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One morning in March, after a day's train ride, Giuseppe Corte arrived in a city where there was a famous sanitarium. He had a slight fever, but even so he insisted on walking from the station to the hospital, carrying his small suitcase. lthough showing only the earliest signs of the disease, Giuseppe Corte had been advised to seek treatment at the renowned sanitarium where they speciali!ed in treating "ust this one malady, guaranteeing a high level of medical competence and the most rational and effective use of the facilities. #hen Giuseppe Corte caught sight of the hospital from a distance $ and he recogni!ed it from having seen its photograph in a brochure $ the sanitarium made an e%cellent impression on him. &he fa'ade of the white seven$storied building was broken by a series of alcoves that gave it the appearance of a hotel. (t was surrounded by a perimeter of tall trees. fter a brief medical e%amination, pending a more detailed one, Giuseppe Corte was put in a cheerful room on the seventh and last floor. &he furniture and upholstery were light in color and in good condition, and the wooden armchairs had cushions covered in multicolored fabric. window opened on to a view of one of the most beautiful districts of the city. )verything was serene, hospitable and reassuring. Giuseppe Corte went to bed immediately and, once the bedside light was on, began reading a book he had brought with him. short time later a nurse came in to ask if he wanted anything. Giuseppe Corte did not want anything, but gladly started talking to the young woman, asking for information about the sanitarium, and it was through her that he learned of the hospital's unusual features. &he patients were distributed floor by floor according to the severity of their illness. &he seventh, that is, the top floor, was for those who were only slightly sick. *atients who were only moderately ill but needed monitoring were assigned to the si%th floor. On the fifth they treated those who were more seriously ill and so on, floor by floor. Gravely ill patients were on the second floor and hopeless cases were on the first. &his odd system, besides greatly e%pediting the operation of the hospital, prevented a patient who was only slightly sick from being disturbed by another who was dying, and ensured the same atmosphere on every floor+ it also facilitated the matching of treatment to the condition of the patients. ccording to this scheme, the patients were divided into seven progressive castes. )ach floor was like a small world to itself, with its own special rules, with its own special traditions. nd since every section was entrusted to a different doctor, there were small, but distinct differences in how the cases were handled, even though the director general had impressed on the hospital the need for single set of guidelines. #hen the nurse had left, it seemed to Giuseppe Corte that his fever had disappeared and he went to the window, not to look at the landscape, even though it was new to him, but with the hope of catching sight of other patients on the lower floors. &he structure of the building, with its large alcoves, allowed this type of observation. (n particular, Giuseppe Corte fi%ed his attention on the first floor windows, which seemed far away and which he could view at an angle. ,ut he was unable to see anything interesting. &he ma"ority of them were tightly closed by gray sliding window shutters. 2

Corte saw that there was a man at the window of the room beside his. &he two looked at each other for a while with growing interest, but neither knew how to break the silence. -inally Giuseppe gathered his courage and said, ./ou've only been here for a short time, too0. .Oh no,. said the other. .('ve already been here for two months 1,. was silent for several moments and, not knowing what to say ne%t, added, .( was watching my brother down there.. ./our brother0. ./es,. the unknown man e%plained. .#e came here together, it's really an odd situation, but he's been getting worse+ "ust think, he's already on the fourth.. .On the fourth of what0. .On the fourth floor,. replied the man, and he pronounced the four words with such an e%pression of pity and horror that Giuseppe Corte was almost frightened. .,ut are they that badly off on the fourth floor0. he asked cautiously. .Oh, God,. said the other, shaking his head slowly, .their cases aren't completely desperate, but there's not much to be happy about.. .,ut then,. Corte asked with the "oking offhandedness of one untouched by tragic events, .then, if the patients on the fourth are so sick, whom do they put on the first floor0. .Oh, the ones who are actually dying are on the first. On that floor there's nothing more the doctors can do. Only the priest works there. nd naturally 1. .,ut there's hardly anyone on the first floor,. Giuseppe Corte interrupted, as if asking for a confirmation of his thoughts. . lmost all the rooms down there are closed.. .&here aren't many now, but there were 2uite a few this morning,. the other responded with a thin smile. .#here the shutters are lowered is where someone has died a short time ago. 3on't you see that on the other floors all the shutters are open0 ,ut e%cuse me,. he said, drawing back slowly, .