Today's Europe in the footsteps of Primo Levi

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By MARIAROSARIA FABRIS*

Considerations on the documentary “La strada di Levi”

1.

On September 8, 1943, at the age of twenty-four, Primo Levi, a chemist from Turin, joined a group of supporters linked to the Action Party [1], in the Aosta Valley, bordering region with the native Piemonte (Northern Italy). Captured by the fascist militia, on December 13, for having declared himself an “Italian citizen of Jewish race” (LEVI, 1991) [2], on January 21 of the following year he was sent to the Fóssoli prison camp (near Modena, in Emilia-Romagna, in the north of the country).

In February, the camp passed to German command and at dawn on the 22nd, Levi was placed in one of the twelve leaded wagons of a train to Auschwitz, on a journey that lasted five days: “We had learned, with relief, of our destination. Auschwitz: a name that meant nothing then and to us; but it should always correspond to a place on this earth” (LEVI, 1991) [3]. Of the Jews embarked that morning at the Carpi railway station, very few survived the extermination: “Of six hundred and fifty, all that we then left, we returned three [4]. […] We felt the poison of Auschwitz flowing in our veins, along with the exhausted blood” (Levi, 1997c) [5].

Upon arriving at the concentration camp, on the night of February 26, the deported chemist received number 174 517: “suddenly, by betrayal, our wives, our parents, our children disappeared. [… Emerged, on the other hand, in the light of the searchlights, two groups of strange subjects. They walked in lines of three, with a strange, clumsy gait, heads down, arms stiff. […] a long striped tunic that, despite […] the distance, was tattered and filthy. […] We looked at each other without saying a word. Everything was incomprehensible and crazy, but we understood something: that was the metamorphosis that awaited us. Tomorrow, we would be like that too.” (LEVI, 1988).

The experience in the concentration camp was recorded by Levi in Is this a man? (If this is a man) and in later writings, among which The drowned and the survivors: the crimes, the punishments, the penalties, the impunities, considered the great summary of forty years of reflection on the events he experienced.

Written in the period following the end of World War II, between December 1945 and January 1947, Is this a man? it was released in a limited edition (2.500 copies) in November 1947 by a small publisher, De Silva, and published again in 1958, in a revised and enlarged version, by the prestigious publisher Einaudi in Turin, the same one that had initially rejected it. As the author wrote in 1963 and as he revealed in 1975 (in a statement quoted in a note by Marco Belpoliti), there was a purpose in his account: “I felt the need to tell these things: it seemed important to me that they not remain buried inside me. , like a nightmare, for not only my friends to become aware of them, but everyone, the widest possible audience. As soon as I could, I began to write, with fury and at the same time with method, almost obsessed with the fear that even a single one of my memories might be forgotten” (LEVI, 1997a).

“To get rid of a weight that I carried inside me: many of those who survived Auschwitz had survived soon to tell. And I, before writing, had told those stories. He spoke to everyone, on the trains, on the trams, as soon as he could get someone's attention. The return coincided with very tough months. I felt, even more than in stock, the offense that was done to me and I understood that the only way to save myself was to tell”.

On January 27, 1945, the stock of Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army and Levi (1997c) sent to a Russian refugee camp in Katowice, near Krakow (Poland): “The first Russian patrol could be seen from the camp around noon […]. There were four young soldiers on horseback, who acted cautiously [...]. When they reached the barbed wire, they stopped, exchanging brief and timid words [...]. Freedom, the improbable, impossible freedom […], had arrived […]. By the end of February, after a month in bed, I felt not cured but stationary. […] I cut a pair of insoles from a blanket […], and left. Not very late the next morning, I found myself on a Russian transport [which was heading] to a mysterious parade ground.”

The writer remained in the Katowice camp until mid-June, when he undertook the long journey back home, a journey that lasted four months and that took him to cover 6.000 km by train and cross ten borders until he reached Italy, passing through Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Finally, on the 19th of October, he reached Turin.

The adventurous return was told in the truce (The truce), basically written between December 1961 and November 1962 (some parts, however, were written earlier: the poem that serves as an epigraph is from January 11, 1946; the first two chapters are from 1947-1948; the third is from March 1961), based on notes from early 1946, as the author himself explained (in a statement reproduced in 2006): “I had, from the return trip, a mere note, how to say, by rail, a kind of itinerary: a day in such a place, day such in another place. I located it and it served as a blueprint for me, almost fifteen years later, to write the truce”. The book was published in 1963, again by Einaudi, and taken to the screens under the same title in 1997, in a film in which Francesco Rosi sought to highlight the picaresque spirit that often characterized this adventure. [6]

 

2.

