„It is all a matter of comparing one’s own life with something worse and consoling oneself with the relativity of human fortunes. When I was eight or nine I had an experience which came clearly to mind when I read your advice. I used to know a family in a little village near mine: father, mother and sons: they were small landowners and had an inn. Very energetic people, especially the woman. I knew (I had heard) that besides the sons we knew, this woman had another son nobody had seen, who was spoken of in whispers, as if he were a great disgrace for the mother, an idiot, a monster or worse. I remember that my mother referred to this woman often as a martyr, who made great sacrifices for this son, and put up with great sorrows. One Sunday morning about ten, I was sent to this woman’s: I had to deliver some crocheting and get the money. I found her shutting the door, dressed up to go out to mass, she had a hamper under her arm. On seeing me she hesitated then decided. She told me to accompany her to a certain place, and that she would take delivery and give me the money on our return. She took me out of the village, into an orchard filled with rubbish and plaster; in one corner there was a sort of pig sty, about four feet high, and windowless, with only a strong door. She opened the door and I could hear an animal-like howling. Inside was her son, a robust boy of 18, who couldn’t stand up and hence scraped along on his seat to the door, as far as he was permitted to move by a chain linked to his waist and attached to the ring in the wall. He was covered with filth, and his eyes shone red, like those of a nocturnal animal. His mother dumped the contents of her basket – a mixed mess of household leftovers – into a stone trough. She filled another trough with water, and we left. I said nothing to my mother about what I had seen, so great an impression it had made on me, and so convinced was I that nobody would believe me. Nor when I later heard of the misery which had befallen that poor mother, did I interrupt to talk of the misery of the poor human wreck who had such a mother.“
Gramsci, 1965, p. 737 cited in Davidson, 1977, p. 35.