Subversive Lives

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“Sometimes, humility makes us keep quiet. Not the false modesty of the psychoanalyst, but the intimate, lonely, almost painful acknowledgement that this book or that author has changed your life. Or a sudden realization leaves us speechless: how could something that turned my whole life upside down not have changed the outside world at all? How could the century have turned out like this after Dostoevesky wrote The Possessed? How could Pol Pot and the others have come along, when Piotr Verkhoevensky had already been created? Or the atrocities of the gulags, when Chekhov had already written Sakhalin Island? Which of us saw ourselves in the white light of Kafka’s works, where the grimmest facts stand out in the starkest relief? Who was listening to Walter Benjamin as the horror was unleashed? And, after this was all over, why didn’t the whole world read Robert Antelme’s L’Espece humaine, if only to liberate Carlo Levi’s Christ, stopped for ever at Eboli?

Books can affect us so profoundly and still the whole world is destroyed – no wonder we keep quiet.” (Daniel Pennac)


And today silence falls on so many of us.

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