Sixty years after the tortuous trip back from the deportee and following a path completely different from that trodden by Rosi, director Davide Ferrario [7], with the collaboration of the essayist Marco Belpoliti [8], proposed his reading of the second work of the Piedmontese writer in Levi's road. Conceived over four years and filmed between January and October 2005, the documentary was released in 2006. In it, Ferrario and Belpoliti decided to retrace the Italian author's long journey back, punctuating this journey almost entirely through stretches of The truce, is this a man?, At the moment uncertain (1984, poetry) and, according to Andrea Cortellessa, from the star key (La chiave a stella, 1978), the craft of others (L'altrui master, 1985), The Drowned and the Survivors e Asymmetry and lifea, whose reading was almost always entrusted to the voice-off by actor Umberto Orsini.

The film, however, did not have the objective of documenting the 1945 trip, nor to look for traces of that past, but to see how the landscapes and human types that Levi had known were like now, to verify how people lived in the lands he had known today.” visited”. And so, the filmmakers did not go in search of the Europe of yesteryear (although past and present intertwine and dialogue all the time), but of Europe “transformed by the fall of the Berlin Wall”, mainly of those countries devastated by the collapse of the Soviet regime. from 1991.

The documentary is divided into sixteen parts: 1. Across Europe; 2. Auschwitz – memory; 3. The next day; 4. Poland – work; 5. Ukraine – the identity; 6. North destination; 7. Belarus – a world apart; 8. Ideological responsible; 9. Organize a kolkhoz; 10. Ukraine 2 – the plague; 11. Travel in reverse; 12. Moldova – emigration; 13. Romania – “New horizons”; 14. The new old Europe – from Budapest to Vienna; 15. Italy – the proof; 16. The slow snowfall of days.

On the first leg of the European journey, the authors visited Poland (parts 2, 3 and 4). The sequences in the concentration camp under the snow, on the occasion of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the liberation, alternate with internal shots of the blocks and excerpts from the documentary Return to Auschwitz (1982), by Daniel Toaff, about one of Levi's later visits to the site [9].

Having focused on the starting point, filming moved to Katowice, where Levi (1997c) was detained for four and a half months, before actually starting the trip to Italy: “The field [Katowice stopover] that welcomed me, hungry and tired […], was located on a […] elevation, in a suburb of the city called Bogucice. It consisted of a dozen masonry sheds, of reduced dimensions, with a single floor [...]. Before, it had been a tiny German Lager, and had housed the slave miners who worked in a coal mine, opened nearby. […] on the 8th of May, the war ended. The news, though expected, exploded like a hurricane: for eight days the countryside, the Kommandantur, Bogucice, Katowice, all of Poland and the entire Red Army exploded in a paroxysm of delirious enthusiasm. […] our dream […] had come true. At the station […] a train was waiting for us […]. That train left in mid-June 1945, loaded with hope. […] a train […]: a long train of freight cars, which we Italians (there were about eight hundred of us) took possession of with resounding joy. The train made its way through cultivated plains, cities and villages […] [towards] Odessa; then a fantastic sea voyage through the gates of the Orient; and, finally, Italy”.

To give a more concrete idea of ​​today's Poland, the team went to Nowa Huta. Sequences of propaganda films about the construction of the city and a hopeful future, fruits of collective work, extracted from the marble man (Czlowiek z marmuru, 1977), by Andrzej Wajda, are interspersed with an interview with this filmmaker who has very harsh words in relation to the formerly so exalted workers, who today are just a shadow of what they were. The once great industrial center has become the “communist model city”, as the company's publicity boasts. Communist Tours.

 

3.

From Poland, the team moved to Lvov (part 5), where they retrieved the clandestine images of the burial of a famous Ukrainian composer and singer, Igor Bilozir, killed by countrymen of Russian origin on May 8, 2000, but still alive in collective memory. The great popular commotion that accompanied this event and the purpose of preserving the national identity, however, clash with the sequences that portray the youth of Ukraine in 2005, already completely globalized.

The third stage took the troupe to Belarus (parts 7, 8 and 9), a world that is still rural, in which religion does not seem to have lost its place, and still populated by war memories (such as those narrated by the widow of a supporter) and the Soviet regime: busts of Marx and Lenin, statues and paintings that exalt the heroes of the world conflict. There, filming had to be stopped because authorization had not been sought from the District Representative for Ideology.

