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In my high school's Western Lit class (1980s), the teacher, Mr. Carlson, handed out three short stories on the theme of modernism and existentialism. One was "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Hemingway and another was "The Blue Bouquet" by Octavio Paz, but I can't remember what the third was. It was a short story about a man traveling by train when a cannibal visits him in his compartment. The cannibal plans to eat the narrator and tries to convince him he should let this happen. In the end the narrator escapes (perhaps by pulling the brake cable and maybe through the window but these could be false memories) but he has unease at losing this possible "purpose" in life.

Does anyone know what this story is called and who the is author?

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Slightly disturbingly it was only the third of the short stories I found about cannibalism on trains that seemed to fit…

'Journey Through The Night' by Jacov Lind seems to fit the description. There doesn't appear to be much written about it online, but I found this brief extract at JacovLind.com as well as a summary of the plot of the film made of the story:

The fellow-passenger looked still paler in the bluish light. His nose was straight, his lips thin, his teeth uncommonly small. He had slick hair like a seal. A moustache, that's what he needs. He could do a balancing act on his nose. Under his clothes he is wet. Why doesn't he show his tusks?

After 'that's how it is' he said nothing. That settled everything. Now he is smoking.

His skin is grey, that's obvious – it's taut, too. If he scratches himself it will tear. What else is there to look at? He has only one face and his suitcase. What else has he got in the suitcase? Tools? Saw, hammer and chisel? Maybe a drill? What does he need a drill for? To bore holes in skulls?

As well as this plot summary of the film version, submitted by user 'Bob the Moo' at IMDB.com

A man is travelling on a long haul express train journey from Amsterdam to Paris. He shares his sleeper compartment with another man who he engages in conversation. He learns that the man is a cannibal who intends to kill and eat him. The man is unsure of where his life is going and begins to be swayed by the cannibal's assertions that being eaten would give his life meaning and purpose.

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  • I found a copy of "Journey Through the Night" in Lind's short story collection Soul of Wood which is available at the Internet Archive. This is surely the story I am remembering; thanks! I suspect that one of the short stories you found involving trains and cannibals was Twain's "Cannibalism in the cars". What was the second one you found before arriving on Lind's? Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 22:21
  • Oh some thing about New York being secretly run by some cannibalistic city fathers who live in the subway and eat people. Hang on… The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_Blood
    – Spagirl
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 0:58
  • "The Midnight Meat Train" was the one that popped into my head, courtesy of having scene the trailer for the movie adaptation. Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 20:11
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I believe it was "Cannibalism in the Cars" by Mark Twain. I love that story! PDF available for free online!

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    Hi! Welcome to our site. Could you provide some supporting information on how the story you suggest matches what the OP is looking for? Stick around and take our tour and visit the help center to get a feel of the types of how the site works and the answers that will be well received.
    – Skooba
    Commented Mar 19 at 17:14

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