context)
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The magistrate says that he’s hired the barbarian girl as a scullery-maid in the kitchen, and mentions... (full context)
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The magistrate says that he interviewed the guards who were on duty when the prisoners were interrogated... (full context)
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...the man’s daughter was with him, and that she tried to make him eat. The magistrate then asks what happened to the man’s daughter, acknowledging that it’s no secret that the... (full context)
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That night, the magistrate experiences his recurring dream. In it, he once again approaches the hooded child building a... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narration shifts, and he discusses how winter has arrived. He says that the soldiers on... (full context)
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The magistrate then mentions how, one morning hunting, he came across a waterbuck, “a ram with heavy... (full context)
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The magistrate awkwardly decides to interrogate the barbarian girl about why she’s with him, but she only... (full context)
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The magistrate describes how he’s grown weary of his attachment to the ritual of massaging the barbarian... (full context)
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After sleeping with the girl at the inn, the magistrate goes back to his apartment at the barracks. Returning to bed with the barbarian girl,... (full context)
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The magistrate begins to visit the girl at the inn regularly. During the days, when he fantasizes... (full context)
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The magistrate adds that he’s visited the girl at the inn three nights in a row, and... (full context)
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The magistrate then notes that a group of new conscripts has arrived at his settlement from the... (full context)
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The magistrate continues to defend the barbarians—though he thinks he’d better stop, he can’t help but provoke... (full context)
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The conversation ends on a bitter note, and the magistrate shifts to another account of his recurring dream. This time, as he approaches the hooded... (full context)
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The magistrate then notes that the recurring dream has firmly taken root in the life of his... (full context)
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The magistrate gets news of the fate of two soldiers who deserted Joll’s company—they froze to death... (full context)
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After the two corpses are retrieved and buried, the magistrate’s narration shifts to another moment of intimate massaging with the barbarian girl. This time, the... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The magistrate notes that spring is on its way, and says that he’s decided to take the... (full context)
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The magistrate says that the group eats well on the first leg of the trip, but that’s... (full context)
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...old lagoon. The men dig into the soil and find good water. At night, the magistrate notes that the barbarian girl is at ease conversing with the other men, who make... (full context)
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Later, when the magistrate and the barbarian girl are in their tent asleep, the magistrate wakes up to find... (full context)
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The group gets on its way the next day, and the guide tells the magistrate that they are probably one or two days away from seeing the mountains—the territory of... (full context)
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The magistrate awakens to hear a voice calling to him. It’s one of the men—bad weather is... (full context)
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...believes he sees the mountains they’re seeking, but the specks he points to are, the magistrate says, actually three barbarian men on horseback. He concludes, therefore, that the group is nearly... (full context)
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...group slowly advances towards the barbarians, trying to conserve the strength of their horses. The magistrate again decides to ride out alone to the men on the horizon. Now there are... (full context)
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Finally the magistrate says that they’ve reached the foothills of the mountains. He and his companions finally understand... (full context)
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The magistrate tells the barbarian girl that he’ll help her up the slope to the horsemen, and... (full context)
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The barbarian girl tells the magistrate that the horsemen would like to take the girl’s horse, but the magistrate says that—considering... (full context)
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As the magistrate and his group start to head back to the settlement, he notes that spring has... (full context)
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...their route, one of the two soldiers contracts an infection on his foot, and the magistrate scolds him for not changing his footcloths daily. A quiet tension grows between the magistrate... (full context)
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When the group finally returns to the settlement, the magistrate is surprised by the way they’re greeted by the fort’s guards. The horsemen who trot... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The fourth chapter begins as the magistrate describes a man (Officer Mandel) sitting at his desk in the office behind the courtroom—a... (full context)
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The magistrate describes his living conditions in captivity: he’s fed the same rations as the soldiers, and... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that, by offering the barbarian girl protection, he was, in a way, taking... (full context)
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The magistrate then remarks that, even though the guards have been ordered not to discuss anything with... (full context)
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The magistrate’s narrative then shifts—he’s back in his office, which has been cleared of all his things.... (full context)
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Escorted back to his cell, the magistrate’s narration then revolves around the humiliations he faces as a prisoner—he’s denied requests for clean... (full context)
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The magistrate continues to contemplate the barbarian girl—he can no longer remember exactly what she looks like.... (full context)
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The magistrate says that “the texture of the days” are “as dull as porridge.” The intricate flow... (full context)
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Later that night, the magistrate escapes from his cell. He goes to an upper room in the barracks, one next... (full context)
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...gracefully from the window onto the ground and landing behind a row of bushes, the magistrate lies there for at least an hour, he says, when he could be trying to... (full context)
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Awaking later to the sound of footsteps on the stairway, the magistrate, undiscovered, makes his way to the room of the girl at the inn. There, he... (full context)
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The girl at the inn enters the room, and the magistrate contemplates revealing himself and asking her to hide him until nightfall, when he’d plan to... (full context)
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The magistrate also longs for sexual contact with a woman’s body, and wonders how he could ever... (full context)
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...that he doesn’t understand. Suddenly, they begin to make love—on the bed under which the magistrate is hiding. The magistrate, repulsed, plugs his ears. He actually groans to himself, though they... (full context)
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The magistrate exits the kitchen and tries to leave the settlement through the north gate, but it’s... (full context)
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Having been completely unrecognized by the guard, the magistrate leaves him and climbs down the watchtower steps, and exits the settlement. Looking at the... (full context)
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Returning to the gate of the barracks yard, the magistrate yells to be let back in. His warder comes up to him, and commands that... (full context)
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Later that night, Joll’s expedition force returns, and the magistrate decides to give into temptation and leave his cell to check out all the hubbub... (full context)