( think it's beginning to get cold. ('m going back to bed. Good luck, good luck1. &he man disappeared from the sill and the window was closed with force+ then a light shone from inside the room. Giuseppe Corte remained at the window, without moving, staring at the lowered shutters on the first floor. He stared at them with a morbid intensity, trying to imagine the mournful secrets of the terrible first floor where the patients were sent to die, and he was relieved at the thought that it was so far away. &he shadows of the evening were descending over the city. One by one the thousand windows of the sanitarium lit up+ at a distance one would have taken it for a palace with a party in full swing. Only on the first floor, down there, at the base of the precipice, do!ens and do!ens of windows remained blind and dark. Giuseppe Corte was reassured by the results of the medical e%amination. 4sually pessimistic, in his heart he was already prepared for a harsh verdict and would not have been surprised if the doctor had consigned him to the floor below. (ndeed, his fever had not gone away, despite the fact that his general condition was good. (nstead, the doctor was cordial and encouraging. n illness at its

earliest stage $ he said to him $ but very slight+ in two or three weeks it would probably pass. .&hen do ( stay on the seventh floor0. Giuseppe Corte asked an%iously at that point. .,ut of course5. the doctor answered, giving him a friendly slap on the shoulder. . nd where did you think you were going0 Maybe to the fourth0. he asked, laughing, as though hinting at the most absurd possibility. .&hat's better, that's better,. said Corte. ./ou know how it is+ when you're sick you always imagine the worst.. (n fact, Giuseppe Corte remained in the room which had been assigned to him originally. He got to know some of his hospital companions on the rare afternoons when he was allowed to get up. He carefully followed the plan of treatment, and did everything he could to get better 2uickly+ nevertheless, his condition remained the same. bout ten days had passed when the head nurse of the seventh floor came in to see Giuseppe Corte. 6he had a favor to ask of him7 the following day a lady with two children was going to be admitted to the hospital+ ad"oining Corte's were two empty rooms, but they needed a third one+ would Mr. Corte be kind enough to move to another room, "ust as comfortable as his0 Of course Giuseppe Corte made no ob"ection+ one room or the other was all the same to him+ perhaps he would get a new and more attractive nurse. .( really thank you,. the head nurse said then with a slight bow+ .from a person like you ( confess that such a chivalrous gesture doesn't surprise me. #e'll make the transfer in an hour if you don't mind. ('m afraid you'll have to move one floor down,. she added in a hushed voice, as if it were a matter of no importance. .4nfortunately, on this floor there aren't any more free rooms. ,ut it's a temporary arrangement,. she hurried to say, seeing that Corte, getting up suddenly from his chair, was on the point of opening his mouth to protest. . s soon as there's an empty room, and ( think that'll be in two or three days, you'll be able to come back up here.. .('ll admit,. Giuseppe Corte said, smiling to show her he was not a child, .('ll admit that a move like this doesn't please me in the slightest.. .,ut there's no medical reason for this move. ( understand completely what you mean+ it's "ust a courtesy to this lady who doesn't want to be separated from her children... please,. she added with a laugh, .don't think for a moment that there's any other reason5. .Maybe so,. Giuseppe Corte said, .but it seems like a bad omen to me.. 6o Corte moved to the si%th floor and although he was convinced that this move didn't correspond to a worsening of his illness, he was uncomfortable thinking that an obstacle was being placed between him and the normal world of healthy people. On the seventh floor, the port of arrival, he was in a certain way still in contact with the regular world+ in fact it could almost be considered an e%tension of his usual world. ,ut on the si%th he arrived at the real heart of the hospital+ already the mentality of the doctors, of the nurses and of the patients themselves was slightly different. On that floor you reali!ed that truly sick people 4

were being treated, even if their conditions were not terribly serious. -rom his first conversations with his neighbors, Giuseppe Corte reali!ed that on that floor the seventh was looked on as a "oke, a place reserved for dilettantes who were suffering from hypochondria more than anything else+ it was only on the si%th, so to speak, that things began to get serious. However, Giuseppe Corte understood that his desire to go back upstairs, to the place where he belonged according to the gravity of his illness, was going to meet with some opposition and that in order to return to the seventh floor he had to set in motion a comple% organism. &here was no doubt that if he had not brought up the sub"ect, no one would have thought of moving him back to the upper floor of the .almost well.. Conse2uently, Giuseppe Corte decided not make concessions and not to give way to the temptation of habit. &o the companions of his ward he stressed that he was there for only a few days, that it was he who wanted to go down as a favor to the lady and that as soon as there was a free room he would go back upstairs. &he others listened to him without interest and nodded with scarce conviction. Giuseppe Corte's opinion found a full confirmation in the "udgment of the new doctor. He, too, admitted that Giuseppe Corte could certainly be assigned to the seventh floor+ his type of illness was ab$so$lute$ly tri$vi$al $ and he stressed this definition to give it emphasis $ but, in fact, he maintained that on the si%th floor Giuseppe Corte might receive a more appropriate treatment. .3on't start giving me these stories,. the sick man interrupted decisively at this point. ./ou told me ( belong on the seventh floor and ( want to go back there.. .8o one's said anything to the contrary,. replied the doctor. .My advice was purely and simply that of a true friend, not of a doctor. /our form of the sickness is, ( repeat, e%tremely slight+ it wouldn't be an e%aggeration to say you're not even ill, but in my opinion it differs from similar conditions by its somewhat greater spread. 