‘Flowering Judas’ by Katherine Anne Porter

Porter is one of those authors who, on reading their work for the first time, leads me to wonder why it’s taken me so long to find them. ‘Flowering Judas’ is the story of Laura, a young American teacher who has joined the Mexican revolution and finds herself the subject of three warring agitators’ attentions. Although she is desired by these men, ironically, her commitment to the cause is doubted as one of her suitors says that he…

cannot understand why she works so hard for the revolutionary idea unless she loves some man who is in it.

Meanwhile, Laura fears that she is becoming as corrupt as they are. She runs errands for the men but is haunted by the knowledge that her actions may have led to some person’s undeserving death. She is a romantic, disillusioned by the vanity of the so-called revolutionaries and the life she has ended up with. A sense of disaster stalks her, which manifests in the form of a dream, one in which the man whose death Laura believes herself complicit in haunts her. Her ideals are as dust; it is the way of all things…

Some day this world, now seemingly so composed and eternal, to the edges of every sea shall be merely a tangle of gaping trenches, of crashing walls and broken bodies. Everything must be torn from its accustomed place where it has rotted for centuries, hurled skyward and distributed, cast down again clean as rain, without separate identity. Nothing shall survive that the stiffened hands of poverty have created for the rich and no-one shall be left alive except the elect spirits destined to procreate a new world cleansed of cruelty and injustice, ruled by benevolent anarchy…

From Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Penguin Classics, 2011

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