Chapter

Levi and the Two Cultures

Jonathan Druker

in Answering Auschwitz

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233588
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241811 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823233588.003.0008
Levi and the Two Cultures

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Primo Levi stresses and even exaggerates the importance of “hybridity” in his works and in his authorial persona. He tells his readers that he was both an Italian and a Jew, both a chemist and a man of letters who was formed intellectually by scientific texts and humanistic ones, too. Levi frequently hoped to reconnect the so-called two cultures, the sciences and the arts, to enable a return to a time when knowledge formed a homogenous whole, when words corresponded completely with the things that they named, and implicitly to a time before the Holocaust shattered this world. This chapter is chiefly interested in how one of Levi's books problematizes hybridity, how it explores the unstable binaries that define the human condition, and how it stages the Holocaust as an encounter in which historical forces undermined hybrid forms of human identity and tore them apart.

Keywords: Primo Levi; chemist; scientific texts; Holocaust; historical forces; human identity

Chapter.  4767 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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