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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Reading Italian Science Fiction

cropped-logoscritte-univ-01The latest issue of ReadingItaly is dedicated to Italian science fiction. It contains a brief history of science fiction in Italy (the term ‘fantascienza‘ was coined by Giorgio Monicelli in 1952) by Giulia Iannuzzi (Trieste), an interview with Pierpaolo Antonello (Cambridge) on the position of sci-fi between between humanistic and scientific disciplines, a review of Antonio Pennacchi’s Storia di Karel (2013) by Massimo Mongai, and an analysis of Calvino’s contributions to the genre by Elio Baldi (Warwick).

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Italian Jewish experiences under Fascism

310+Nuw6I-L._Mirna Cicioni’s recent talk on Primo Levi’s brief time in the Resistance is a reminder how important and controversial the examination of the period remains, particularly as far as the experience of Italian Jews under Fascism is concerned. Stuart Woolf’s substantial review (Passato e presente, 2013, XXXI, 90, 131-143) of the diary of a young lawyer from Ferrara, Nino Contini, between 1940 and 1943 offers a wealth of detail on life in the internment camps and al confino, especially on the relations established between the confinati and their involuntary but far from unwelcoming local hosts. It includes very useful bibliographic references and marks the appearance of a significant addition to the well-known accounts by Carlo Levi and Cesare Pavese of their experiences as confinati in southern Italy.

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RISM seminar 2 April 6.30 pm: Mirna Cicioni on Primo Levi

JE_PrimoLevi2-853x1024Research in Italian Studies in Melbourne (RISM) is hosting a talk by Dr Mirna Cicioni, entitled ‘Dirty Secrets? Primo Levi and the Resistance‘, at the Italian Institute of Culture (233, Domain Rd, South Yarra) on 2 April at 6.30pm.

‘It is well known that Primo Levi was deported to Auschwitz as a Jew, but was arrested (on 9 December 1943) as a member of one of the first Resistance units in the Val d’Aosta. I look at some debates which took place in Italy in early 2013, after the publication of two books whose main focus is a ‘dirty secret’ of Levi’s partisan unit: the trial and execution of two young members. My discussion is mainly in the context of Levi’s work, but it also touches on other literary accounts of “partisan summary justice” and on what the British historian John Foot calls Italy’s “divided memory”, namely the tendency for conflicting narratives (personal, public, cultural) to emerge from crucial moments of Italian history.’ Continue reading

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