Given the due explanations, the filmmakers had to accept working under the supervision of the Representative, who, while observing the footage, did not realize that he had become the object of the shots. Then, in the office of the director of the company Agrícola Coletiva, the two Belarusians decided to talk about the foundation of kolkhoz [10] and the advantage of this collective system over the individual, and thus images from a Soviet propaganda film alternate with shots from the present that ironically emulate those from the past. In the end, everyone involved in the incident fraternized at a lunch offered by the local authorities. “Long live the friendship between peoples”, says a poster and, in fact, the human side prevailed over the ideological aspect and the remnants of the Cold War were circumvented.

To say goodbye to Stáryie Doróghi, Ferrario and Belpoliti lend Levi's souvenirs (1997c): “When the departure was arranged, we realized, to our surprise, that that endless land, those fields and forests […], [and] those intact and primordial horizons, those vigorous people who love life, belonged to our heart , penetrated us and remained for a long time: glorious and vivid images of a unique season in our existence”.

Back in Ukraine, the documentary focuses on the ruins of Prypiet', alternating them with shots taken shortly after the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the consequent evacuation, and propaganda films that extolled the emergence of the youngest city in the country. In the ghost town, stopped at the fatal moment, the horror movie was shot Return of the Living Dead 4 – Necropolis (Return of the Living Dead 4 – Necropolis, 2005), a Ukrainian-American production, directed by Ellory Elkayem. In this tenth part, there is also the testimony of a father, forced to separate from his son so that the highly contaminated child could receive more adequate treatment in Italy. A statue of Prometheus appears as a symbol of the new challenge launched by men to nature, an aborted challenge, as attested by the debris produced by his boldness, on which the writer's words stand.[11]: “There are, in this land, dawns, forests, starry skies, friendly faces. But this planet is ruled by a force that is not invincible but perverse, which prefers disorder to order, mixture to purity, confusion to parallelism, rust to iron, stupidity to reason. It seems to us that the world is heading towards some kind of disaster and we limit ourselves to waiting for the progress to be slow”.

Moving on to Moldova (part 12), the film reveals living conditions in a country that has not yet reached a more modern stage of development. For the peasants, the regime change was disastrous, because, with the end of the colcozes organization, the profit became smaller and they were forced to immigrate, even if only to satisfy their children's consumption dreams, as revealed by a nurse. interviewed. A country whose geographic and human landscape still seems to correspond to the description of Levi (1997c): “our eyes saw a surprisingly domestic scenario: no longer the deserted, geological steppe, but the green hills of Moldova, with colonial houses, haystacks, rows of grapevines; no longer enigmatic Cyrillic inscriptions, but […] an idiom familiar in music and hermetic in meaning”.

 

4.

After having crossed the Danube, the filmmakers enter Romania, a nation that, despite the contrasts that still exist, is experiencing strong economic growth, also thanks to the presence of entrepreneurs from Northern Italy, who, from 1992 onwards, set up their factories, to escape the labor obligations of the country of origin, profit more, have more competitive prices and, with that, conquer new markets. The subtitle of this thirteenth part does not refer to new prospects for the workers, but is the name of one of the factories where workers are deprived of their rights in exchange for a job. The irony of the subtitle highlights the “condemnation to silence”, that is, the situation in which people are forced to live who had everything assured, although they could not express themselves freely, and who today have to renounce their claims for fear of losing their status. breadwinner, fear implanted by neocapitalism, as is clearly evident in the question about what they think of their Italian bosses, asked to a group of women, a question that remains unanswered.

The Italian presence in Romania is not new, as shown in the documentary with the interview with Modesto Gino Ferrarini, president of RO.AS.IT. (Italian Association in Romania), whose grandparents had emigrated there from their native Friuli (Northern Italy). With the arrival of the Soviet liberators, many Italians returned to their homeland, as highlighted by Levi (1997c) when recalling his group’s meeting with representatives of the former fascist regime, whose wagon was hooked up to the prisoners’: “another convoy of Italians arrived. […] there were approximately 600 men and women, well dressed, with suitcases and trunks: some with a camera around their neck, almost tourists. They looked us up and down like poor relatives… [and] With great complacency, they made us understand that they… were important people: …civil and military officials of the Italian legation in Bucharest, and… assorted people, who… had remained in Romania … There were complete family groups among them”.

When reached by the writer and his adventure companions, Hungary (part 14) had consoled them, because in it, as Levi wrote (1997), “despite the impossible names, we already felt in Europe, under the wings of a civilization that it was ours, sheltered from alarming apparitions, like that of the camel in Moldavia”. There, in fact (LEVI, 1997c), “to put a brake on the precocious domestic illusion, there was a camel standing at the level crossing, sending us to some other place: an exhausted camel, grey, woolly, laden with sacks, expiring haughtiness and helpless solemnity through of the prehistoric hare snout”.

As strange as a camel in Moldavia, which Ferrario and Belpoliti also found, is the “graveyard” of communist statues, assembled in Budapest to attract tourists from all over the world. In street commerce, dominated by the Chinese, T-shirts with the effigy of Lenin, socks with the image of Che Guevara, watches with the face of Mao Zedong, lighters with the red star are for sale. According to Matteo Contin, the “wild Americanization” has entered full force, as well as in Slovakia, where, in Bratislava, shots of the liberators' cemetery are replaced by a vertiginous sequence of luminous advertisements of the “new civilization”. With globalization, the past is left behind.

 

5.

The dismantling of communist monuments, as a consequence of the collapse of an ideology, already illustrated in the cinema by Goodbye, Lenin! (Good bye, Lenin!, 2003), by Wolfgang Becker, deserves a separate digression because of an event that is strange to the film, because it happened after it, but linked to Levi's biography and the way Eastern European countries tried to erase his past. The Polish government, which, since 2007, had been summoning the Italian authorities to remove the “Italian Memorial of Auschwitz” from the former concentration camp, closed it in 2012. Later dismantled, the work was transferred to Florence, to be installed in the Ex 3 – Center for Contemporary Art.

Inaugurated on April 13, 1980, in Block 21, in honor of the 3.431 Italians killed in the stock, the Memorial was designed by Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso. The visitor entered a tunnel and walked, as if they were the tracks that led to the camp, the eighty meters of a wooden walkway, to have the same sensation of “the nightmare of the deportee, torn between the almost certainty of death and the tenuous hope of survival”, in the words of the architect of the BBPR office [12], reproduced by Ilaria Lonigro.

The tunnel, a multimedia installation coordinated by Nelo Risi [13], consisted of a large spiral, whose spans allowed a glimpse of the other blocks, covered with twenty-three strips of fabric with an intense chromaticism, painted by Mario “Pupino” Samonà, in which, over the black of Fascism, the red of Socialism stood out , O herd do movement catholic and the yellow of the stars of David imposed on the Jews. During the course of this kind of “mnemonic whirlpool” (as Erminia Pellecchia called it), the visitor was guided by the song “Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz” [Remember what they did to you in Auschwitz], composed by Luigi Nono in 1966 [14], and for a brief text by Primo Levi [15].

To tell the story not only of the deportations, but of the opposition to the Nazi-Fascists, from 1922 to 1945, through the resistance of the working class and figures such as Gramsci, Turati, Matteotti, the Rosselli brothers and Dom Minzoni [16], in the gigantic work of more than two hundred meters in length, the communist symbols of the sickle and the hammer were represented several times, which made it undesirable in the eyes of the Polish government – ​​“It does not correspond to the pedagogical and illustrative criteria indicated for the exhibitions in the former -extermination camp” (as reported by Erminia Pellecchia) – and even by Italian authorities. As if by dismantling the Memorial a piece of History could be erased, forgetting also that the field had been liberated by the Red Army, the same that will determine the fall of Berlin, on May 2, 1945, a fact that will lead to the surrender of the Germany five days later. History, however, cannot be changed. [17].

This episode makes explicit something that, in the film, was between the lines: how Communism was lived in different parts of Europe. If, in the former Soviet Union and in the other countries of the so-called Iron Curtain, after the first revolutionary impulses, this social doctrine represented oppression, in a nation like Italy, despite the revelations about Stalinism, it was a political force that opposed the capitalist hegemony, allowing several social advances. Not to mention its remarkable presence in the cultural scene of the country.

 

6.

And if, in the documentary, the filmmakers cast a nostalgic look at the universe they portrayed, especially the rural one, it is not because they are nostalgic for a regime that did not work, but because those landscapes, with their inhabitants, their customs, their houses and objects , referred to familiar images. At the end of the sixth part, for example, “in no man’s land, between Ukraine and Belarus”, the camera lingers on a path, on a bird leaning on a light wire, on old electricity poles, almost as if it wanted to rescue a lost past.

