The Cambridge Companion to Primo Levi
Primo Levi, one of the most admired of Holocaust writers and survivors, was the author of a rich body of work, including memoirs and reflections on Auschwitz and also poetry, science fiction, historical fiction and a wide range of essays. This Companion brings together leading specialists and young scholars in the fields of Holocaust studies, Italian literature and language, and literature and science, to offer an accessible introduction to the work of this major writer of the twentieth century.
... In addition to Levi's major works on the Holocaust, especiallyLevi (1988) and, see alsoLevi (2005) for shorter writings on the topic. 4 See, e.g.,Agamben (1999);Gaita (2000Gaita ( , 2004;Alford (2009);Druker (2009); cf., however, alsoCheyette (2007) for a discussion of some problematic appropriations of Levi's work in various contexts. ...
The problem of suffering crucially focuses on meaninglessness . Meaningful suffering—suffering having some “point” or function—is not as problematic as absurd suffering that cannot be rendered purposeful. This issue is more specific than the problem of the “meaning of life” (or “meaning in life”). Human lives are often full of suffering experienced as serving no purpose whatsoever – indeed, suffering that may threaten to make life itself meaningless. Some philosophers—e.g., D.Z. Phillips and John Cottingham—have persuasively argued that the standard analytic methods of philosophy of religion in particular ought to be enriched by literary reading and interpretation, especially when dealing with issues such as this. The problem of evil and suffering can also be explored from a perspective entangling literary and philosophical approaches (Kivistö & Pihlström, 2016). This double methodology is in this paper applied to the problem of evil and suffering by considering an example drawn from Holocaust literature: Primo Levi’s work is analyzed as developing an essentially ethical argument, with a philosophical-cum-literary structure, against theodicies seeking to render suffering meaningful. By means of such a case study, I hope to shed light on the problem of meaningless suffering, especially regarding the moral critique of “theodicist” attempts to interpret all suffering as meaningful.
... Taken together, these three points have profound implications for conceptualisations of and Jewish culture and identity, Levi's writings speak additionally to ethics, science and industrial work, as well as to debates in Italian and European literature (see, for example: Antonello, 2007;Belpoliti and Gordon, 2007;Cannon, 1990;Cheyette, 1998;Cicioni, 1995;Frassica, 1990;Gordon, 1997Gordon, , 2000Gordon, , 2001Harrowitz, 2001Harrowitz, , 2007Hartman, 2001/2;Kremer, 2001;Pireddu, 2001;Tarrow, 1990). 5 See Chapter 3 of Cicioni (1995), Angers (2002), Roth (1986), Thomson (2003). ...
In this paper I argue that thinking about the material in cultural economy has much to gain from culture itself. Specifically, I explore the potential of literary narrative for conceptualizing and writing material within a performative cultural economy. Drawing on the industrial short stories of Primo Levi (The Periodic Table, The Wrench, A Tranquil Star), I provide a literal reading of these works, highlighting their foregrounding of material encounters, the importance of process (and not just product), and materials’ instability in process, and their connections to theorizations of economies as assemblage. The paper also explores how Levi writes material to presence using the techniques of narrative discourse, particularly mimesis. The paper concludes by arguing that narrative is a means to writing a performative cultural economy and that cultural economy needs to rekindle the arts of story-telling. Paying attention to literary narrative shows how this might be achieved.
While religious belief is not a dominant theme in Levi’s Holocaust writing, over the course of a forty-year writing career this longstanding nonbeliever offers a number of thoughtful reflections on God, faith, and the Holocaust. The first half of my paper examines the Jewish identity of the young Levi, as well as the isolated thoughts on God, faith, and religion found in Survival in Auschwitz (1947). While that early work deliberately focuses on day-to-day exigencies amidst the unrelenting struggle for existence at Auschwitz-Monovitz, it still raises provocative questions about prayer and belief in the context of the Holocaust. In his later writing and interviews, Levi digs deeper and with greater frequency into matters concerning God and the Holocaust. From the recurring charge of “blasphemy” to his career-long characterization of his unlikely survival as a matter of simple luck rather than Divine Providence, my paper goes on to examine the later Levi’s increasingly subtle reflections on matters related to God and the Holocaust. Finally, I look at the later Levi’s repeated insistence that the years of persecution brought with them a newfound understanding of himself as a Jew. By examining his thoughts on how his Auschwitz imprisonment simultaneously confirmed his nonbelief and inaugurated his self-conception as a Jew, my paper demonstrates that Levi’s scattered reflections on God, faith, and the Holocaust are both challenging and well worth our careful, continued study.
Trobar la forma d’expressar quelcom per al qual no hi ha paraules fou un dels reptes que assumí Levi quan volgué explicar la cruel deshumanització que va sofrir com a presoner al Lager. Nogensmenys, hi va trobar la solució mitjançant el concepte d’animal. En aquest sentit, el seu testimoni és ple de metàfores faunístiques que representen el patiment de la seua reducció cap al fons i la crueltat de ser tractat com una bèstia a la qual podien assassinar i que patia com un esclau castigat. Levi confirma amb les seues analogies que la deshumanització és una metamorfosi animal. Tanmateix, la tesi d’aquest assaig és que la deshumanització no és convertir-se en una bèstia, sinó transformar-se en allò que nosaltres hem fet dels animals. Una proposició que afirmem gràcies a l’etologia, que ens evidencia que el comportament real de les feres no equival a estar pres ni a ser humiliat. De fet, creiem que la raó principal per la qual Primo Levi pensava que la deshumanització era animalitzar-se sorgeix arran d’una ideologia antropocèntrica.
