For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form


Primo Levi


The knall is undoubtedly a handy device: it isn’t metal, and hence its presence is not detected by common magnetic instruments or X rays; it weighs and costs little; its action is silent, swift, and sure; it’s very easy to dispose of. Some psychologists, however, insist that these qualities are not sufficient to explain the knall’s proliferation. They maintain that its use would be limitied to criminal and terrorist circles if setting it off required a simple movement, such as pressure or friction; however, the knall goes off only if it is maneuvered in a particular way, a precise and rhythmic sequence of twists in one direction and then the other - an operation, in short, that requires skill and dexterity, a little like unlocking the combination of a safe.

We read it in A Tranquil Star.

Originally published in Harper's: March 2007.