The last time I attended a hanging in the prison it was a murder, not a suicide. I arrived too late to bring the hanged man back to life: for, if there are degrees of deadness, he was by then already very dead.

The cellmate of the hanged man did not so much confess as boast that he had intimidated the dead man into hanging himself. He had threatened to cut his throat in his sleep if he did not hang himself first, and the man, who was two weeks from his release, chose the rope—or rather, the bedsheet torn into strips, dampened and braided into a noose. The cellmate helped him up on to the chair and obligingly kicked it away from under him.

The hanging before last that I attended was complicated by the fact that the dead man had on his chest a small puncture wound that penetrated to his heart, inflicted by the thrust of a ball-point pen, which I had not...