In Lucien’s satirical A True Story his hero is swallowed by a two hundred and fifty kilometre whale. Inside the whale’s belly he discovers an entire new world, with mountains and lakes, fish and birds, and… people: lots of people, normal and monstrous that have evolved into many different cultures. And it is the other people rather than the condition of being in the whale’s belly itself that makes life a trauma for those imprisoned there. Survival means to struggle against the others, the enemies. There are even tax collectors. But for Lucien’s absurd hero the situation is easily overcome. Like a good citizen of the Roman empire he is armed with the latest weapons whilst his enemies only possess fish bones. The solution is easy. We fight. We win. Pax romana, and then settle down to a life of sports, hunting, raising vines and gathering fruit from the trees. And now comes a brilliant piece of satirical, paradox from Lucien: it was, in a word, like living a luxurious and untrammelled life in a vast prison from which there was no escape.
A luxurious and stress-free prison. Surely, only a human soul could ever sense such an illogical thing. And yet it could well be our paradoxical longing for and our desperate fear of Paradise that is the best explanation for so many of our ridiculous acts and our absurd human condition.