In December 1991, I met the historian Massimo Salvadori and his wife. They were hosting a gathering. Their hospitality was luminous; they greeted me with joy and made me welcome.
At some point a journalist struck up a conversation with Professor Salvadori about his experience as a Resistance fighter before and during World War II. In particular, they were discussing the relationship between the Socialists and the Resistance. Professor Salvadori said something that surprised the journalist. I don’t remember what it was, but the journalist replied that they had to to record this and get it out to the world.
Professor Salvadori said, “No, no, I do not want a recording.”
The journalist said, “But we must! People need to hear this!”
Professor Salvadori looked unperturbed, even joyous. He shook his head.
The journalist tried again: “What you’re saying is what people don’t know and need to know….”
Professor Salvadori: “The problem with recordings is that they usually come out wrong.” His “wrong” (with a long trill of the “r”) had a triumphant ring; he saw beyond the proposal, beyond the all-too-common warp of words.
I never saw him or his wife after that day. He died eight months later, in August 1992. His wife lived seven more years.
My own mental recording of the conversation came out “wrong”; I forgot many details. But almost a quarter of a century later, something of that dialogue has stayed with me. I am wary of recordings; I know that they can easily come out wrong. I am even warier of the need to grab and market someone’s wisdom, even if the world does need it.
I walk in the park and try not to take pictures. The pictures, when I take them, usually come out wrong. Today’s (above) is an exception, but only barely. I do not mean that it’s wrong to take pictures. I mean that many pictures make the wrong selections. It takes a lot to do justice to a frame.