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Primo Levi (1919 to 1987) – “The Radiophonic Babel of War”

August 19, 2013

Primo Levi

“The assistant welcomed me in the tiny room on the ground floor where he himself lived, and which was bristling with a much different sort of equipment, unknown and exciting enthusiasm. Some molecules are carriers of an electric dipole; they behave in short in an electric field like minuscule compass needles: they orient themselves, some more sluggishly, others less so. Depending on conditions, they obey certain laws with greater or less respect. Well, now, these devices served to clarify those conditions and that inadequate respect. They were waiting for someone to put them to use; he was busy with other matters (astrophysics, he specified, and the information shook me to the marrow: so I had an astrophysicist right in front of me, in flesh and blood!) and besides he had no experience with certain manipulations which were considered necessary to purify the products which had to be measured, for this a chemist was necessary, and I was the welcomed chemist. He willingly handed over the field to me and the instruments. The field was two square meters of a table and desk; the instruments, a small family, but the most important of these were the Westphal balance and the heterodyne. The first I already knew; with the second I soon established a friendship. In substance it was a radio-receiving apparatus, built to reveal the slightest differences in frequency; and in fact, it went howlingly out of tune and barked like a watchdog simply if the operator shifted in his chair or moved a hand, or if someone just came into the room. Besides, at certain hours of the day, it revealed a whole intricate universe of mysterious messages. Morse tickings, modulated hisses, and deformed, mangled human voices, which pronounced sentences in incomprehensible languages, or others in Italian, but they were senseless sentences, in code. It was the radiophonic Babel of war, messages of death transmitted by ships or planes from God knows who to God knows whom, beyond the mountains and the sea.” – Primo Levi “The Periodic Table” 1975

See “Rorschach Audio” book pages 22 to 23 (and all previous “Rorschach Audio” publications and artworks etc)

http://www.penguinclassics.co.uk/
http://www.primolevi.it/

From → Uncategorized

4 Comments
  1. ivonoates permalink

    what a find! I dont remember him talking about radio! brilliant description.

  2. Bela Gold permalink

    Hi, May I use for artistic creation and intervention this image?

    • Rorschach Audio permalink

      Probably best to check with the International Primo Levi Studies Center – see links above

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