Night Flight to Freetown
1 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chi-
cago Press, 1958), 33.
2 During the last few months of 2001, before I decided to go to Sierra
Leone, I had had recurring dreams that were, in retrospect, aligned
along a single thread. In one, I found myself on a cli√ path high above
the sea, desperately looking for a handhold on the crumbling rock so
that I could pull a friend, who had slipped over the edge, to safety. In
another, I was in a quagmire of tar pits, entangled lianas, and quicksand,
struggling to keep my daughter from being dragged down into the mire.
In another I watched as the sea broke through the sand ramparts of a
beach castle I had built. In still another, I was thrown from my bicycle
onto a hedge that ran along a cli√ top, again above the sea. As my
daughter tried to clamber up on to the hedge, I struggled for a foothold
so that I could push her back to the safety of the street. In all these
dreams, I surmised that it was a part of myself I was trying to save, and
that the images signaled a deep ambivalence about letting go, taking
chances, casting myself adrift in the world, and being swept away. Yet I
knew that this was precisely what I had to do if I was to revitalize my
thinking and my writing.
3 In On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1963) Hannah Arendt points out
that the violence and radicalism that haunt revolutionary struggle in the
twentieth century were not fundamental to the first ‘‘modern’’ revolu-