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New Left Review I/231, September-October 1998


Norberto Bobbio

At the beginning of history

Dear Perry Anderson,

I am grateful for the attention with which you have read my little book, Destra e Sinistra, and the care with which you have commented upon it. I cannot conceal the fact that this has pleased me, despite the fact that your overall judgement is more negative than positive. In Italy the unforeseen and to me incomprehensible success of the book in terms of sales was not matched by an equally serious interest on the part of its reviewers. It was seen as a mere polemical pamphlet, as for that matter it was seen by most readers, although not by its author. I apologize that this reply has been so much delayed. In a recent book of mine, in which I have put together some reflections on old age, I pointed out that the clearest sign of ageing is the progressive slowing down of the movements of body and mind. [1] Norberto Bobbio, De Senectute, Turin 1996. An old man has less time stretching out before him, and what little he has, he wastes. I have picked up the fifteen pages of your text, and I have shuffled them between my fingers I do not know howmany times. I have read them again and again, until I practically know them by heart. At one reading, I would underline one phrase, at another time, another, so now the text is so full of marks that no page remains unscathed.

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