“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealisable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.” – Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival.
Dear old Primo. I haven’t read The Politics of Survival, and I thought I’d read everything that the old chemist had written, so that’s something to look forward to.
I stumbled on this quote while meandering around the Internet in search of books to download. I’ve mentioned that I thought I’d already read everything by Levi, but that didn’t stop me having a look-see in case I had overlooked anything. Being a dullard sometimes pays off in the long run, not something that Primo would agree with I would imagine.
Let’s finish with another quote…
“I too entered the Lager as a nonbeliever, and as a nonbeliever I was liberated and have lived to this day. Actually, the experience of the Lager with its frightful iniquity confirmed me in my nonbelief. It has prevented me, and still prevents me, from conceiving of any form of providence or transcendant justice‚Ä¶ I must nevertheless admit that I experienced (and again only once) the temptation to yield, to seek refuge in prayer.
“This happened in October 1944, in the one moment in which I lucidly perceived the imminence of death‚Ä¶ naked and compressed among my naked companions with my personal index card in hand, I was waiting to file past the ‚Äòcommission‚Äô that with one glance would decide whether I should go immediately into the gas chamber or was instead strong enough to go on working. For one instance I felt the need to ask for help and asylum; then, despite my anguish, equanimity prevailed: one does not change the rules of the game at the end of the match, nor when you are losing.
“A prayer under these conditions would have been not only absurd (what rights could I claim? and from whom?) but blasphemous, obscene, laden with the greatest impiety of which a nonbeliever is capable. I rejected the temptation: I knew that otherwise were I to survive, I would have to be ashamed of it.” – The Drowned and the Saved.