It happened one day, at a crossroads, in the middle of a crowd, people coming and going.
I stopped, blinked: suddenly I understood nothing. Nothing, nothing about anything: I did not understand the reasons for things or for people, it was all senseless, absurd. I laughed.
What I found strange at the time was that I had never realized before; that up until then I had accepted everything: traffic lights, cars, posters, uniforms, monuments, things completely detached from any sense of the world, accepted them as if there were some necessity, some chain of cause and effect that bound them together.
Then my laugh died. I blushed, ashamed. I waved to get people’s attention. “Stop a moment!” I shouted, “there is something wrong! Everything is wrong! We are doing the absurdest things! This cannot be the right way! Where can it end?”
People stopped around me, sized me up, curious. I stood there in the middle of them, waving my arms, desperate to explain myself, to have them share the flash of insight that had suddenly enlightened me: and I said nothing. I said nothing because the moment I had raised my arms and opened my mouth, my great revelation had been as it were swallowed up again and the words had come out any old how, on impulse.
“So?” people asked, “what do you mean? Everything is in its place. All is as it should be. Everything is a result of something else. Everything fits in with everything else. We cannot see anything wrong or absurd.”
I stood there, lost, because as I saw it now everything had fallen into place again and everything seemed normal, traffic lights, monuments, uniforms, towerblocks, tramlines, beggars, processions; yet this did not calm me, it tormented me.
“I am sorry,” I said. “Perhaps it was I who was wrong. It seemed that way then. But everything is fine now. I am sorry.” And I made off amid their angry glares.
Yet, even now, every time (and it is often) that I find I do not understand something, then, instinctively, I am filled with the hope that perhaps this will be my moment again, perhaps once again I shall understand nothing, I shall grasp the other knowledge, found and lost in an instant.
Italo Calvino, from Numbers in the Dark
What point of view is the story told from?
What is the climax of the story?
Define revelation. What do you think the protagonist’s revelation was? Why does he say nothing?
How do the people passing by respond to the protagonist?
Why does the protagonist then feel “tormented”?
Have you ever had a moment of clarity or an epiphany in which things suddenly make sense and you have some sort of insight into the world or life? Explain.