Still reaping the mental benefits of no electricity last Friday (and Saturday and Sunday) and an enforced day of complete peace.Try as you may these are nigh on impossible to achieve without assistance.You don't realise how much background noise electricity and a water supply creates in your house until you don't have it.
The house and the garden were silent apart from the birds and the occasioanal helicopter buzzing low over the power lines trying to locate the fault.It's at this point you nervously hope it's nothing you've plugged in that may have tripped out the entire Tamar Valley.
Rural electricity is a fragile creature easily offended.
But I had some thinking time and was pondering a conversation with a friend last week about her 15 year old daughter's recent trip to Poland and included therein a visit to Auschwitz.She acknowledged like many of us a real reluctance to read anything about it, she'd never been able to face it and I was giving thought to some recommends.
In the silence here last Friday I re-read Moments of Reprieve by Primo Levi.
Last year I paid some attention to the Holocaust but reading obliquely, and Primo Levi's short stories were perfect. Somehow there is nothing depressing about them at all, far from it they are inspiring.
Primo Levi felt the burden of responsibility keenly and as a survivor of Auschwitz realised that his voice had to bear witness to what he had seen.The people he had met clamoured to be remembered and in Moments of Reprieve many of them are. References to the unsayable are subtle and almost an aside to daily life.
Take The Juggler, for example, Levi never really openly discusses the horrors, he doesn't need to.We know exactly what he means when he says, if caught writing,
"it was the gallows for me, but before the gallows an interrogation - and what an interrogation!"
Every so often Levi positions himself firmly in the story as its writer, little asides such as "and as I am in the act of typing.." so there can be little doubt for the reader, this is not fiction.Gaps and silences abound and Levi's recourse to this gives a profound edge to his writing.He knew exactly what he didn't need to say for us to come away with the most complete understanding.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant -
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind -