Tag Archives: Primo Levi

Remembering Primo Levi

As part of the initiative Primo Levi: Writer, Witness, Scientist which commemorates the centenary of Levi’s birth, Paul Forgasz will give a talk on Italia Ebraica: The Jews of Italy. A historical perspective, on Tuesday 19 November 2019, 6.30-8pm, at 199 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC 3053 (free event, RSVP essential here). The Italian Jewish narrative does not fit neatly into the conventional divisions of the Jewish Diaspora: Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African), Sephardi (Spanish) and Ashkenazi (Franco-German). Indeed, there are maps of the Jewish world in which Italy is depicted as a distinctive and unusually complex sub-culture. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest surviving diasporas, its antiquity reflected in a distinctive Roman liturgical rite still in use today. Italy has also been home to an Ashkenazi community since the late Middle Ages, and then, in the wake of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a Sephardi community. Rabbis and scholars thus lived within the boundaries of traditional Jewish communities whilst simultaneously contributing to the cultural and intellectual traditions of the wider society of which they were a part. Paul Forgasz will provide a survey of the very rich and variegated history of the Jews of Italy: from their earliest presence in Roman times, to the highs and lows of the medieval Jewish experience, through to Italian Jewry’’s encounter with modern world.    Continue reading

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‘Ugly Secrets’? Primo Levi and the Resistance

Mirna Cicioni   Monash University

primo_leviIt is well known that Primo Levi was deported to Auschwitz as a Jew. What is less well-known outside Italy is that he was arrested as a member of one of the first fighting units of the Italian Resistance. Levi consistently made negative judgments about his participation in the Resistance. In his last book, I sommersi e i salvati, he summarises his experiences in four harsh adjectives: “la mia carriera partigiana è stata cosí breve, dolorosa, stupida e tragica” (Opere, II, 1098). On 8 September, the day of Italy’s armistice with the Allies, when Northern Italy became an occupied country, Levi was 24 years old, and had “poco senno, nessuna esperienza, e [. . .] un moderato e astratto senso di ribellione” (I, 7). With his mother and sister, he fled to Amay, a small village in the Aosta Valley, not far from the Swiss border, full of soldiers from the disbanded Italian army and informers from Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic.

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