9et me e%plain7 the intensity of your illness is minimal, but its e%tent is considerable+ the destruction of the cells,. it was the first time that Giuseppe Corte had heard that sinister e%pression, .the destruction of the cells is absolutely in the initial phase, perhaps it hasn't even begun, but it tends, and ('m only saying tends to strike large parts of the organism at the same time. (t's only because of this, in my opinion, that you can be treated more efficiently here, on the si%th, where the therapy is more appropriate and intense.. One day he was informed that the director general of the sanitarium, after long consultations with his staff, had decided to make a change in the classification of the patients. )ach one's grade $ so to speak $ was to be lowered by half a point. On every floor the patients were grouped, in accordance with the seriousness of their condition, in two categories :this subdivision was actually made by one's respective doctor, but only for internal use;, and the lower of these two halves was moved to the floor below. -or e%ample, half of the patients on the si%th floor, those with slightly more advanced cases, had to move to the fifth and the more serious cases on the seventh moved to the si%th. &his news pleased Giuseppe Corte because in such a comple% scenario of transfers, his return to the seventh floor would be easier.

#hen he hinted at this hope to the nurse, however, he had a bitter surprise. He found out that he was to be moved, but not to the seventh, but rather to the floor below. -or reasons that the nurse was unable to e%plain to him, he had been included in the .more gravely ill. patients on the si%th floor and had to go down to the fifth. Once his initial surprise was over, Giuseppe Corte became furious+ he shouted that they were cheating him, that he refused to hear anything more of going down, that he would return home, that one's rights were one's rights and that the hospital administration could not disregard the medical diagnosis in such a bra!en fashion. #hile he was shouting, a doctor arrived to calm him down. He advised Corte to get a grip on himself if he did not want his fever to escalate, and he e%plained to him that there was at least a partial misunderstanding. He continued to agree that Giuseppe Corte would be in the right place if they put him on the seventh floor, but he added that he had a slightly different opinion concerning his case, if only a personal one. ,asically his illness, in a certain sense of course, could be considered grade si%, given the e%tent of the disease symptoms. He himself, however, was not able to e%plain how Corte had been classified in the lower half of the si%th floor. *robably the director's secretary, who that very morning had called to ask Giuseppe Corte's e%act clinical state, had made a mistake in writing it down. Or, even more likely, the hospital management, acknowledging the doctor's e%pertise, but considering him too lenient, had slightly downgraded the doctor's diagnosis. (n short, the doctor advised Corte not to worry, to make the move without protesting, because what mattered was the illness, not the place where the patient was located. 6o far as the treatment was concerned $ added the doctor $ Giuseppe Corte would have no reason to be sorry+ the physician on the floor below certainly had more e%perience. He was virtually dogmatic that the doctors' abilities increased with the decrease in the floors. &he room was "ust as comfortable and "ust as elegant. &he view was e2ually spacious+ it was only from the third floor down that the view was cut off by the trees. 6uffering from an evening fever, Giuseppe Corte listened to the detailed e%cuses with a growing lethargy. (n the end he reali!ed that he lacked the strength and above all the desire to oppose the un"ust transfer. nd without further protest he let himself be moved to the floor below. Once he was transferred to the fifth floor, Giuseppe Corte's only consolation, however slight, was to find out that in the unanimous opinion of the doctors, the nurses and the patients, he was the least sick person in the ward. On that floor, in short, he could be considered by far the most fortunate. ,ut, on the other hand, he was tormented by the thought that now he was separated from the world of normal people by two barriers. s the spring advanced, it became warmer, but Giuseppe Corte no longer en"oyed going to the window as he had during his first days at the sanitarium+ even though such a fear was nothing but an absurdity, he was stirred by a strange chill seeing the windows of the first floor, the ma"ority of them closed, that were getting progressively closer.

