An elegant, short essay by Levi the scientist, rather than Levi the Auschwitz survivor, which nonetheless turns to subtle metaphor at the end and so speaks to the stable/unstable nature of political life that an Auschwitz survivor would be sure to perceive.
Its subject is wood, a material so central to mankind’s history that some languages use the same word for ‘wood’ and ‘material’. An incident with a barrel of sawdust in a factory intrigues Levi’s enquiring mind, resistant to accepting anything as merely random or unexplained, and leads him to understanding that wood, despite appearances, ‘is anxious…to destroy itself.’
Related recommendation: ‘Toys’ by Roland Barthes (1973).
Themes: Suicide, Familiar Examined Afresh
Genres: Familiar or Personal, Scientific or Medical