We remained silent for a moment and then I said, "You're going to get yourself killed for nothing."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Does anyone ever get killed for something? Is there anything that's worth a life?"
"Ah! So that's the way you think," I said.
I paused. I had developed the habit of never saying what I really thought. "It seems to me that useful results are sometimes achieved."
"Do you think so?" Garnier asked. He was silent for a moment, and then something suddenly unloosed itself in him. "Suppose the negotiations had been successful? Do you believe our victory would have ultimately proven itself useful? Have you ever thought of the tasks the Republic would have had to accomplish? Refound society, moderate the party, satisfy the people, bring the rich under our subjection, and conquer the whole of Europe because all the other nations would immediately band together against us. All that to face, and we're only a small minority. And we lack political experience in the bargain. In fact it might very well be a stroke of luck for the Republic that it didn't triumph today."
I looked at him in surprise. I had often said these very same things to myself, but I never imagined that any of them had ever entertained such ideas.
"Then what made you start this insurrection?" I asked.
"We don't have to count on the future to give a meaning to our acts. If that were the case, all action would be impossible. We have to carry on our fight the way we decided to carry it on. That's all."
I had kept the gates of Carmona closed and I counted on nothing.
"I've done a lot of thinking about that," he said with a dry smile.
"Then you've chosen to die out of hopelessness, is that right?"
"I've never felt that things were hopeless because I've never hoped for anything."
"Is it possible to live without hope?"
"Yes, if you believe in something with absolute certainty."
"As for me, I believe in nothing," I said.
"For me, just being a man is the greatest thing possible."
"A man among men."
"Yes, that's enough. That's well worth living for —and dying for."
"Are you sure your comrades think the same way you do?" I asked.
"Try asking them to surrender!" he said. "Too much blood has been spilled. Now we have to fight it out to the end."
"But they don't know that nothing came of the negotiations."
"Go ahead and tell them if you like," he said in an angry voice. "What do they care? What do I care about your deliberations, their decisions and counter-decisions? We swore we'd defend the district and we'll defend it, that's all."
"This fighting here at the barricades is only one part of your battle. To finish it, you have to go on living."
He stood up, leaned against the fragile rampart and looked down the deserted street. "Maybe I don't have enough patience," he said.
"You don't have patience," I shot back rapidly," because you're afraid of death."
"That may be true," he admitted.
Suddenly he seemed far from me. His eyes were glued to the street through which death would soon come charging, a death he had chosen. The stakes were blazing, the wind was scattering the ashes of the two Augustinian monks. There is only one good: to act according to one's conscience. Stretched out on his bed, Antonio was smiling. They were neither insane nor bloated with pride; I understood them now. They were men who wanted to fulfill their destinies as men by choosing their own lives and deaths: free men.
Garnier fell at the next charge. By morning, the insurrection had been crushed.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 311