Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. Gregor von Rezzori. Translated by Deborah Eisenberg and Joachim Neugroschel. New York Review Books: New York, 1979.
We tend to capitalize evil, make it monstrous, exceptional, Evil. Von Rezzori reminds us that it is merely another mode of human behavior, and in less revolting guises not at all exceptional. In the process he scolds us—so very gently—for our unwillingness to admit a human complexity that includes evil. In lower case it is simply a region of our morality we all visit from time to time (and in self-defense we may call on its more frightful powers, doing things we might never imagine). Most of the time it remains a benign proto-species of Arendt’s “banality.” Von Rezzori instructs us in the fine skill of observing very closely our small case evil, while insisting on the absolute necessity of doing so. Evil, capitalized, is a simple edit, one we all can make without thinking.