Images that are gone, that are gradually lost with the tree economy and the advance of neo-capitalism in Italy, from the end of the 1950s. Images of the country of the directors' childhood and adolescence, when the future still shone radiantly and utopias seemed possible. Because, deep down, that's the question the film pursues: why utopias didn't come true. As Contin points out: “This Europe is a world of dissipated dreams, Ferrario seems to tell us (or, perhaps, it is the Old Continent itself that tells us that). The dream of Communism, which has dissolved, and the dream of a rich and opulent Europe like the United States, which will soon crash against the wall of reality, are perhaps the two deepest wounds that cut the Earth that hosts us”.

It was not just the socialist or European utopia that disappeared, but also the one represented by America, no longer the promised land of immigrants, who went there “to seek bread and freedom, happiness”, but that of marches for civil rights, of demonstrations against the Vietnam War, against the counterculture, against those who longed for “a new freedom”.[18]

Europe and the world of today were built on the ruins of the Second World War (and also the previous one), with deep wounds that have not yet healed and that reopened at the first opportunity, as attested by the speech of a neo-Nazi in Germany , on the penultimate stage of the trip, when he states that he and his group do not see the Old Continent as the European Union, “but as a Europe of homelands”. And, one might add, a world of small homelands. It would be enough to think of the internecine war that led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, of the separatist movements that haunted and still haunt several countries of the European Union (EU), or of the British exit from the EU, the Proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union.

 

7.

As a result, before entering old Europe on its journey, the documentary places us in front of the great wound of the XNUMXst century, the rubble of the Ground Zero of New York (part 1),[19] when it is the director himself and not the narrator Umberto Orsini who introduces the writer's odyssey and explains the various moments of truce present in the film. For Levi (1997c), the personal truce, represented by the long journey home – “The months that had passed […], now seemed like a truce […], a providential, albeit unrepeatable, gift of fate”, which was part of that period of temporal suspension experienced by the Europe, “out of the nightmare of war and Nazi occupation, not yet paralyzed by the new anxieties of the Cold War”, in the words of Italo Calvino –, and existence itself (LEVI, 1965): “human life itself is a truce , an extension; but they are brief intervals and soon interrupted by the “command at dawn”, feared but not unexpected, from the foreign voice […], which everyone understands and accepts. This voice commands, or rather invites, death, and it is muffled, because death is inscribed in life, it is implicit in human destiny, inevitable, irresistible. [20].

For the filmmakers, it is the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989) and the attacks of September 11, 2001: “We too, citizens of the new century, have reached the end of our truce. We don't know what awaits us, but sometimes we can see the future through the questions that the past left unanswered”. Therefore: "With our eyes and his words, we resume the journey on the path of Levi" [21].

A journey that, on screen, began where it should have ended, because the New York prologue is actually an epilogue, which reinforces the idea that the path taken by Ferrario and Belpoliti, which could have been linear, more rational, it was as labyrinthine as Levi's had been, by force of circumstances. An initiation journey in which the Piedmontese writer's texts functioned as a kind of Ariadne's thread that allowed the filmmakers not to get lost in a tangle of paths and reach the center of their investigation [22]: not the past, but the present, with all its contradictions. If, for Levi, writing had been an act of liberation, for them shooting the film was a way of being aware of the anguish of the contemporary world, of expressing their own perplexities in front of it. For this reason, the invitation made by the filmmakers to the spectators was to follow them on a journey in which they did not intend to look for answers, but to face new questions.

The questions, however, could have been deepened if, in the final two parts of the film, the filmmakers had proposed a reflection on contemporaneity, instead of dedicating themselves to focusing on Levi's last days and the memories that the writer Mario Rigoni Stern had a friend. This unbalanced the work as a whole, when it would have been more interesting to dwell on new likely paths for a Europe in decline and for the Western world in constant tension after the failure of Communism, as was practiced in countries such as the former Soviet Union. and China, for example, and the weakening of democracy.

There may still be a “communist hypothesis”, as defended by philosopher Alain Badiou, in a reflection quoted by Fernando Eichenberg, with a “return to the fundamental principles of Communism, that is, to the idea of ​​breaking with the organization of society around private property”. and putting an end to the modalities of division of labor”, inventing a new form of social interaction in which the State is not the catalyst for power? On the other hand, how to revitalize democracy, since we are witnessing an increasing distance between citizens and their representatives, especially after left and center-left parties failed to propose new public policies that would meet today's social needs?

