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In his memoirs, Chronicles of Wasted Time, Malcolm Muggeridge tells of events that took place in Africa in 1943. He was forty years old but his experience of those four decades had been of progressive disillusionment.

After Cambridge he spent three years in India, which shattered his early religious beliefs; and two years in Stalin’s Russia, which left his idealistic materialism in ruins. Even the Second World War only led to further disillusionment. He tried to enlist but was turned down on health grounds. He was accepted as a spy in the British Secret Service, but found that being stuck in Lorenco Marques, monitoring the German disruption of Allied shipping, far from glamorous. As a result he says: “Much of the time I spent wishing I was dead”.

To cut a long story short, one night, in sheer despair, he decided to end his life. He drove the six miles out of town, undressed, left his clothes on the beach, waded out in the dark cold water and started swimming. Quickly he was out of sight of the beach and could see only the lights from the distant town. But all of a sudden he began to tremble and then, without thinking or deciding, he began to swim back to the shore, his eyes fixed on the glow from Peter’s Café and the Costa da Sol. He says of them: “They were the lights of the world; they were the lights of my home, my habitat, where I belonged. I must reach them. There followed an overwhelming joy such as I had never...

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