Saturday, January 25, 2020



Primo Levi (1919-1987), The Periodic Table, tr. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Schocken Books, 1984), p. 24:
What were we able to do with our hands? Nothing, or almost nothing. The women, yes—our mothers and grandmothers had lively, agile hands, they knew how to sew and cook, some even played the piano, painted with watercolors, embroidered, braided their hair. But we, and our fathers?

Our hands were at once coarse and weak, regressive, insensitive: the least trained part of our bodies. Having gone through the first fundamental experiences of play, they had learned to write, and that was all. They knew the convulsive grip around the branches of a tree, which we loved to climb out of a natural desire and also (Enrico and I) out of a groping homage and return to the origins of the species; but they were unfamiliar with the solemn, balanced weight of the hammer, the concentrated power of a blade, too cautiously forbidden us, the wise texture of wood, the similar and diverse pliability of iron, lead, and copper. If man is a maker, we were not men: we knew this and suffered from it.

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