A Hybridism of Sounds: Primo Levi between Judaism and Literature

  • Sergio Parussa
Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)


The Hebrew word teshuva, which is usually rendered in English with the terms “return” or “repentance,” describes a moral practice of acknowledgment, reparation, and healing for wrongful acts that have been committed in the past. As a process that leads to a reviving of the ethical foundations of Judaism, teshuva is also a way of regaining the notion of one’s own Jewish identity, of the individual and collective sense of belonging to a tradition that may have been previously forsaken. This concept of teshuva corresponds to Primo Levi’s meaning when he described himself as “un ebreo di ritorno” (a returning Jew) as someone who had renewed his interest in Judaism only after the promulgation of the Fascist racial laws and the deportation to the concentration camp. His path of return to Judaism, his literary meditations on Jewish culture, may be described as a secular work of teshuva.


Concentration Camp Jewish Identity Literary Text Moral Practice Hybrid Character 
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  1. 1.
    See André Neher, They Made Their Souls Anew, translation of Ils ont refait leur âme, trans. David Maisel (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Primo Levi, Il sistema periodico (Turin: Einaudi, 1975).Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Tony Kushner, Slavs! in Thinking About Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995), 109.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Vittorio Foa, Il cavallo e la torre (Turin: Einaudi, 1992), 326.Google Scholar

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© Stanislao G. Pugliese 2005

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  • Sergio Parussa

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