As Sérgio Abranches underlined: “The crisis of representation is aggravated by the oligarchization of parties, dominated by political groups that remain in power and use the structure of the acronym not to channel the demands and values ​​of the people they intend to represent, but as a springboard for others. jobs and positions. […] The combination of this restriction of resources and disgust with political practices produces a dangerous disconnect between society's aspirations and satisfaction with democracy”. For this reason, Badiou “draws attention to the crisis of democracy and the climate of global disorientation, which can favor authoritarian regimes and reinforce nationalist and populist discourses”, in the words of Eichenberg. Issues present between the lines of the documentary, which Ferrerio and Belpoliti were unable or unwilling to make explicit, preferring a poetic closure to a political ending.

*Mariarosaria Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Modern Letters at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Italian cinematographic neo-realism: a reading (edusp).

Revised and expanded version of the communication “Today's Europe in the footsteps of Primo Levi”, presented at the 18th Brazilian Congress of Sociology.

References


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BELPOLITI, Marco. “I sleep un centauro”. In: BELPOLITI, Marco (org.). Primo Levi: conversation and intervention 1963-1987. Turin, Einaudi, 1997a, P. VII-XIX.

BELPOLITI, Marco. "Note". In: BELPOLITI, Marco (org.). Primo Levi: conversation and intervention 1963-1987. Turin, Einaudi, 1997b, P. 206-209.

BIAGI, Enzo. “Enzo Biagi interviews Primo Levi: “Come nascono i lager? Facendo finta di nulla'” (June 2, 1982). Available in .

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LONIGRO, Ilaria. “Giorno della Memoria, l' Italia 'pushed out' of Auschwitz. Smantellato il Memoriale: finirà vicino a un Ipercoop”. Available inhttp://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2016/01/26/giorno-della-memoria-litalia-espulsa-da-auschwitz-smantellato-il-memoriale-finira-vicino-a-un-ipercoop/2403565>.

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Notes


[1] Created in 1942, the Action Party was heir to the ideas of the anti-fascist Justice and Freedom movement, founded in Paris in 1929 by Italian exiles of liberal-socialist tendencies. In the closing years of World War II, the Action Party gave its brigades supporters the name Justice and Liberty.

[2] Levi declared himself a Jew by virtue of the racial laws enacted in 1938, by which people of the Hebrew religion did not belong to the Italian race. It saved him from being shot. incontinent, but it had no special meaning for him, as he stated in an interview with Enzo Biagi in 1982: “I felt twenty percent Jewish, because I belonged to a Jewish family. My parents weren't religious, they went to synagogue once or twice a year, more for social reasons than religious, to satisfy my grandparents, I never did. As for the rest of Judaism, that is, belonging to another culture, we didn't feel that much, at home we always spoke in Italian, we dressed like other Italians, we had the same physical appearance, we were perfectly integrated, we were indistinguishable”.

[3] As Levi (2004) himself will explain, years later, in The drowned and the survivors: the crimes, the punishments, the penalties, the impunities (The drowned and the saved, 1986): “The first news about Nazi death camps began to spread in the crucial year of 1942. They were vague news, but convergent with each other: they outlined a massacre of such wide proportions, of such extreme cruelty, of such motivations. so intricate that audiences tended to reject them on the grounds of their own absurdity. […] The train in which I was deported, in February 1944, was the first to depart from the Fossoli triage camp (others had left before, from Rome and Milan, but we had not received any news of them)”.

[4] There is a discrepancy regarding the number of survivors, since, in If this is a man, Levi writes that of the forty-five people in his carriage, four survived. In any case, what matters is that the deported Italian Jews who escaped death were very few: only about five percent, as Levi himself will later record.

[5] Quotations of excerpts from Levi's works, which refer to his texts translated into Portuguese, Is this a man? (1988) and the truce (1997c), were extracted from the narration of the documentary on screen in this work, respecting cuts, some inversions and small additions (between square brackets) made by Davide Ferrario and Marco Belpoliti. Quotations referring to If this is a man in original language (1991) were not taken from the film.

[6] Is this a man? it was not filmed, but had two radio adaptations. The first, from 1962, on Canadian Radio, was much appreciated by Levi, as reported by Ernesto Ferrero: “The authors of the script, distant in time and space, and strangers to my experience, had extracted from the book everything that I had concluded. in it and even something else: a spoken 'meditation', of a high technical and dramatic level and, at the same time, meticulously faithful to the reality that it had been”. Enthusiastic, the writer proposed a new radio version to RAI, broadcast on April 24, 1964. The text, authored by Pieralberto Marchè and Levi himself, was transformed into a drama, which premiered on November 18, 1966, being published, in the same year by Einaudi, according to Domenico Scarpa.

