| Dear Giulia, |
I received your letter of December 26, 1927, with the part added January 24 and an enclosed note. I was truly relieved to have the letters, although I've been much calmer now for awhile. I've changed a great deal in all this time. Certain days I thought I had become apathetic and inert, but now I see I made an inaccurate analysis. I was undergoing a series of crises of resistance toward the new way of life a prison environment implacably forces on you--the routine, the privations and necessities, the enormous number of minute events that occur day after day, month after month, year after year, with the same mechanical rhythm of sand in an hourglass. Every molecule of me--my whole body, my psyche--was tenaciously opposed to absorbing the external environment. But, despite this, a certain amount of pressure succeeded in overcoming my resistance and modified a certain zone of my being. Each time this happened, I underwent a rapid agitation of my entire being in an attempt to ward of the invader. By now, I have experienced an entire cycle of changes and have arrived at the serene decision not to struggle any longer with the ineluctable in such an ineffacious, inept way, but, instead, to try to control a process already in motion, by using a little irony. I'm sure I will become a complete philistine though, since I'm ready at any time to toss off the brute second skin (half donkey, half sheep) that the surroundings grow over your own skin. There is one thing I'll never be able to do, however--give my natural skin the smoky color it once had. Valia won't be able to call me her smoky companion any more. I fear that Delio, despite your contribution, by now must be even smokier that I ever was! You don't believe me? This winter I lived three months without ever seeing anything but a few remote reflections of the sun. Here in my cell the light that filters in is somewhere between that of a cellar and that of an aquarium. You shouldn't imagine, though, that my life continues to be as monotonous as it seems. Once you get used to living in an aquarium and adapt your sensory apparatus to the crepuscular, toned-down impressions flowing toward you (always keeping your attitude ironic), a whole world begins to swarm around you, a lively world obeying its own laws and following its own course. It is something like glancing down on an ancient tree trunk that weather has gradually worn away: the closer you look, the more you begin to see. First, only a humid mushroomlike growth, or a snail dripping a trail behind it as it slowly drags along; then, a little at a time, you begin to pick out colonies of tiny insects running about industriously, repeating the same actions, taking the same paths over and over. If you succeed in holding to your original position, there's no danger of turning into a snail or an ant, and it all becomes an interesting way of passing the time. Every detail of your and the children's lives that I gather from letters helps me form a general idea, but I have too few elements to work with, and my own experience is limited. Also the children are undoubtedly changing too rapidly for me to follow and to imagine their development. Probably I am way off the track on this subject, although this is inevitable.
A tender hug.
Benedetto Croce, after he acquired a copy of Gramsci's Letters, stayed awake all night reading, aware he had come upon a major literary discovery. Until the letters were found, Gramsci was a name one had trouble pronouncing.