"Hell is the impossibility of reason"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 15:02:26 UTC 2010

In the movie _Platoon_ (1986), scenarist-director Oliver Stone attributes
this proverb to "somebody once wrote...."  Stone later said that "I had
heard that quote somewhere years ago and I remembered it when I got to
Vietnam [in 1968]."

My searches reveal no likely antecedents. I suspect that Stone unconsciously
revised something else.

A plausible antecedent is the following, from a Jesuit source.  It is
unlikely that Stone was familiar with it:

1874 Edward Ignatius Purbrick_May Papers_ (London: Burns & Oates) 146: Hell
is the impossibility of loving; the impossibility of not loving is heaven."

The same definition of Hell was once offered as a paraphrase of Dostoevsky,
but the date here is far too late for Stone to have read it before 1968:

1975  Henri Peyre _French Literary Imagination and Dostoevsky_  (University,
Ala.: U. of Alabama P.) 34:"To hate one's own species in oneself, is not
that Hell?" (_L'Imposture_), which almost parallels the famous cry of The
Brothers Karamazov: "*Hell is the impossibility of loving*."

In any event, Stone's own definition of Hell (with many thousands of  RGs)
seems to count as an original inspiration even if suggested by something


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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