TICONTRE 06 TEORIA TESTO TRADUZIONE 20 16 T3 ISSN TICONTRE. TEORIA TESTO TRADUZIONE numero 6 - novembre con il. Primo Levi & the Demolition of a Man By Thomas Maldonado Surviving the senseless brutality of the concentration camps not only demanded sheer physical . Beiträge zur Literaturwissenschaft Jahrgang XLVI/ 2. Halbband Primo Levi. In Memoriam Edited by Manuela Consonni and Federico Italiano.
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Those who by chance climbed down on one side of the convoy entered the camp ; the others went to thegas chamber. This is the reason why. The three memorial works written by Primo Levi about the experiences lived during his stay at Auschwitz concentration camp and his subsequent memories about it, If This is a Man, The Truce and The Drowned and the Saved, known as Auschwitz Trilogy, have several elements in common. 𝗣𝗗𝗙 | On Jan 12, , Jacob Howland and others published Primo Levi's Nostalgia.
Interview with Federico De Melis , cit. Perhaps for the very particular reason that Ka a was a Jew and I am a Jew. Insana, Arduo Tasks: Click here to sign up. As always when dealing with traces, some interpretative risk is to be run if one is to heed a submerged discourse. As a result a hundred thousand Greeks from Asia Minor arrived in Greece, especially in Salonika, and, for the first time in the history of the city, the Jews became a minority.
This explains why Levi bestowed such a great importance on communica- tion and always strove to write and speak with utmost clarity and precision. The distrust generated by failed communication lies indeed at the root of political con icts and racial discrimination. A Personal Antholo , trans.
Dee, , p. Thus, linguistic friction tends to become racial and political friction, yet another curse that a icts us. To put it in another way: The multiplication of languages is also an antidote against the language of the One, the language of idolatry and hubris, origin of any totalitarianism. Insana, Arduo Tasks: See also Robert S. Levi, To Translate and Be Translated, cit.
Understood in these terms, translation is both an attempt to interpret and mediate the text of Auschwitz, and a form of resistance, an e fort to simultaneously confront the centrifugal impulse of language and its reductio ad unum.
Such an understanding of translation found however an obstacle in Ka a. Whereas in Levi language is an arrow that always hits its target, in Ka a it is a message that can never reach its destination. The Huntsman Gracchus cannot reach death, Josef K.
Wandering in this atmosphere of uncertainty, illogical events, and disorienting perspectives, the reader is invited to actively make sense of such an enigmatic world. Levi felt ill at ease among them.
Af er his translation of The Trial, he wrote: I love and admire Ka a because he writes in a way that is totally closed o f to me. In my writing, for better or for worse, knowingly or not, I have always tended toward a transition from obscurity to clarity, rather like a lter pump, sucking in turbid water and turning it out puri ed, even sterile I think Pirandello said Feltrinelli, , pp. See also Giuliano Baioni, Kafka: Letteratura ed ebraismo, Torino, Einaudi, , pp.
As Steiner argues in Steiner, After Babel, cit. A Very Short Introduction, cit. Essays , London, Faber and Faber, , pp. Ka a takes the opposite approach: The reader feels them teeming with germs and spores; they are full of burning signi cance, but he is never helped to tear the curtain or to go around it to see what it conceals.
Every interpretation thus produces a new metaphor, and hence a new interpre- tation, in a circular movement that reproduces the structure of Talmudic exegesis. The Praguese writer laid bare the inescapable duplicity of his identity, the complexio oppositorum that animated his inner world. Letteratura ed ebraismo, cit. See Citati, Kafka, cit. He obviously did not believe that Ka a actually foresaw the Final Solution and the gas chambers. He certainly had an almost animalesque sensitivity, like snakes that know when earthquakes are coming.
The Trial tells the story of Josef K. Since K. Initially, when summoned before the examining magistrate, K. Af er the rst hearing, the court, which appears as a great organisation veiled in secrecy, leaves K.
Feldman, New York, Schocken Books, , pp. A Revaluation, in Essays in Understanding , ed. A Dissenting View, in Admitting the Holocaust: See Levi, A Mysterio Sensibility, cit.
Interviews , ed. Gordon, trans. Incontri, interviste e conversazioni con Primo Levi, ed. The Letters to Felice, trans.