His illness got neither better nor worse. fter three days on the fifth floor, a type of ec!ema appeared on his right leg that showed no signs of disappearing in the days that followed. (t was a condition $ the doctor told him $ that was completely independent of his principal illness, one which could strike the healthiest person in the world. (n order to get rid of it in a few days he needed an intensive treatment of digamma radiation. . nd isn't it possible to have the digamma radiation treatment here0' asked Giuseppe Corte. .Certainly,. replied the doctor, complacently. .Our hospital is e2uipped with everything. &here's "ust one problem 1. .#hat. asked Corte with a vague foreboding. . problem only in a certain sense,. the doctor said, correcting himself. .#hat ( mean is that the radiation e2uipment is located only on the fourth floor and ( advise you not to make such a trip three times a day.. .6o there's nothing you can do0. .#ell then, until the ec!ema is cured, it would be better if you'd be willing to go down to the fourth floor.. .)nough5. screamed Giuseppe Corte, in e%asperation. .('ve had enough of going down5 )ven if it kills me, ('m not going down there.. . s you wish,. the doctor said calmly, so as not to irritate him,. but as your attending physician, ( can't let you make the trip downstairs three times a day.. &he bad thing was that the ec!ema, instead of getting better, was slowly spreading. Giuseppe Corte was unable to get any relief and tossed and turned in bed. He did not give way until, after three days, he could not take it any longer. 6pontaneously he begged the doctor to let him undergo the radiation treatment and to be moved to the floor below. Once he was on the fourth floor, Corte noted, with undisguised pleasure, that he was an e%ception. &he other patients in this department were in decidedly worse condition than he and were not even able to get out of bed for a moment. He, on the other hand, was able to reach the radiation treatment area from his room on his own two feet, to the compliments and ama!ement of the nurses themselves. &o the new doctor he emphasi!ed his very special position. patient who actually belonged on the seventh floor, but was now on the fourth. s soon as the ec!ema was cured he intended to go back upstairs. He would absolutely not stand for any new e%cuse. He, who belonged legitimately on the seventh. .On the seventh, on the seventh5. e%claimed the doctor who had "ust finished e%amining him. ./ou patients always e%aggerate5 ('m the first one to tell you that you should be satisfied with your condition+ according to what ( see in your record, there hasn't been any great deterioration in your health. ,ut to go from this to talking about the seventh floor $ e%cuse me for being brutally frank $ there's a big difference5 /ou are one of the least worrisome cases, ( agree, but nevertheless, you're still ill5. .#ell then, well then,. Giuseppe Corte said, his face getting red, .what floor would you put me on0. .Oh, God, that's hard to say+ ('ve only made a brief e%amination. (n order to make a decision ('d have to follow your case for at least a week.. 7

.-ine,. insisted Corte, .but you must have a rough idea.. (n order to calm him down, the doctor pretended to think for a moment and then, nodding to himself with his head, said slowly, .Oh God5 <ust to make you happy, we could put you on the si%th5 /es, yes,. he added, as if trying to convince himself, '.the si%th might work out.. &he doctor believed that he was making the patient happy by saying this. (nstead, an e%pression of dismay spread across Giuseppe Corte's face7 he reali!ed the doctors on the other floors had deceived him+ here was this new doctor, evidently more capable and more honest who, in his heart $ it was obvious $ was assigning him, not to the seventh, but to the fifth floor and perhaps even to the lower fifth5 &he une%pected disappointment prostrated Corte. &hat evening his fever rose perceptibly. His stay on the fourth floor marked the calmest period that Giuseppe Corte had passed since his admission to the hospital. &he doctor was an e%tremely pleasant person, thoughtful and cordial. &hey often conversed for hours about the most varied sub"ects. Giuseppe Corte talked willingly, searching for matters that had to do with his customary life as a lawyer and as a man of the world. He was still trying to convince himself that he belonged to the society of healthy men, that he was still connected to the world of business, and was truly interested in public affairs. He tried, without succeeding. (nvariably their discussions returned to the topic of his illness. His desire for an improvement of any kind became an obsession for Giuseppe Corte. 4nfortunately the digamma radiation had succeeded in arresting the spreading of the skin eruptions, but it was not sufficient to eliminate them. )very day Giuseppe Corte spoke for a long time about his condition with the doctor and in these conversations he forced himself to be strong, even ironic, but without ever succeeding. .&ell me, doctor,. he said one day, .how is the destruction of my cells progressing0. .Oh, what ugly words5. the doctor reproached him, "okingly. .