"Poison is unreliable; most of the time, they will
not touch it. On the other hand, sulfur smoke is thorough and quick.
It was unfortunate it had not occurred to them before /.../
The mice felt nothing for a long time; the fumes seeped into the nest
with difficulty. When the pungency penetrated their nostrils, they instinctively
thrust their heads together. That was how they waited. After a couple
of minutes, they dashed out headlong onto the barricaded route - only
one of the females failed to move. And not out of fright or cunning:
she was simply more spent than the others. She was nearing the twenty-fourth
day, while the other female was in about the fifteenth day.
Her three companions underwent a strange transformation outside. At
first, they circled around the box at the utmost speed; then they clambered
up to the table and every shelf one after the other, all the way to
the highest one, and, circling, they searched everywhere for the entrance
to the nest. This circling became their sole preoccupation. And they
experienced an increasingly uncontrollable force within themselves.
If they collided, they instantly bit and did not release the other from
between their teeth, and continued to circle, entangled. Then suddenly,
almost at the same instant, they grew limp. Wherever this weariness
overtook them, they tumbled over, their heads shuddering, and began
to stretch out ever longer. They stretched out until they were improbably
long. Then, convulsing rapidly, they fell off the shelf. Soon the door
opened. Impatience about the results presses in every similar case /.../
They pictured what could have happened. They even did some calculations.
The female gives birth to six to eight young twenty to twenty-one days
after mating. And she gives birth five or six times a year. Thus the
offspring of each approaches thirty. And at least half of the six to
eight offspring are females and those again do likewise /.../ One cannot
even examine it in detail, just draw it like a family tree. Then, it
cannot even be drawn, only noted with abstract signs, with numbers,
each of which lives and keeps on multiplying. Geometrical progression.Yes,
this is it. Geometrical progression. And suddenly, as with some unexpectedly
discovered jewel, they tossed this expression about. And thereupon the
balance of clear conscience was also restored, and gained in refinement
through irrefutable mathematics."
(from: A Report on Five Mice, 1958)
"His stories are enshrouded in a tragic aura. They offer readers
the arduous but not absolutely futile labor of Sisyphus: the hope that
the persistent questionings of the human condition, though not likely
to lead to answers, are certain to empower them to face reality."