Polina Barskova

from “The Forgiver”


now here’s another voice.

For his entire life the Italian Jew Primo Levi, with the zeal of a tactless noxious insect madman, wrote about the misfortune that befell him.

An embarrassed world literary establishment kept awarding him prizes and titles, which at that point, thank God, was not hard to do. Every time he got a prize, for half a year afterward he would digest it like a python and then disgorge another volume.

He never could write about anything else, or speak about anything else; he had dreams about it, went at his frail nondescript wife about it, and gave his interminably dying mother hysterics about it.

In his case proceeding from one book to the next meant magnifying the shot, refining the details:

while being tortured the feeling is more “really, this is what it’s like”
now it stank more than the two weeks of dysentery

Like all people endowed by nature and history with this timbre, he could not angle himself to catch time’s racing current, so it pushed him out—and down the stairwell.

An embarrassed world literary establishment declared it an unfortunate event and accorded him yet another prize—for the speed and elegance of his fall, for liberating them all from his memories.