The Voice of Memory

The Voice of Memory : Interviews, 1961-1987

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Over the course of more than twenty--five years, Primo Levi gave more than two hundred newspaper, journal, radio and television interviews speaking with such varied authors as Philip Roth and Germaine Greer. Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon have selected and translated thirty--six of the most important of these interviews for The Voice of more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 160 x 238 x 23mm | 598g
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0
  • 074562149X
  • 9780745621494

Back cover copy

Over the course of more than twenty-five years, Primo Levi gave more than two hundred newspaper, journal, radio and television interviews speaking with such varied authors as Philip Roth and Germaine Greer. Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon have selected and translated thirty-six of the most important of these interviews for "The Voice of Memory," We recognize the voice familiar to us from Levi's masterpieces, from The Periodic Table to The Drowned and the Saved. But we also see a fuller, more varied and more complex picture of the writer famously shrouded in his past. There is Levi the Holocaust witness; Levi the writer; Levi the intellectual; Levi the political polemicist; and Levi the atheist and Jew, holding onto his Jewish culture while rejecting the symbols of a faith he could not share. Levi emerges in a rich, contradictory and essentially human light. He was a classic figure out of place. As he put it, 'I am an amphibian, a centaur.I live with this paranoiac split'. Levi's status as perhaps the most important of the survivor-writers of the Holocaust is enhanced still further by his many voices speaking in this remarkable book. This volume will be of considerable interest to all readers of Primo Levi's work, as well as to students and scholars of contemporary more

Review Text

A collection of 36 interviews conducted by various journalists and authors with Holocaust survivor and writer Primo Levi between 1961 and 1987..Although best known as a witness to the horrors of Nazi concentration camps ("If This Is a Man", 1947), Levi had wide-ranging concerns, and his literary achievements reach from full-fledged fiction ("If Not Now, When?", 1982) to a reflection on the nature of labor ("The Wrench", 1987) and various short works of science fiction. These interviews limn a chemist-by-day, writer-by-night whose morality, optimism, curiosity, and thoughtfulness guided him while a prisoner in Auschwitz and later as a factory worker and internationally acclaimed author. Overall, the anthology successfully portrays a highly consistent, deeply introspective writer. This success, however, engenders the work's greatest weakness: due to Levi's reluctance to discuss his private life and what appears to be an unfortunate lack of imagination on the part of his questioners, the collection is dominated by his repeated and repetitive demonstrations of intellectual and moral consistency, while the intimacy and personal insights that also characterize a good interview are decidedly scanted. There are marked exceptions. Edith Bruck's 1976 portrait, "Jewish, up to a point," offers a rare glimpse into Levi's personal side, and the section entitled "Auschwitz and Survival" contains many superlative pieces, notably "A Self-Interview: Afterword to "If This Is a Man." "Gems scattered throughout include Levi's reflections on chemistry, computers, growing old, science fiction, the relationship between art and society, the nature of racism, his trouble with Kafka, and his ambivalence toward Israel..The life and ideas of this fascinating figure certainly warrant in-depth attention, but this is not the best introduction to the man behind the art.. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Primo Levi

Primo Levi (1919--1987) was born and lived his entire life in Turin, with the exception of the years 1944--45, when he was captured as an anti--Facist partisan, deported to Auschwitz, and then released into war--torn Europe. He was the author of such acclaimed books as If This is a Man, The Periodic Table and The Drowned and the Saved. Marco Belpoliti is editing the complete works of Primo Levi. Robert Gordon is a University Lecturer in Italian and fellow of Gonville and Caius College, more

Table of contents

Preface: Robert Gordon. a I am a Centauraa Marco Belpoliti. Editorsa Note. Part I: English Encounters. Germaine Greer Talks to Primo Levi (1985). A Man Saved by His Skills: Philip Roth (1986). Primo Levi in London: Anthony Rudolph (1986). Primo Levi in Conversation: Ian Thomson (1987). Part II: Life. The Little Theatre of Memory (1982). Turin (1980). Mountaineering (1984). Chemistry (1983). The Sinister Power of Science (1987). Poetry and Computers (1985). Me. Old? (1982). Part III: Books. The Truce (1963). Science Fiction (1966/1971). The Periodic Table (1975). The Wrench (1979). La Ricerca delle Radici (The Search for Roots) (1981). If Not Now, When? (1982). The Drowned and the Saved (1986). Part IV: Literature and Writing. A Mysterious Necessity (1972). A Conversation with Primo Levi (1979). Interview for a Dissertation(1981). An Encounter with Primo Levi (1981). An Assault Called Franz Kafka (1983). Primo Levi (1984). The Essential and the Superfluous (1987). Part V: Auschwitz and Survival. The Jewish Question (1961). A Self--Interview, Afterword to If This is a Man (1976). Return to Auschwitz (1982). The Duty of Memory (1983). Words, Memory, Hope (1984). Part VI: Judaism and Israel. Jewish Up to a Point (1976). Interview with Primo Levi (1979). God and I (1983). Primo Levi: Begin Should Go (1982). If This is a State (1984). Bibliography of Levia s Works In Italian and English. more

Review quote

"One of the most important and gifted writers of our time" Italo Calvino "The qualities of mind and heart that made Primo Levi the essential chronicler of Auschwitz are on display in this invaluable collection. The voice is impossible to forget: ironical, subtle and humane. He talks as he writes, with the quiet precision of a chemist and the moral imagination of someone who has learned everything that suffering can teach." Michael Ignatieff "Primo Levi, who spent two years in Auschwitz, is perhaps the most influential of the writers who survived the Holocaust. His status will be enhanced still further by this collection of 36 interviews...One recognises the voice familiar from his masterpieces, but a picture emerges of Levi also as political polemicist and Jewish atheist. Essential reading for readers of Levi as well as for students of contemporary literature." Sally Cousins, The Sunday Telegraph "An essential addition to the canon ... these interviews enhance our previously limited knowledge, outside Italy, of the mana s public face ... The Voice of Memory, an exceptionally well--edited and well--translated book, has two valuable introductions by the editors and very helpful notes ... I believe that the whole world has benefited from the presence of this man whose labours over 40 years fortified the planeta s fragile immune system with antibodies of understanding and truth."Anthony Rudolf, The Jewish Chronicle a Reading through the 36 interviews with Primo Levi (1919--87) that Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon have collected in The Voice of Memory can be an uncomfortable and bitter experience. There are pages upon pages with grim descriptions of Nazi concentration camps and the "demolition of man" that took place there ... and with Levia s despair at being unable to explain what he experienced. (The interviews are expertly translated from the Italian by Gordon). Still, much in these pages is deeply satisfying, and some interviews are strikingly illuminating.a New York Times Book Review a With this collection of interviews drawn from the course of more than a quarter of a century, Levi can now be recognized not only as a writer of the Holocaust but as a seminal thinker of the 20th century.a Publishers Weekly a This selection from over 250 recorded interviews makes for fascinating reading and confirms, as Robert Gordon says in his useful preface, that "Levi speaks as if writing and writes as if speaking." a Jerusalem Postshow more

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