Little by little, the trial takes hold of K. He therefore decides to dismiss his lawyer and take things into his own hands. But af er long and confusing dis- cussions with Titorelli, the court painter, and with a prison chaplain in the cathedral, he gradually understands that he has no escape.
Ka a seals the book with Josef K. Figures like the thrasher evoked the mass of petty functionaries and piti- less authorities he had met in the camp. Above all, Josef K. Faced with Ka a, my unconscious defences were set o f: These defences collapsed as I translated him, and I have found myself lowered into the character of Josef K.
Robertson, Kafka: As Robertson notes, the word Schuld in The Trial encompasses several meanings: See L. So what kind of impact did the story of Josef K.
Second, the re exive nature of the judging process. Third, the way in which the process of self-examination elicits a feeling of shame. Testimonianze , ed. Of en we are tempted to Ticontre. The language used to evaluate the di ferent inmate-functionaries illustrates the di cult and yet necessary relationship between Holocaust testimony and jurisprudence: This category is a grey zone, with unde ned contours, which both separates and connects the two opposing camps of masters and servants.
It has an incredibly complicated internal structure, and harbours just enough to confound our need to judge. The criminal complicity of individual collaborators, great and small never friendly, never transparent! We would prefer to entrust that judgment only to people who have been in similar circumstances and experienced for themselves what it means to act under coercion.
The condition of victimhood does not exclude guilt, which is of en objec- tively serious, but I do not know a human court that could be delegated to take its measure. A more subtle and varied judgment is required for those who held senior po- sitions […]. The same impotentia judicandi leaves us paralysed before the case of Chaim Rumkowski. The micro- physics of evil that enabled the Final Solution demands to be judged, and yet there is a residue that exceeds and escapes comprehension.
Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, cit. The Witness and the Archive, trans. Thus, in both situations the trial becomes a self-referential process, a punish- ment in actu which calls into question the law.
Perhaps noth- ing reveals more about the nature of this trial-punishment than the dialogue between K. Interrogated about K. Genuine acquittals occur only in legends. As Titorelli tells K. Yet both leave the accused totally compromised, in wait of the nal blow. The law of necessity is unappealable, it strikes with the inexorability of Tyche.
Cacciari, Icone della Le e, cit. Tyche Roman equivalent: Fortuna was the daugh- ter of Ocean and Tethys, and thus a goddess of the sea and a sister of Metis. She represented luck, the event, the element of human existence that humans do not control.
Who belongs to the court? Should I also give an account of myself? Levi knew well that only people of esh and blood can give an account of themselves, for both morality and justice concern the individual in his or her singularity.
Kafka, The Trial, cit. On this issue, see also Hannah Arendt, Responsibility and Judgment, ed. Josef K. Indeed, from the moment in which he decides to undertake this impossible task, the court and the trial redouble and become realities at once internal and external to his life.
See ibid, p. The violence of the tattoo was gratuitous, an end in itself, a pure insult: No, something more was needed, a nonverbal message, so the innocent would feel their sentence inscribed in their esh. The harshness of prison was perceived as punishment, and the sense of guilt if there punishment, there must have been guilt was relegated to the background, only to re-emerge af er liberation. In other words, there was no need to punish oneself with suicide for a real or presumed guilt that was already being expiated through the su ferings of every day.
What guilt? In the Penal Colony is chronologically and thematically interconnected to The Trial, for it was written in October , when Ka a paused from working on his novel, and deals with the themes of guilt, punishment, and justice. Levi recalls this last meaning at the beginning of his chapter on the grey zone p. At a certain point, like when K. Do you feel shame because you are alive in the place of someone else? A per- son more generous, sensitive, wise, useful, and worthy of living than you?
You cannot exclude the possibility: You nd no obvious transgressions. You cannot rule out the possibility.
Like Josef K. By putting himself on trial, he discovers a feeling that will survive both him and the court that hunted him down.
What should Josef K. Primo Levi's great merit is to be the first to understand, describe and witness those features, while supplying information about the Salonikan Jews' fate after they entered the Auschwitz camp. Trauma and Memory, , Volume 2, no. As further evidence of this, it must be taken into account that there have been often references and quotes from Primo Levi's work in the last two decades' texts about the history of Greek Jewry.
