Primo Levi, "Knall"

It’s so easy to kill somebody with a knall.

(from Harper’s, March 2007)

What is a knall? The answer to that is the whole story. It’s a small cylindrical object that lets you bloodlessly kill somebody near you. It’s the latest craze. It’s made everybody afraid of everybody. This story, first published in 1971, has the deadpan horror and backdrop of societal decay that George Saunders sometimes gutpunches you with. Awesome stuff.
There’s a Primo Levi collection coming out in April.
(I couldn’t find a picture of this issue online, so I took my own in front of Leela.)

2 thoughts on “Primo Levi, "Knall"

  1. de mogirl

    Hello again Mr Rapa

    Interesting, as was the other curious find of this author’s -”A Tranquil Star”

    Of course I am yet to read this latest offering and am interested to explore the idea of the capacity of a knall (whole story) to kill somebody.

    Of course I am guessing, but I would say that a knalls capacity to do so, is limited to those who have a one dimensional or myopic view of circumstances/situations around them. Perhaps we are on the same train here Mr Rapa, as I noted you selected Leela as cover girl for the story.

    However, a knall will not have such power, when presented to an individual who is skilled/has been trained or remains open to: competing outcomes, realities and posibilities in a plot, be it fictional or otherwise. Such persons are adaptable and do not worry about living in a world that contains knalls – because they know they are prepared, come what may.

    On the basis of your comments though, I could not help but wonder whether Levi also coinded a word for deluded souls that cling to erroneous assessments/assumptions…. like one clings to drift wood when washed overboard and being carried far out to sea.

    Fear of knalls is misplaced and should really be accorded to erroneous assumptions, that appear to cause greater damage than death (after all that has a finite and conclusive).

    Perhaps that is also the real reason as to why everybody is afraid of everybody else, as you say. But are they? Are they afraid of one another or are they afraid of the monsters they have created from assumptions that are incorrect? Hard to know, given I am not familiar with the full story yet.

    Remove the assumptions and you may well even remove the sting in the tail of the knall as well- at least for whom such represents a threat.

    Another interesting short story. I will be interested to see how or if Levi, deals with these considerations. Thank you again for bringing this story to the surface.

  2. best_books

    Am reading A Tranquil Star at the moment and found Knall a complete work of genius. The subject matter was shocking and thought-provking yet the tone was casual and indicated the depths to which society could fall … and accept.
    Loved it. Recoiled from it. Will never forget it.


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