[7] Film critic, screenwriter and director, Ferrario (1956) is the author of documentaries and fiction films, among which After midnight (After midnight, 2004), also exhibited in Brazil.

[8] University professor, writer and literary critic, Belpoliti (1954) organized the edition of two volumes of the complete works of Primo Levi (1999 and 2016) and other texts by the author: Primo Levi: conversation and intervention 1963-1987 (1997) The last Christmas of  war (L'ultimo Natale di Guerra, 2002, short stories); Asymmetry and lifea (L'asimmetria e la vita: articoli and saggi 1955-1987, 2002) e All the stories (2005). He is also the author of Primo Levi (1998), La prova: un viaggio nell'Est Europa sulle trace di Primo Levi (2007), Da una trugua all'altra: Auschwitz-Torino sessant'anni dopo (2010), together with Andrea Cortellissa and the collaboration of Davide Ferrario, Massimo Raffaeli and Lucia Sgueglia, Primo Levi: di fronte e di profilo (2015), among others.

[9] When recalling the two returns, Levi said in 1984: “In 1965, less dramatic than it may seem. I went because of a Polish commemorative ceremony. Too much fuss, too little recollection, everything well arranged, clean facades, many official speeches…”. In June 1982: “There were few of us, the emotion was profound. I saw, for the first time, the Birkenau monument, which was one of the thirty-nine Auschwitz camps, the gas chambers. The railroad was preserved. A rusty track enters the field and ends at the edge of a kind of void. In front, there is a symbolic train, made of granite blocks. Each block bears the name of a nation” (statement quoted by Giulio Nascimbeni). The documentary by Ferrario and Belpoliti erroneously dates the second trip to 1984.

[10] “Colcoz” or “kolkhoz” ( coalletktivnoe [collective] + toyaystvo [farm], 1918): collective rural property, typical of the former Soviet Union, which developed mainly from 1930 onwards.

[11] It was not possible to locate to which work this excerpt belongs.

[12] The acronym BBPR is formed by the initials of the surnames of the four partners of the renowned architecture firm created in 1932 in Milan: Gian Luigi Banfi, Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto Nathan Rogers. In 1944, Belgiojoso and Banfi were deported to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, from which only the former returned.

[13] Poet, translator and filmmaker, Nelo Risi was the younger brother of director Dino Risi. Among his films, the short films The crime Matteotti (1956) and I Fratelli Rosselli (1959), in addition to Diary of a Schizophrenic (Diary of a schizophrenic, 1968), also exhibited in Brazil. He was married to the Hungarian writer Edith Bruck, a survivor of Auschwitz, where she had been deported at the age of twelve.

[14] The work for choir, soprano and electroacoustic material, recorded on magnetic tape, derives from the music composed for the oratorio in eleven cantos Die Ermittelung, written by Peter Weiss and staged by Erwin Piscator in Berlin, in 1965. The play deals with the process carried out in Frankfurt, between December 20, 1963 and August 20, 1965, against the Nazis responsible for the massacres in that death camp. Nono's composition is divided into three parts: “The Song of the Arrival at Auschwitz”, “The Song of Lili Tofler” (a member of the Resistance, deported and killed in the stock) and “The Survival Song”.

[15] “The history of deportation and death camps, the history of this place cannot be separated from the history of fascist tyrannies in Europe. It is an old wisdom – and Heinrich Heiner, a German Jew, had already warned us about this – that whoever burns books ends up burning men. Violence is a seed that does not die. There were children among us, lots of them, and there were old people on the verge of death, but we were all loaded into the wagons like merchandise and our fate, the fate of those who crossed the gates of Auschwitz, was the same for all of us. Visitor, observe the remains of this field and meditate. No matter what country you come from, you are not a stranger. May your journey not be in vain, may our death not be in vain. May the ashes of Auschwitz serve as a warning to you and your children. Make sure that the horrible fruit of hatred, whose marks you have seen here, does not generate a new seed, not today, not ever” (LEVI, 1980). A lean text, which, despite the simple, colloquial language used by the author, reveals “that his verbal word is rather a written word”, as Belpoliti wrote in the preface to the book he edited in 1997.