His account is therefore crucial to understand the Salonikan Jewish world during Nazi persecutions which only recently has become the subject of specific studies. What happened can be viewed as a one-off event in Shoah's history for the specific peculiarities of this Community, the particularly fast and effective techniques of deportation and extermination they suffered and for the fate endured by the few who entered the Lager.
Salonika was for centuries part of the Ottoman Empire and it was considered the Jerusalem of the Balkans for the importance and the large size of its Jewish Community. Even if Romaniote Jews had already been present since the second century B. From them they acquired habits, customs, ladino language, elements showing originality and differences with other Jewish Communities living on what is now Greek territory.
It's important to underline that Salonikan Jews didn't consider themselves Greek at the beginning even though, after the city became part of the Greek kingdom in , they were the larger Jewish community in Greece: Fleming states in her fundamental essay Greece a Jewish history To the extent that to understand Salonika is to understand Greek Jewry, it is crucial first and foremost to understand that although Greek Jewish history is to a large extent the history of Salonika, the history of Salonikas Jews in actual fact has very little to do with Greece.
Fleming , p. This is true at least until the Twenties and Thirties of the twentieth century, when the Salonikan Jews began to see themselves as Greek citizens; especially the younger generations grew up feeling themselves attached to their new country, they spoke Greek and fought the Italian invaders in It was with Shoah and their deportation that Salonikans began to be clearly aware of their greekness, reflected in the eyes of the other prisoners who called them Greek and shared with deportees from other areas of Greece.
Up until then they had been a group not consistent and difficult to identify with a common denomination or label. In Primo Levi wrote: We, Italian Jews, didnt speak Jiddish, we were foreigners to the Germans and foreigners to the eastern Jews, since they had no idea that an Hebraism like ours did exsist We felt particularly helpless. We and the Greeks were the last among the last.
Let me say we were in a worse condition than the Greeks, because the Greeks were, to a great extent, people used to discrimination. Antisemitism did exist in Salonika nd many Salonikan Jews had learnt the ropes living among non-Jewish Greeks. But the Italians, the Italian Jews, so accustomed to being equal with all the others, were actually unarmored, naked like an egg without its eggshell Levi, in Bravo and Jalla, , pp.
Translation by the author. Here Levi emphasizes both the anti-Semitism existing in Salonika and some of the worst problems that Salonikans had to face upon their arrival at Auschwitz: This factor led many Greeks to an almost immediate death and rises in Levi, Italian Jew of Sephardic origin, a sense of kinship and solidarity with them. The Italians and the Greeks shared the same difficulties in understanding and communication that, in the horrible context where they were living, caused the death of most of them.
To the writer, 51 however, the Greeks seem to be stronger, better prepared to face the overturned world into which they had been thrown. As a matter of fact despite the Jewish Christian relations had been generally good in Ottoman Salonika, at the end of the nineteenth century, Jews began to be considered disloyal and traitors against Greece because of the support offered to the Ottomans by the Jewish community of Salonika during both the Greek Turkish war and the Balkan wars.
The idea of a large Greece, deeply linked to the Orthodox Christian beliefs, caused also the end of the freedom Jews had enjoyed in the Ottoman Salonika and the rising of anti-Semitism.
This involved the so-called population exchange, that is the transfer in Turkey of the Muslims living in Greece and the return to Greece of the Orthodox Christians living in Turkey. As a result a hundred thousand Greeks from Asia Minor arrived in Greece, especially in Salonika, and, for the first time in the history of the city, the Jews became a minority.
Many anti-Semitic incidents occurred and, although they were officially condemned, they came to extremes such as the Campbell riots in This neighbourhood was one of the poorest of Salonika and housed the Jews who had become homeless after the Great Fire of Also the economic position of the Jews of Salonika, especially the dockworkers, deteriorated significantly since it became common practice to prefer non-Jewish Greek workers.
As a result, even though in the Thirties the situation had become more reassuring, they experienced marginalization and the changes resulting from the difficult Balkanic context where they lived.
They often had to deal with a hostile reality. The Italian Jews, who were assimilated, didn't suffer so sudden and dramatic experiences until the racial laws. On the other hand they shared with the Salonikans their Sephardic origin, their language, their Mediterranean traditional way of thinking and heritage, different from the northern and eastern European one.
