Friday, November 13, 2015

The Search for Roots by Primo Levi

I like Primo Levi's writings. His prose is heart felt, flowing directly from his life, the vicissitudes he experienced beautifully meshed together with his scientific temperament and training.

Artists that influence you, your thinking, you try to read up around them and try to understand what all inspired them, what shaped their thinking and what led them to write the way they did. At some level one starts seeking a conversation with them who take up your mind-space and since the conversations are not possible, anything that provides more insights into their way of thinking is so much welcome.

Presented in this anthology are extracts of books that have influenced him with a forward/ introduction by Primo Levi. They go over different topics/ genres and most of them I have never read. Books that shaped him. Ranging from science to poetry mostly aimed at understanding the nature of human being and understanding his place in the world/ universe - through laughter, injustice or pursuit of knowledge.

I took my time reading this anthology - have been reading this one for the last few weeks while in parallel I dipped into other books (most of them seem like lit Sci-Fi or war histories).

This book triggered quite a few thoughts and I end up with a list of books to explore further. Book list for my ref:

  • Charles Darwin - The origin of species. Here P. Levi picks up the section on beauty and the utilitarian aspects of same. And lays out in simple, clean concepts. Would someday love to read the book.
  • Sir William Bragg - Concerning the Nature of Things (Lectures) - About atoms and how atoms arrange themselves including those in soap bubbles. Loved the read. Will look up the lectures.
  • Jonathon Swift - Gulliver's travels. This section on immortality.
  • Antoine de Saint Exupery - Wind, Sand and Stars (section on surviving in Sahara). Had some of the most pleasing and appealing lines and thoughts. Not sure if this one is easy to find. One of the bits from it:  "I can no longer understand  those dense crowds on the suburban trains , those men who think they are men and yet who are reduced like ants, by  a pressure they do not feel, to the use that is made of them. When they are free, on their absurd little Sundays, how do they fill their time?"
  • Marco Polo - The travels
  • Frederic Brown, Sentry, Galaxy (Sci Fi)
  • Arthur C Clarke - Profiles of the Future: An enquiry into the limits of possible. I love AC's writings. And this one is more of future envisaged by him. Will look this one up first in the whole list.
  • Hermann Langbein - Humankind in Auschwitz
  • Kip S. Thorne - The Search for Black Holes. One of the most packed science passages in the book. A lot said in simple terms in a few pages. Take away fact - if we were to make a black hole out of  earth, then earth will need to be reduced to a circumference of less than 5.58 cm for escape velocity to reach 300k km/s.

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