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Daniil Granin: A scientist’s lament


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war


Daniil Granin
From Into the Storm
Translated by Robert Daglish

Krylov asked Duras what he had been doing lately. Duras suddenly threw up his hands and shook his fists over his head.

“It is all senseless. Can’t you see? The world has gone wrong. At any moment someone may press a button and it will all be over in a few minutes. All our science, all our academies and colleges. Everything will be erased from the earth. All the leopards, the children’s nurseries, the picture galleries, the missionaries, everything.”

“Yes, and all the symposiums, too. We, along with our grandchildren and our great grandchildren, will all become neutrons and electrons and whizz about according to Heisenberg’s laws, and Heisenberg himself will whizz about with us.” His eyes blazed with a macabre gaiety and he reached forward as if to press a button. “The world is full of madmen and one of them will find his way to it. And then all the wise men of politics and all their predictions will be reduced to dust! The Madeleine – to dust! The whole history of mankind will end at this button, the final, culminating point of history.

“It is more than a law! It is God! It is the modern religion. We all walk beneath the sign of the button. We must go down on our knees and pray to it. It should replace the crucifixes in the cathedrals. Yes, there is no other God but Button. What can you offer instead? The button reduces everything to absurdity – lies and achievements, courage, even cynicism itself. How can you take life so calmly? Can’t you see that the world is out of joint?…Sooner or later we must all pass away, but there has always been the future, something to work and suffer for. Now there is nothing. The future has been stolen….”


Mankind was thoughtlessly chopping down the forests, causing soil erosion, creating barren deserts of rock and sand, and no one considered the disastrous consequences of the violence that was being perpetrated on nature merely because the consequences were not felt by the offenders but by their descendants.


“The specialist tries to get to know more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. And the philosopher finds out less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.”


“When I was at school I thought that if everyone had read Don Quixote, Chekhov and Tolstoi they’d never be able to hurt one another any more.”

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