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Primo Levi’s Politics

Giustizia e Libertà, the Partito d’Azione and “Jewish” Anti-Fascism
  • Stanislao Pugliese
Chapter
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Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)

Abstract

More than twenty years ago, the Italian chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi fell to his death from the stairwell of his apartment building in Turin. Within hours, a debate exploded as to whether his death was an accident or a suicide and, if the latter, how this might force us to reinterpret his legacy as a writer and “survivor.” Elie Wiesel, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Diego Gambetta, and Susan Sontag, among many others, weighed in with thoughtful and sometimes provocative commentaries, but the debate over his death has sometimes overshadowed the larger significance of his place as a thinker “after Auschwitz.”

Keywords

Italian Chemist Holocaust Survivor Negative Dialectic Jewish Writer Holocaust Denier 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Seabury Press, 1973), 361.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Collier, 1961), 59.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    “Trauma/Transgression/Testimony,”, The Legacy of Primo Levi, ed. Stanislao G. Pugliese (New York: Palgrave, 2005), 3–15, and in a paper, “Primo Levi’s Politics,” at the conference “Primo Levi in the Present Tense: New Reflections on His Life and Work Before and After Auschwitz,” organized by Millicent Marcus and Risa Sodi at Yale University, April 2008.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Primo Levi in Il Corriere della Sera, May 8, 1974; reprinted in L’assimetria e la vita, ed. Marco Belpoliti (Turin: Einaudi, 2002); translated as “The Past We Thought Would Never Return,”, The Black Hole of Auschwitz, trans. Sharon Wood (New York: Polity Press, 2005), 34.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Elie Wiesel, Legends of Our Time, trans. Stephen Donadio (New York: Avon, 1970), 230.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Eva Hoffman, After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust (New York: Public Affairs, 2004).Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Emil L. Fackenheim, To Mend the World: Foundations of Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 303.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Dustin Kidd, “The Aesthetics of Truth, The Athletics of Time: George Steiner and the Retreat from the Word,” December 7, 1998. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma99/kidd/resume/steiner.html.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Harold Kaplan, Conscience & Memory: Meditation in a Museum of the Holo-caust (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 150.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    For the only biography in English, see Stanislao G. Pugliese, Carlo Rosselli: Socialist Heretic and Antifascist Exile (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    The best study of Nello Rosselli’s religious beliefs is Bruno Di Porto’s essay “Il problema ebraico in Nello Rosselli,”, Giustizia e Libertà nella lotta antifascista, ed. Carlo Francovich (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1978), 491–99.Google Scholar
  12. English translation in Susan Zuccotti, The Italians and the Holocaust (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 246.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    See especially Robert S. C. Gordon, Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    See Stanislao G. Pugliese, “The Antidote to Fascism,” in Carla Pekelis, My Version of the Facts (Evanston, IL: Marlboro Press/Northwestern, 2004), vii.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Isaiah Berlin, “Notes on Prejudice,”, New York Review of Books, October 18, 2001, 12.Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    Carlo Levi, Paura della libertà (Turin: Einaudi, 1946).Google Scholar
  17. Scritti politici, edited by David Bidussa (Turin: Einaudi, 2001), 132–204.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, trans. Frances Frenaye, with a new introduction by Mark Rotella (New York: Fararr, Straus, & Giroux, 2006), 252.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism,” New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995, 12–15.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Miklos Nyiszli, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account (New York: Arcade, 1993), 57–58.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (New York: Summit, 1988), 55.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    Pelagia Lewinska, Twenty Months at Auschwitz (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1989), 141, 150; quoted in Rubenstein, After Auschwitz, 186–87.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    Tzvetan Todorov, Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  24. 36.
    Ferdinando Camon, Conversations with Primo Levi, trans. John Shepley (Marlboro, VT: Marlboro Press, 1989), 68.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Risa Sodi and Millicent Marcus 2011

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  • Stanislao Pugliese

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