Regarding the language, in The drowned and the saved, Levi writes also: We saw incommunicability in a more radical manner. I refer in particular to Italian, Yugoslav, and Greek deportees Levi, , p. As a matter of fact the Greeks began to gradually distinguish themselves from the other prisoners: First among them [the merchants in the camps black market] come the Greeks, as immobile and silent as sphinxes, squatting on the ground behind their bowls of thick soup, the fruits of their labour, of their cooperation and of their national solidarity.
The Greeks have been reduced to very few by now, but they have made a contribution of the first importance to the physiognomy of the camp and to its international slang in circulation.
Everyone knows that caravana is the bowl, and that la comedera es buena means the soup is good; the word that expresses the generic idea of theft is klepsi-klepsi, of obvious Greek origin.
These few survivors from the Jewish colony of Salonika, with their two languages, Spanish and Greek, and their numerous activities, are the repositories of a concrete, mundane, conscious wisdom, in which the traditions of all the Mediterranean civilizations blend together. That this wisdom was transformed in the camp into the systematic and scientific practice of theft and seizure of positions and the monopoly of the bargaining Market, should not let one forget that their aversion to gratuitous brutality, their amazing consciousness of the survival of at least a potential human dignity, made of the Greeks the most coherent national nucleus in Lager, and in this respect, the most civilized Levi, , p.
Here Levi, as always, is a bright and keen interpreter of humanity, for which he nurtures an almost physiological interest and investigates both in its individual and collective expressions. In a few sentences he allows us to understand what were the differences and the peculiarities that Salonikans showed in an upside-down world which for the writer becomes like a big microscope slide where, macroscopically, the laws of nature appear distorted and as elements to be analysed, in their deformity.
Reflecting on this text and considering that in Levi's writings the choice of each 52 word appears to be strongly meaningful and never accidental, a few key words that define the difference between Salonikans and the rest of the prisoners can be identified.
Firstly Levi examines their contribution to the international jargon of the camp. That was necessarily linked to actions and objects related to the sphere of survival and was enriched by words evidently derived from Greek and Ladino. This demonstrates that Salonikans had taken a foreground position in exchange activities and "trade", because of the concrete, mundane, conscious Mediterranean wisdom that allowed them to accept, as everyone in the camp, the idea of theft, but that prevented them from sharing the useless violence that dominated there.
In another passage of If this is a man, concerning the importance in the camp of the number indicating the order of arrival, Levi writes: It is as well to watch out in commercial dealings with a These Salonikans, who had survived the first selection, were often dockworkers, accustomed to hard work and used to facing different and various realities.
In a interview with Anthony Rudolph, Levi remembers that The Greeks remarkable for their ability to survive. They were extremely civil people, mutually loyal, smart, prone to seek the company of us, the Italians, because of the sympathy among Mediterraneans Levi, in Belpoliti, , p. When he writes about two languages, Spanish and Greek, Levi focuses on what is one of the most original elements of Salonikans.
Until the language spoken by the Jews in Salonika was Ladino, or Judeo Espagnol, the common language in which they spoke, wrote, sang and newspapers, such as El Mesajero, were published. It consisted in the old Castilian, influenced by Turkish, Greek and Jewish elements, and it was a legacy that the Jews had brought with them from Sefarad. Another popular language among the Jewish population was French, mainly because of the schools the Alliance Israelite Universelle had founded in the city in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Only in the Twenties Greek became the first language for young people, after it had been introduced as a compulsory subject in school programs.
Only then they began to see themselves as Greek. The others, the older ones, did not speak Greek or, if they did, their Spanish accent made them recognizable as Jews.
That meant the impossibility for Jews in Salonika to blend in among Christians during the period of Nazi persecution, like it happened in Athens. In Auschwitz instead, Ladino made the Salonikans recognizable as Greeks and what had been felt as an element of diversity at home became there a form of identification of their native country.
In the text, two aspects which in many ways are both cause and effect of what has been said so far are highlighted: The Salonikans then represented the most coherent national nucleus in Lager, and in this respect, the most civilized. This exceptionality of the group of Greeks is emphasized again by Levi: Next to us there is a group of Greeks, those admirable and terrible Jews of Salonika, tenacious, thieving, wise, ferocious and united, so determined to live, such pitiless opponents in the struggle for life; those Greeks who have conquered in the kitchens and in the yards, and whom even the Germans respect and the Poles fear.
