Saturday, December 15, 2012

Returning to Zeno's Conscience excerpt from...
Zeno's Conscience
by Italo Svevo

I had previously posted an excerpt from Zeno's Conscience.  This can be seen as a continuation of it.  Impressive is its prescience, published in 1923, to describe both the dawning of the nuclear age and the rise of fascism. 

The doctor, when he has received this last part of my manuscript, should then give it all back to me.  I would rewrite it with real clarity, for how could I understand my life before knowing this last period of it?  Perhaps I lived all those years only to prepare myself for this!

Naturally I am not ingenuous, and I forgive the doctor for seeing life itself as a manifestation of sickness. Life does resemble sickness a bit, as it proceeds by crises and lyses, and has daily improvements and setbacks.  Unlike other sicknesses, life is always fatal.  It doesn't tolerate therapies.  It would be like stopping the holes that we have in our bodies, believing them wounds.  We would die of strangulation the moment we were treated.

Present-day life is polluted at the roots.  Man has put himself in the place of trees and animals and has polluted the air, has blocked free space.  Worse can happen.  The sad and active animal could discover other forces and press them into his service.  There is a threat of this kind in the air.  It will be followed by a great the number of humans.  Every square meter will be occupied by a man.  Who will cure us of the lack of air and of space?  Merely thinking of it, I am suffocated!

But it isn't this, not only this.

Any effort to give us health is vain.  It can belong only to the animal who knows a sole progress, that of his own organism.  When the swallow realized that for her no other life was possible except migration, she strengthened the muscle that moved her wings, and it then became the most substantial part of her organism.  The mole buried herself, and her whole body adapted to her need.  The horse grew and transformed his hoof.  We don't know the process of some animals, but it must have occurred and it will never have undermined their health.

But bespectacled man, on the contrary, invents devices outside of his body, and if health and nobility existed in the inventor, they are almost always lacking in the user.  Devices are bought, sold, and stolen, and man becomes increasingly shrewd and weaker.  His first devices seemed extensions of his arm and couldn't be effective without its strength; but, by now, the device no longer has any relation to the limb. And it is the device that creates sickness, abandoning the law that was, on all earth, the creator.  The law of the strongest vanished, and we lost healthful selection.  We would need much more than psychoanalysis.  Under the law established by the possessor of the greatest number of devices, sickness and the sick will flourish.

Perhaps, through an unheard-of catastrophe produced by devices, we will return to health.  When poison gases no longer suffice, an ordinary man, in the secrecy of a room in this world, will invent an incomparable explosive, compared to which the explosives currently in existence will be considered harmless toys.  And another man, also ordinary, but a bit sicker than others, will steal this explosive and will climb up at the center of the earth, to set it on the spot where it can have the maximum effect.  There will be an enormous explosion that no one will hear, and the earth, once again a nebula, will wander through the heavens, freed of parasites and sickness.

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