[16] Among these opponents, the best known in Brazil is Antonio Gramsci, who needs no introduction. As for the others, Filippo TURATI, editor of the magazine Review Commitment (1891), in which he defended the creation of a party along the lines of German Social Democracy, he was one of the founders of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), in 1892. After the First World War, he headed the minority wing of the PSI, of ideas reformists, giving rise, in 1922, to the Unified Socialist Party (PSU). In 1926, he went into exile in France, where he continued his anti-fascist struggle alongside the Justice and Liberty group; Giacomo MATTEOTTI, general secretary of the PSU, while denouncing the illegality of Benito Mussolini's regime, was kidnapped by a fascist squad on June 10, 1924, his body being found on August 16. Matteotti's death marked the beginning of the recrudescence of the arbitrariness and violence of Fascism; Carlo Alberto and Nello ROSSELLI, cousins ​​of the writer Alberto Moravia, were murdered in 1937 in France, where they had gone into exile, for cagoulards, at the behest of the Italian secret service (the hood was a far-right terrorist organization, active between 1932 and 1940). Carlo, who was among the founders of Justiça e Liberdade and was one of the magazine's editors Bedroom state (1926), had already been confined, between 1927 and 1928, on the island of Lipari (Sicily), and, in 1936, had fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the republicans; Giovanni MINZONI, parish priest of Argenta (a small town near Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna), was a member of the Popular Party and, for having organized the workers in the vicinity, he was murdered in a trap set up by the fascists, on 23 August 1923.

[17] When it launched Life is Beautiful (Life is Beautiful, 1997), Roberto Benigni was accused of historical revisionism for attributing to the US army the liberation of a concentration camp, any camp, but which many spectators, such as director Mario Monicelli, identified with Auschwitz.

[18] The expressions in quotes were taken from the song Dall'America (1970), by Sergio Bardotti and Sergio Endrigo.

[19] It is interesting to note that, during a trip to the United States in April 1985 for a series of university meetings and conferences, while visiting New York (in addition to Los Angeles, Bloomington and Boston), the Ground Zero was one of the places that most attracted Levi's attention (1997b): “At its two ends, Manhattan is proud and gigantic. The most recent skyscrapers are extraordinarily beautiful, insolent, lyrical and cynical. They challenge the sky and, at the same time, on clear days, reflect it in their thousand windows on the surface of the facades; at night, they glow like dolomites of light. Its verticality is the result of speculation, but it also expresses something else: it is a work of ingenuity and daring, and it contains within itself the upward thrust that generated Gothic cathedrals in Europe six hundred years earlier. […] From the top of the double World Trade Center, the view is vertiginous like that of an alpine peak: the walls descend vertically for four hundred meters and, far below, vehicles and pedestrians can be seen swarming like frantic insects”.

[20] As Belpoliti observed (in a statement collected by Cortellissa): “In Levi's book, there are three meanings of the term 'truce', also considering the notes from the 1965 school edition, with which our film ends. […] the whole period of wanderings in Europe” is “the personal truce of Primo Levi, between the liberation of stock – the arrival of the Russians, therefore, salvation – and the return of the nightmare that comes to visit him. […] Therefore, the personal, psychological truce coincides with the truce represented by the journey. […] Then there is a second way of understanding Levi's 'truce': in the historical sense. When the book was written, in the early 1960s, the Cold War was at its height. Right at that moment, he has the opportunity to recount the unknown world that lies behind the Iron Curtain, even going back to 1945. Not the world of the Russians, but the world of the Soviets, with precise historical placement. And he has the feeling that, between 1945, when the war with Nazi-fascism ended, and the beginning of the 'hottest' phase of the Cold War, there was indeed a long 'truce'. Finally, Levi reads human life as a whole as a 'truce' from a biological point of view. Because we came from nothing and we are going to nothing”.

[21] According to Belpoliti (in the same statement cited in the previous note): “our journey crosses places and times in which we still live in a kind of truce. If you go to Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, you don't expect that there could be an attack by Islamic fundamentalists, all of a sudden. They are at the rear of the West. For our part, therefore, we were in Levi's place: that of looking back at a moment of truce, when we were once again at war. We chose to tell the war, past or present, in a negative: from the War”. In February 2022, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops ended the truce in that country and led to unrest in the nations that Belpoliti listed among those “in the rear of the West”.

[22] Reading in light of the meaning of labyrinth according to Chevalier and Gheerbrant.

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