Primo Levi II. Dünya Savaşı sonrası İtalyan edebiyatının en önemli isimlerinden biridir. Özellikle “tanıklık” temelli eserleri ile yalnızca bir edebiyatçı değil, aynı zamanda da toplumun tarihine ışık tutan bir tanıktır. Eserleri aracılığıyla insanın kötülüğünü aktarır. Eserlerinin özünü Auschwitz Toplama Kampı deneyimi ve bu kötü deneyimin insanda yarattığı acılar oluşturur. Bununla birlikte, Primo Levi edebiyatı topluma seslenmenin, gelecek kuşaklara daha iyi bir dünya bırakabilmenin yegâne yolu olarak görür. Tanıklık merkezleri eserlerinin yanı sıra bilimkurgu türünde kaleme aldığı öyküleri ile de İtalyan edebiyatında zaman içerisinde sağlam bir yer edinir. Bir tanık olarak tanımlanabilecek hem bir yazar hem de bir düşünür olarak Primo Levi, bu çalışmanın konusunu oluşturan Il Versificatore öyküsünde de açıkça görüleceği üzere bilim-insan, teknoloji ve iyilik/kötülük ilişkilerini irdeler. Bu çalışmada, Levi'nin Il Versificatore öyküsünden yola çıkarak, İtalyan Bilimkurgu edebiyatıyla Levi'nin ilişkisine, konumuna ve tanıklık, teknoloji, bilim, ahlak ve iyilik-kötülük unsurlarına dayanan bir inceleme sunmak amaçlanmıştır. Bu noktada, İtalyan kuramcılar Enzo Traverso ve Franco Bifo Berardi'nin tanıklık, teknoloji, bilim ve insan ilişkilerine dair fikirlerinden faydalanılmış ve Levi'nin edebi anlayışına dair kuramsal göndermeler yapılmıştır.
This thesis offers a critical engagement with poetry about Auschwitz in all its various permutations, addressing issues such as why poetry is a particularly valuable form of Holocaust expression, and why different social groups have historically chosen to, and continue to, write poetry about Auschwitz. Adopting an analytical approach, this work foregrounds the poetical works themselves, in order to demonstrate how poetry facilitates an engagement with the past, for both the writer and reader (or indeed, singer and listener). Beginning with the work of those who experienced the Nazi camps first-hand, chapter one discusses the poetry of two survivors, Edith Bruck (b. 1932) and Primo Levi (1919-1987), identifying three driving motivations behind survivor-writing: to memorialise, to inform and to assist in the writer’s cathartic rehabilitation after Auschwitz. The second chapter offers a comparative analysis of two poems by Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968) and two of Francesco Guccini's (b. 1940) canzoni d'autore, exploring how these two artists introduced Auschwitz into their respective genres, and how they interpreted and enacted what they perceived as art's post-Holocaust imperative: to rebuild mankind. Chapter three engages with Italian translations of Paul Celan's (1920-1970) famous 'Todesfuge', exploring the significance of translators in the dissemination of Holocaust writing, and their role as expert intermediate readers. The chapter champions reading multiple translations in parallel, and demonstrates the ways in which different translators foreground different elements of the original work. Finally, chapter four offers an assessment of online poetry about Auschwitz. By focusing on Italian poetry website “Scrivere” and the work of Giorgia Spurio (b. 1986), this chapter discusses the democratisation of art online, the extra-textual possibilities the internet offers, and how these contemporary poems build upon previous Holocaust poems, perpetuating the poetical discussion of the Holocaust for a new generation of readers.
This first chapter serves as introduction to Primo Levi’s work as well as to the main shift in perspective that this book provides. Some of the chief terms and concepts of the book in its entirety—such as “Humanism,” “testimony,” and “identification”—are presented and contextualized within both Levi’s scholarship and the contemporary debate on non-human animals and animality. The chapter begins by challenging the common interpretation of Levi as a humanistic “hero” and reframing his work within the question of the animal. It then considers the genre of Holocaust testimony in its relationship with both the ethical issue of literary identification and the epistemological function of literary animals. Finally, it discusses the significance of modern Italian literature for Animal Studies and provides a rationale for the structure of the book.
When Primo Levi was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, he suffered from physical hunger. But the association of this real hunger - the lack of food - with his other desperate hunger - his desire to tell his story - created the energy to make a connection with the world after the Lager experience. This study shows how Levi's eagerness to write about his other hunger animated and supported his appetite for life. By doing so, Levi obtained the knowledge he needed to understand it, and be able to live after the Lager.
A reputation restored: Eligio Perucca (see photo) first observed the enantioselective adsorption of a racemic mixture to a chiral crystal (NaClO(3)) in Turin in 1919. However, this milestone in enantioselective chemistry and chiroptics went unnoticed. Identified previously as a coward who refused in 1941 to supervise the research of the budding stereochemist Primo Levi because of the race laws, Perucca was opposed to the fascist regime.
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