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Levi’s Western

“Professional Plot” and History in If Not Now, When?
  • Mirna Cicioni
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Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)

Abstract

If Not Now, When?, published in 1982 and loosely based on historical facts, tells the story of a band of Eastern European Jewish partisans carrying out guerrilla activities against the German army between 1943 and 1945, in a westward progress from the forests of the Western Soviet Union to Milan, on their way to Palestine.1 It is generally judged to be Levi’s weakest work and it has not attracted significant critical attention, particularly in the English-speaking world. Its clear didactic aims are to show that some Jews, as Jews, did take up arms to fight the Germans, and to introduce the variety of Eastern European Jewish cultures to Levi’s Italian readers.

Keywords

Grand Narrative Official History Action Text Stock Character Band Member 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 02.
    Fernanda Eberstadt, “Reading Primo Levi,” Commentary (October 1985): 47.Google Scholar
  2. 03.
    Irving Howe, “How To Write About the Holocaust,” New York Review of Books March 28, 1985, 17.Google Scholar
  3. Philip Roth, “A Man Saved by His Skills” [1986], in The Voice of Memory. Interviews 1961–87, ed. Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001), 20.Google Scholar
  4. 04.
    Ian Thomson, Primo Levi. A Life (London: Hutchinson, 2002), 409, 419.Google Scholar
  5. 05.
    Romano Luperini, “La lunga traversia non ha fine,” review of Se non ora, quando?, Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno (May 27, 1982): 3. The 1982 Campiello prize was known as the Supercampiello, since the September 1982 award was the twentieth award. Alberto Cavaglion, “La scelta di Gedeone: appunti su Primo Levi e l’ebraismo,” Journal of the Institute of Romance Studies 4 (1966): 194.Google Scholar
  6. 06.
    Roberto Vacca, “Un western dalla Russia a Milano,” Il Giorno, May 18, 1982, 3.Google Scholar
  7. Gabriella Poli and Giorgio Calcagno, Echi di una voce perduta: Incontri, interviste, e conversazioni con Primo Levi (Milan: Mursia, 1992), 257.Google Scholar
  8. Romano Luperini, La città (Milano: Einaudi, 1999).Google Scholar
  9. 07.
    Stefano Jesurum, “Si è offuscata la luce della stella d’Israele,” Oggi, July 14, 1982, 82. See also the interview with Philip Roth in Belpoliti and Gordon, The Voice of Memory, 20.Google Scholar
  10. 08.
    Vittorio Spinazzola, Il romanzo antistorico (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1990).Google Scholar
  11. Margherita Ganeri, Il romanzo storico in Italia: Il dibattito critico dalle origini al postmoderno (Lecce: Piero Manni, 1999), 101–24.Google Scholar
  12. Cristina Della Coletta, Plotting the Past: Metamorphoses of Historical Narrative in Modern Italian Fiction (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1996), 15.Google Scholar
  13. 09.
    See Patrick McGee, From Shane to Kill Bill: Rethinking the Western (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), xiv–xvii.Google Scholar
  14. See Patrick McGee, From Shane to Kill Bill: Rethinking the Western (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), xiv–xvii, and Lee Clark Mitchell, Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996), 3.Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    See André Glucksmann, “Le avventure della tragedia,” trans. Gianni Volpi, in Il Western: Fonti forme miti registi attori filmografia, ed. Raymond Bellour (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1973).Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    Adapted from Will Wright, Six Guns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 113.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    For in-depth analyses of all three films, see Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Atheneum, 1992), 474–86, 567–74, and 598–603.Google Scholar
  18. Jim Kitses, Horizons West, 2nd ed. (London: BFI, 2004), 217–23.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    For a lucid discussion of Levi’s ethics of work, see chapter 6, “Practice, or Trial and Error,” in Robert Gordon, Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Jane Tompkins, West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) argues that Westerns “exist in order to provide a justification for violence” (227–28).Google Scholar
  21. 25.
    See Thomson, Primo Levi, 427–36, and Mirna Cicioni, Primo Levi: Bridges of Knowledge (Oxford: Berg, 1995), 127–30.Google Scholar
  22. Filippo Gentiloni, “Quando la stella di David era la bandiera dei perseguitati,” Il manifesto (June 29, 1982): 6.Google Scholar
  23. 26.
    For a discussion of Line, see Enzo Neppi, “Sopravvivenza e vergogna in Primo Levi,”, Appartenenza e differenza: Ebrei d’Italia e letteratura, ed. Juliette Hassine, Jacques Misan-Montefiore, and Sandra Debenedetti-Stow (Florence: La Giuntina, 1997), 123–24.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    Alessandro Manzoni, I Promessi Sposi, ed. Gilda Sbrilli (1841–1842; Florence: Bulgarini, 2000), 2.Google Scholar
  25. 33.
    Alessandro Manzoni, Adelchi (Milan: Garzanti, 2007), 354–55 (my translation).Google Scholar
  26. 35.
    Fiona Diwan, “Sono un ebreo ma non sono mai stato sionista,” Corriere Medico 3–4 (September 1982): 15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Risa Sodi and Millicent Marcus 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mirna Cicioni
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarUSA

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