Short story: “The Evolution of Knowledge”

by look i have opinions

“The Evolution of Knowledge,” by Niccolò Tucci

From the April 12, 1947 issue of the New Yorker (subscribers can read here); read really well by Thomas Beller on the January 2012 New Yorker Fiction Podcast; excerpt shown on Google Books here

Maybe 8,000 words?

A wonderfully funny, tender story. A minor dispute between neighbors, both of whom want badly to be kind to each other, blows up into something much bigger.

On the podcast, Beller says he resists reading this story symbolically or politically. To me the characters seem so constantly aware of fascism and nationality and philosophy (even the title is philosophical) that it’s impossible not to view the story through the lenses of those subjects. Not that I think the story is about an abstract idea. It’s about these two men whose experiences of persecution have exacerbated their sensitivity to the potential persecutions around them.