#here did you ever learn them0 &hat won't do, won't do at all, especially for a sick person5 ( never again want to hear you say anything of the sort.. . ll right,. Corte ob"ected, .but you didn't answer my 2uestion.. .Oh, ('ll tell you right now,. the doctor replied courteously. .&he destruction of your cells, to repeat your horrible e%pression, in your case is minimal, absolutely minimal. ,ut ('m tempted to call it stubborn.. . 6tubborn, you mean chronic0. .8o, don't put words in my mouth. ( mean only stubborn. &he ma"ority of cases are like that. )ven e%tremely slight illnesses often need long and energetic treatments.. .,ut tell me, doctor, when can ( hope to get better0. .#hen0 (n these cases it's rather hard to make predictions.. but listen,. he added after a thoughtful pause, .( can see you have a great desire to be cured.. if ( weren't afraid of making you angry, do you know what ( would advise0. .&ell me+ "ust tell me, doctor 1. .#ell then, ('ll put the matter to you very clearly. (f ( were suffering from your illness, even very slightly, ('d get myself assigned, right from the very first 8

day, from the very first day, you understand0 to one of the lower floors. ('d even get myself admitted on 1. .&he first0. Corte suggested with a forced smile. .Oh no5 8ot on the first,. the doctor replied ironically, .not that. ,ut on the third or even on the second, certainly. On the lower floors the care is much better, ( guarantee you, the e2uipment is more e%tensive and more powerful, and the personnel is more capable. 3o you know who the heart and soul of this hospital is0. .(sn't it 3r. 3ati0. .=ight, 3r. 3ati. He's the one who developed the treatment that's used here, the person responsible for the entire organi!ation. #ell he, the head$man, divides his time, so to speak, between the first and second floors. His authority emanates from there. ,ut ( guarantee you his influence doesn't go beyond the third floor+ beyond that point his authority diminishes, his orders aren't followed as well as they might be, they're misconstrued+ the heart of the hospital is on the lower floors and on the lower floors is where you need to be to get the best treatment.. .&hen, in short,. Giuseppe Corte said with a trembling voice, .you advise me to 1. .9et me add something,. the doctor continued undismayed, .let me add that in your own case what we need to do is get rid of the ec!ema. (t's a matter of little importance, ( agree, but rather tiresome that in the long run could depress your 'morale+' and you know how important it is for a cure to be in good spirits. &he radiation treatment that ('ve prescribed for you has only been halfway effective. &he reason0 (t might be that it's pure chance, but it might be too that the radiation hasn't been strong enough. #ell then, on the third floor the radiation machines are much more powerful. &he chances of curing your ec!ema would be far greater. 6o you see0 Once you're on the road to recovery, you've taken the hardest step. Once you've started making progress, the chances are you won't relapse. #hen you start feeling really better, there's no reason for you not to come back up here or go even higher, depending on your condition, even to the fifth, the si%th, or ( might even dare to say, to the seventh.. .,ut do you think that this can speed up the cure0. .&here's absolutely no doubt. ('ve already told you what ('d do if ( were in your shoes.. )very day the doctor had conversations like this with Giuseppe Corte. -inally the moment came when the sick man, tired of suffering from the ec!ema and despite his instinctive reluctance to go down, decided to take the doctor's advice, and move to the floor below. s soon as he moved to the third floor he noticed there was an air of gaiety in the ward among the doctors as well as the nurses, even though this floor housed a number of e%tremely serious cases. He noticed that this gaiety was increasing from day to day+ after he had gotten to know the nurse a little better, and curious to know the reason, he asked why everyone was so happy. .Oh, you don't know0. replied the nurse. .(n three days we're going on vacation.. .#hat do you mean 'we're going on vacation'0. 9

.,ut yes. -or two weeks the third floor is closing and the personnel is on leave. &he various floors take turns going on vacation.. . nd the patients0 #hat do you do with them0. .6ince there are so few, we combine the two floors into one.. .#hat0 /ou mi% the patients of the third and fourth floors0. .8o, no,. the nurse corrected him, .the third and second floors. &hose that are here have to go down a floor.. .Go down to the second0. Giuseppe Corte said, pale as death. .#ill ( have to go down to the second, too0. .Of course. #hat's so strange about that0 (n two weeks, when we return, you'll come back to this room. ( don't think that's anything to get concerned about.. (nstead, Giuseppe Corte $ a mysterious instinct was warning him $ was sei!ed by a cruel fear. ,ut, seeing as there was no way to keep the staff from going on vacation, and convinced that the new treatment with stronger radiation was doing him good $ the ec!ema was almost completely gone $ he did not dare to raise a formal ob"ection to the new move. He insisted, however, even though the nurses made fun of him, that on the door of his new room they attach a notice with the words .Giuseppe Corte, here temporarily from the third floor.. 