By Risa Sodi
This unique and well timed quantity info the impact of Dante's Inferno on Primo Levi's vintage Holocaust narrative, Se questo è uomo, and his final ebook of essays, I sommersi e i salvatie. Such key techniques as reminiscence, justice, and the world of the impartial sinners - «la zona grigia» for Levi - are given specific emphasis. 3 questions shape the spine of the publication: Can reminiscence be triumph over? the place is justice for the Holocaust survivor? and, Is there a center floor among sufferer and oppressors, and the way does Levi outline it? considerable use of interviews with the writer show how Levi relates those 3 inquiries to such modern figures as Sigmund Freud, Franz Stangl, Rudolf Höss, Jean Améry, Liliana Cavani, and Kurt Waldheim.
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Extra resources for A Dante Of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz
27 Levi rejects this formulation outright. He allows that some victims did become assassins and that many victims crossed over into the grey zone but what he does not allow is the formulation expressed by Cavani that the impulse to cross the line rose unbidden and unconsciously from within. " 28 To confuse victims and assassins, he states unequivocably, is moral sickness, an aesthetistic affectation, a sinister sign. Most of all, Levi warns, it is a precious service rendered voluntarily or not to those who would deny the truth.
46 Rather, he says, they are examples of poetic justice and aesthetic appropriateness: the punishments fit the crime. "Whatever the moral theology of the contrapasso," Freccero goes on to say, "at the level of representation, it is above all ironic wit. " 47 The very symbolic nature of the contrapasso makes it possible for us to accept Pier della Vigna becoming a tree, Ulysses consumed by flame, or Farinata within his eternal sepulchre. Not so the punishments apportioned in the real world, in our post-Holocaust world, where some of the guilty were put to death, some imprisoned, some ignored, some let free, and some rehabilitated and reabsorbed into society.
18 The real Befehlnotstand belongs to the victim who, stripped of his dignity and afflicted by the "death of the soul" complies out of injudicious love of self. 19 The difference then between the grey zoners and the neutral sinners is that the former acted while the latter refrained from acting. Nonetheless, these two groups occupy similar niches in their respective infernos since they lived neither in bono nor in malo but per se. Thus said, this opening toward a non-schematic, non-dichotomous vision of human nature does not make Levi a moral relativist.