In Elio Vittorini’s quiet novel, the narrator’s mother tells us that keeping a thousand (conflicting) things in your head at the same time makes for greatness, as she rounds on her son for a scathing remark he made about his grandfather:.

‘What a beast you are!’ my mother said then.  ‘Your grandfather wasn’t just a socialist like all the others.  He was a great man.  He could believe in Saint Joseph and still be a socialist.  He could hold a thousand things in his head at the same time.’

I liked her example of the all-encompassing mind allowing the grandfather to embrace both Saint Joseph and socialism. 

Source: Elio Vittorini, Conversations in Sicily, trans. Alane Salierno Mason (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2000), p. 60

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