“L’immagine di lui che ho conservato”
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When Primo Levi’s collection of short stories, Lilít, appeared in English as Moments of Reprieve, it was a truncated volume, containing only one section of the original. It also bore the subtitle A Memoir of Auschwitz, an allusion to the content, since the text deals primarily with Levi’s experiences in the concentration camp and exclusively with Holocaust topics. While the slim volume of Moments of Reprieve benefits from a sharper focus on Holocaust writing, its removal from a broader context of tales of disaster and crisis means that readers are deprived of the rich intratextual references among the stories. In particular, writing emerges in Lilít as an overarching theme that unifies the volume, and the comments on writing about the Holocaust take their place among thoughts on writing in general. The first part of this chapter will examine Levi’s introduction to the English language collection and show how his stated goals undermine the subtitle of the volume. In the second section, I will examine some of the themes of writing present in the Holocaust stories. In the final section, I will study stories from the Italian volume in which echoes from the Auschwitz material can be found, looking in particular at sections where Levi appears to answer an earlier query.
KeywordsConcentration Camp Short Story Native Tongue English Title Title Character
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- 1.Primo Levi, Moments of Reprieve: A Memoir of Auschwitz, trans. Ruth Feldman (New York: Penguin: 1986), vii. Unless otherwise noted, all translations of Lilít will reference this edition and page numbers will be included in the body of the text.Google Scholar
- 2.Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon, eds., The Voice of Memory: Primo Levi, Interviews 1961–1987 (New York: New Press, 2001), 223.Google Scholar
- 3.My translation of “lascia in eredità al narratore il compito di scrivere e raccontare,” in Andrea Rondini, “La scrittura e la sfida: Una lettura di ‘Lilit’ di Primo Levi,” Studi novecenteschi 59 (2002): 239. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the Italian are mine. I will include the original Italian passages in these notes.Google Scholar
- 4.“stimo doveroso eseguire del mio meglio l’incarico che mi è stato affidato.” See Primo Levi, I racconti: Storie naturali, Vizio di forma, Lilít (Turin: Einaudi, 1996), 378. All references to the original Italian text of the stories in Lilít will be to this edition.Google Scholar
- 10.Alvin Rosenfeld, A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature (Bloom-ington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 6.Google Scholar