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The magistrate then catches sight of Colonel Joll. Feeling like he’s going to be sick, the magistrate... (full context)
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The magistrate sees Colonel Joll holding up a four-pound hammer, displaying it to the audience—and they trade... (full context)
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In his cell, the magistrate writhes about and weeps in pain, awaking eventually in the afternoon of the next day... (full context)
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The magistrate then describes a scene in his old office. Joll sits behind his desk, and Officer... (full context)
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The magistrate doesn’t really know what any of the characters on the slips mean, even though he’s... (full context)
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Unamused by the magistrate’s translations, Joll asks him what he envisions of his future at the post, since he’s... (full context)
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The magistrate is back in his cell. He lies “in the reek of old vomit obsessed with... (full context)
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The magistrate then mentions a scene in the prison yard—he’s naked, an audience is gathered, and Mandel... (full context)
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The magistrate says that, one day, Mandel and his assistant throw open his cell door and hand... (full context)
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Still hoping that the men are just playing, but terrified nonetheless, the magistrate says that he wants people to know that “nothing passed between [him]self and the barbarians... (full context)
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The magistrate then returns to consciousness of the present moment—his feet touch the ground, “though they are... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The fifth chapter begins with the magistrate describing the hysterical gossip about the barbarians which has overtaken the fort. The barbarians, people... (full context)
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The magistrate says that he lives in a corner of the barracks yard, more disgraced than ever,... (full context)
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One day, the magistrate says, Mandel approaches him in the yard and says that the expenditures to keep him... (full context)
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The magistrate says that, with his new freedom, he cannot hide from anyone—he’s constantly on view in... (full context)
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The magistrate says that he now sings (begs) for his keep, and can usually get the maids... (full context)
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The magistrate is rather forthright about his sexuality with Mai, saying how in prison he only thought... (full context)
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The magistrate says that it’s been almost three months since the second expeditionary force departed—and there’s been... (full context)
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The magistrate, continuing to discuss the soldiers’ new sense of power, mentions that they are fawned-upon by... (full context)
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Continuing down the road, the magistrate eventually begins to wade into an expanse of marshland, and fantasizes about joining the fisherfolk... (full context)
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The Empire, the magistrate continues, lives its existence out in the “jagged time of rise and fall.” Concerned with... (full context)
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The magistrate, finding his way back to dry land, falls asleep. Later he wakes up and makes... (full context)
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In the hut, the magistrate says that he would like to fall asleep, but his impact with the girl has... (full context)
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Continuing on his tangent about the barbarian girl, the magistrate says that she will be forever marked “for life as the property of a stranger,”... (full context)
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Presumably falling asleep in the hut, the magistrate experiences yet again his recurring dream. He dreams that he’s heading towards the barbarian girl... (full context)
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The magistrate awakes and his mouth is wet with kisses—a dog has been licking his face. He... (full context)
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The soldier and his fellows, however, do not heed the magistrate’s words, and continue on their path of destruction. They snap the roof off a hut... (full context)
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Standing back in the road, the magistrate waits for his anger to subside, and he recalls an instance from the days when... (full context)
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The magistrate says that he remembers feeling ill at ease on days where he would have to... (full context)
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The magistrate says that two horsemen, less than a mile away, have been spotted crossing the bare... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that this event confirms every premonition of danger among the townspeople, adding that... (full context)
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The magistrate begs the gatekeeper of the garrison to allow the fisherfolk back inside their establishment, since... (full context)
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Returning from the courthouse to the town square, the magistrate finds Mandel reading a statement announcing the “temporary” withdrawal of the majority of soldiers stationed... (full context)
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The magistrate notes that, as Mandel speaks, his men are clearly stocking their carriages with the fruits... (full context)
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The magistrate says that his old apartment stands open—it has been vacant for a while now, the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The magistrate begins the last chapter by acknowledging that, sometimes, there are fresh hoofprints in the fields... (full context)
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That magistrate has once again taken the lead of the garrison. Mandel has only left the settlement... (full context)
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The magistrate then describes a visit by Colonel Joll. One night, at two o’clock in the morning,... (full context)
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The men, however—as the magistrate points out—are starved and exhausted, and barely pay any attention to him. The magistrate stares... (full context)
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...the Colonel’s comes running up and shouts that they must get on their way. The magistrate, however, grips this assistant’s arm and demands to know what happened on the frontier. Reluctantly,... (full context)
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After Joll’s carriage and company leave, the magistrate’s narration shifts, and he says that digging on one of the settlement’s well-sites (the third)... (full context)
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The magistrate describes a dream where he’s in the well-pit, digging again. He feels under the surface... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that he hasn’t slept with a woman since he returned from his expedition... (full context)
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The magistrate therefore calls on Mai—the inn has closed down, since there were too few customers—to come... (full context)
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The magistrate and Mai discuss the barbarian girl. Mai says that she—and everyone else who knew the... (full context)
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...since “life is too short to spend worrying about the future.” Further, she tells the magistrate that she knows she doesn’t please him during sex—she can always sense that he’s “somewhere... (full context)
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The magistrate says that this comment by Mai opens “a door through which a wind of utter... (full context)
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The magistrate then says that Mai sleeps better downstairs in the kitchen—she likes to wake up near... (full context)
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The magistrate then discusses how, in the evenings, as long as his ration of firewood lasts, he... (full context)
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The magistrate imagines that, perhaps at the end of winter, when either he and the rest of... (full context)
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The novel ends with the magistrate narrating a scene that resembles his recurring dream, only it actually is from real life.... (full context)