A Village Without Time

This is from the introduction to Primo Levi’s ‘If Not Now, When?’

“In my village there weren’t many clocks. One on the church steeple, but it had stopped years and years ago, maybe during the revolution. I never saw it working, and my father said he hadn’t either. Not even the bell ringer had a clock.”

“So how was he able to ring the bells at the right time?”

“He would listen to the time on the radio, and he would judge by the sun and the moon. For that matter, he didn’t ring every hour, only the important ones. Two years before the war began, the bell rope broke. It snapped near the top. The stairs were rotten; the bell ringer was an old man, and he was afraid to climb up there and put in a new rope. So after that he announced the time by shooting a hunting rifle into the air; one shot, or two or three or four. That went on till the Germans came. They took his gun away from him, and the village was left without any time.”

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