They are in their third year of camp, and nobody knows better than them what the camp means. They now stand closely in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, and sing one of their interminable chants.
An oxymoric series of adjectives represents this group of Greeks, celebrated for their ability to live and survive, stood out among the other prisoners after taking such a position and a reputation as to make them visible even to the Germans.
This situation is certainly unique, and almost 53 paradoxical, in the process of depersonalization and dehumanization carried out by the Nazis: Their singing, in particular, was emblematic. Levi writes about this Greeks' custom, as other witnesses will do later, and represents it as a feature specifically identifying their group. The Salonikans sang their songs in Ladino or in Greek, often changing the words and using them as a means of communication with other prisoners, newly arrived from Greece, who were still unaware of what was happening in the Lager.
The Mediterranean melodies attracted the camp guards who, when they saw the Greeks, ordered: One of the songs was Etsi In 'I Zoi!
I didnt know prison, now I do Trapped in the cell, I stare at the walls All comes back to my mind, the laughter and the loves All became ashes, on the train of life. Thats the way life goes, girls, thats the way life always goes For us to be closed up in Auschwitz.
Youth that passes, joys that leave and dont come back. Girls, be patient, well get out Of Auschwitz. Siete dias enserados En vagones de beemas Una vez a los tres dias Mos kitavan a airear Madre mia mi kerida Ya tuvites el zehut De murirte en tus tierras I no pasates por el oluk Padre mio mi kerido Ken te lo iva dezir Ke vinyeras kon tu rmano Al krematorio de Auschwitz Padre i madre ermanas i ermanikas Saliendo todos redjadjis A el Patron del Mundo Ke embie salud a mi Ke me kite de estos kampos Para vos echar kadis.
See the web site http: They had been involved, without knowing what they would encounter, in the monstrous activities that preceded and followed the process of extermination in the gas chambers. They knew perfectly well that they too would be killed, they then decided to act and became a symbol of strength and endurance.
Some managed to survive and luckily had the strength, over time, to bear witness to their story. In the chapter devoted by Levi to the gray zone in The Drowned and the Saved, as he writes about the members of the Sonderkommando, he abstains from any moral judgment. He tries to examine the situation and writes: I believe that no one is authorized to judge them, not those who lived through the experience of the Lager and even less those who did not live through it.
Levi , p. Many Salonikans, along with other Greeks, were chosen to work in the Sonderkommando. This happened mainly for reasons related to the implementation of the extermination process, not least the need to keep secret what was happening in the crematoria, for the Salonikans did not speak either German or Polish.
But also the widespread image of the strong Greeks played a significant role in Nazis' decisions. The Germans considered them good athletes and especially one of them, Yacoov Razon, a boxer, became famous fighting in the matches the SS organized for fun. He used his privileged position to help those in trouble and is still remembered today as a symbol of solidarity. His and the other Salonikans' behavior confirms what Primo Levi emphasized: The symbolic representative, but deeply real at the same time, of this view of life is the Salonikan Mordo Nahum in The truce.
After the liberation, in the difficult start of the labyrinthine journey back home, he helped and supported Levi, not only practically but sharing with him his ancient and practical wisdom. Mordo, whose real name was Leon Levi, in the novel is a super Greek with exceptional organizational and survival skills. These are essential to a convalescent Levi, physically and psychologically exhausted, still incredulous and unable to face freedom.
Mordo, on the contrary, despite his poor state of health, has proved his wise concreteness providing himself with necessaries he keeps inside a large sack. He also has shoes. As they walk alone on the way to Krakow, A man who has no shoes is a fool Levi, , p. Mordo says to Levi who hasn't got them.
The relation between Mordo and Levi is clearly unbalanced, the Italian is clumsy and is aware of the Greek's superior skills, so he makes a deal with him: As for myself, I confess that I was impressed mainly by his big sack and his quality of a Salonikite, which, as everyone in Auschwitz knew, was equivalent to a guarantee of highly skilled mercantile ability, and of knowing how to get oneself out of any situation. Sympathy, bilateral, and esteem, unilateral, came later Levi, , p.