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“In 1983, the publisher Einaudi asked [Primo] Levi to translate Kafka’s The Trial. Infinite interpretations of The Trial have been offered; some underline the novel’s prophetic political character (modern bureaucracy as absolute evil) or its theological dimension (the court as the unknown God) or its biographical meaning (condemnation as the illness from which Kafka believed himself to suffer). It has been rarely noted that this book, in which law appears solely in the form of trial, contains a profound insight into the nature of law, which, contrary to common belief, is not so much rule as it is judgment and, therefore, trial. But if the essence of the law – of every law – is the trial, if all right (and morality that is contaminated by it) is only tribunal right, then execution and transgression, innocence and guilt, obedience and disobedience all become indistinct and lose their importance. “The court wants nothing from you. It welcomes you when you come; it releases you when you go.” The ultimate end of the juridical regulation is to produce judgment; but judgment aims neither to punish not to extol, nether to establish justice nor to prove the truth. Judgment is in itself the end and this, it has been said, constitutes its mystery, the mystery of the trial.”

— Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive.

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Primo Levi, Turin, 1985
Primo Levi, Turin, 1985

“In countries and epochs in which communication is impeded, soon all other liberties wither; discussion dies by inanition, ignorance of the opinion of others becomes rampant, imposed opinions triumph.”

— Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

“Intolerance leads to censure, and censorship increases ignorance of other people’s reasons and thus intolerance: it is a rigid vicious circle that is hard to break.”

— Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (trans. Michael F. Moore)

I rise at 6am, and spend the early hours writing, reading, and drinking hot tea.

I am reading Primo Levi’s The Truce, an account of his long journey home after the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. The chemist has a close eye for detail, and describes people’s actions with clarity and economy. His work is relevant for its account (and analysis) of historical injustice, but feels more so during these times.

Experimenting with black and white photography, and pleased with the results. Since I capture images using a phone camera, quality can be a concern in poor weather or dim lighting. But I find that in black and white photography these conditions are not a hindrance, but work to one’s advantage. The results are always interesting and sometimes beautiful. A dark and blurry portrait resembles a canvas painted with broad strokes.

There is a juvenile Eurasian coot living in a nearby canal. It was born much later than the others, and its family has not yet flown south for the winter.

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“Of all the intellectually-gifted artists of this century – and Levi’s uniqueness is that he is even more the artist-chemist than the chemist-writer – he may well be the most thoroughly adapted to the totality of the life around him. Perhaps in the case of Primo Levi, a life of communal interconnectedness, along with his masterpiece on Auschwitz, constitutes his profoundly civilised and spirited response to those who did all they could to sever his every sustained connection and tear him and his kind out of history.”

— Philip Roth, The London Review of Books