By Risa Sodi
This unique and well timed quantity information the impression of Dante's Inferno on Primo Levi's vintage Holocaust narrative, Se questo è uomo, and his final booklet of essays, I sommersi e i salvatie. Such key innovations as reminiscence, justice, and the area of the impartial sinners - «la zona grigia» for Levi - are given specific emphasis. 3 questions shape the spine of the publication: Can reminiscence be conquer? the place is justice for the Holocaust survivor? and, Is there a center flooring among sufferer and oppressors, and the way does Levi outline it? plentiful use of interviews with the writer exhibit 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 info for A Dante Of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz
After she dies and goes to hell, an angel comes down and reaches out to her with a little onion in his hand. She hangs on to it and is thus delivered from hell. That's a very poetic story, but indefensible. One little onion is not enough. Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz: think of how many little onions he gave away-to his wife, his children, his dog, his horse! He was full of little onions! 54 Let us now tum our attention to an interesting aside contained in Se questo e un uomo. We know from the date of the work that, with the pos- sible exception of Shema or other poems, Se questo e un uomo was the first thing Levi wrote upon his return from Auschwitz.
A statement from I sommersi e i salvati seems to point in this direction: "La condizione di offeso [prisoner] non esclude Ia colpa, e spesso questa e obbiettivamente grave, rna non conosco tribunate umano a cui delegame Ia misura. " 33 If human courts of law are inadequate, as this statement suggests, then the alternative would have to be some sort of divine tribunal. Therein lies the ambiguity of Levi's position on justice: he forcefully argues for earthly justice yet at the same time obliquely refers-or defers-to divine judgment.
Upon nearing the gate, Dante hears Diverse lingue, orribili favelle parole di dolore, accenti d'ira voci alte e fioche ... " 6 e They are what is known as the "neutral an- gels," and though Freccero says that they merit "no more than a glance from the pilgrim before he passes on," it could be argued to the contrary that they engage Dante's careful attention? The Grey Zone and the Neutral Sinners 33 Virgil explains that these souls are the first class of the lost-humans and angels who "take no risk either of suffering in a good cause or of scandal in a bad one": 8 ...
A Dante Of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz by Risa Sodi