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PLA, Josep

The Gray Notebook

Afterwards, Coromina and my brother—a chemical sciences student—get embroiled in an endless argument about science. To my great surprise, Coromina attacks my brother’s deeply rooted belief in the absolute priority of science in any system of human knowledge. Like all anti-rationalists, Coromina fashions brilliant, beautiful turns of phrase: He says, for example, that the discovery of Hertzian waves was more the fruit of poetic intuition than of any systematic observation. My brother is indignant. It has always been a mystery to me that some people seem fated to be rationalists and others anti-rationalists. Why? Is it prompted by the branch of studies or the body of knowledge pursued? I think not. There are very sensitive individuals with artistic temperaments who are rationalists, and individuals obsessed by particularly technological inclinations who are anti-rationalists. Is a difference in temperament the root cause? Or a difference in curiosity? There are rationalists with extreme tunnel vision. Generally anti-rationalists are not interested and are indeed irritated by any tangible scrap of knowledge. Why?

The smallest, most fundamental problem hurls me into an abyss of ignorance and sadness.

A long, solitary stroll in the early hours, along the town’s deserted streets. I see the light from the Sant Sebastià lighthouse burning from different positions. The beam shines ineluctably, with perfect precision. At four o’clock, it is still burning. Faced by the relentless tenacity of machines I can’t help but think about the extent to which man has been diminished. One sometimes feels like taking a bucket of water and putting out that light.

7 November. A very loud, noisy family row. They heard me come home too late. I’ve still not been able to solve the problem of entering the house without making noise. I can’t report any progress on my old pledge to become economically independent. I serve no purpose. I am totally useless.


Translation Peter BUSH