6uch a thing had no precedent in the history of the sanitarium, but the doctors were not opposed, believing that with a nervous temperament like Corte's, upsetting him even a little, could give him a serious shock. (n short, it was a matter of waiting two weeks, not one day more, not one day less. Giuseppe Corte set himself to counting them with stubborn eagerness, remaining for hours on end, immobile on the bed, with his eyes fi%ed on the furniture, which was not so bright or modern as on the floors above, but seemed larger with harsher and more solemn lines. nd from time to time he strained his ears because he seemed to hear from the floor below, the floor of the moribund, the ward of the .condemned,. the faintly perceptible death rattles of the dying. ll this naturally combined to discourage him. nd his loss of composure seemed to aggravate the illness+ his fever tended to climb, his general weakness became more pronounced. -rom the window $ it was by now the middle of summer and the windows were almost always open $ neither the roofs nor the houses of the city were visible, only the green wall of trees that surrounded the hospital. fter a week, one afternoon around two, the head nurse and two others suddenly entered, pushing a gurney. . re we ready for the move0' the head nurse said pleasantly. .#hat move0. Giuseppe Corte asked with a faltering voice. .#hat kind of a "oke is this0 (sn't there still another week before the patients from the third floor go back upstairs0. .#hat do you mean, 'third floor0'. said the head nurse as if he did not understand. .( have instructions to move you to the first, look here,. and he showed him a printed form ordering his move to the lower floor signed by none other than 3r. 3ati.


Giuseppe Corte's terror, his overwhelming rage e%ploded in long angry screams that reverberated through the entire ward. .Gently, gently, please,. the nurses begged him, .there are sick people here.. ,ut that was not sufficient to calm him. -inally the doctor who was in charge of the department appeared, an agreeable and courteous man. He found out what was happening, looked at the form and listened to Corte's e%planation. &hen he turned in anger to the head nurse, saying there had been an error, he had not issued an order of that sort, that for some time there was unbearable confusion, and that he was kept in the dark about everything. -inally, when he had finished venting his wrath on the nurse, he turned to the patient, and in a courteous voice, e%cused himself profusely. .4nfortunately, however,. the doctor added, .unfortunately 3r. 3ati left for a short leave "ust an hour ago and will not be back for another two days. ( am absolutely devastated, but his orders can't be overridden. He'll be the first one to regret what's happened, ( guarantee you... what a mistake5 ( don't understand how it could have happened5. ,y this time Giuseppe Corte was sei!ed with a pitiful trembling. His self$ control had forsaken him entirely. &error had overwhelmed him as if he were a child. His slow, desperate sobs echoed around the room. =eaching the bottom floor "ust because of that horrible error. 6ent to the floor of the dying he who, basically, according to the severity of his illness, even in the "udgment of the strictest doctors, had the right to be assigned to the si%th, if not the seventh5 &he situation was so grotes2ue that Giuseppe Corte almost felt like bursting into laughter. 6tretched out on the bed, while the hot summer afternoon passed slowly over the large city, he looked through the window at the foliage of the trees, with the impression of having reached an unreal world, made of absurd walls of sterili!ed tiles, of cold mortuary entrances, of white human figures devoid of souls. (t even seemed to him that the trees he saw outside the window were not real+ eventually he was sure of it, noticing that the leaves did not move at all. &his idea agitated him so much that Corte rang the bell for the nurse and had her give him his glasses, glasses that he did not use in bed+ only then was he able to calm himself a bit when he could see that they were real trees and that the leaves, though their motion was slight, moved every so often in the wind. #hen the nurse had left, he spent a 2uarter of an hour in total silence. 6i% floors, si% terrible walls, towered over Giuseppe Corte with an implacable weight and only because of an error. How many years, yes, he had to measure the time in years, how many years would it take him to climb back from the edge of that precipice0 ,ut why was the room suddenly becoming so dark0 (t was the middle of the afternoon. #ith a supreme effort Giuseppe Corte, who felt himself paraly!ed by a strange lethargy, looked at the clock on the nightstand beside the bed. (t was >7>?. He turned his head in the other direction and saw that the shutters, in obedience to some mysterious command, were closing slowly, blocking the passage of the light.