Primo Levi's Struggle with the Spirit of Kafka

Massimo Giuliani

in Answering Auschwitz

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233588
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241811 | DOI:
Primo Levi's Struggle with the Spirit of Kafka

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Primo Levi's science-fiction stories are a kind of modern midrashim. In the Jewish tradition, this term refers to an exercise of pedagogical hermeneutics that creates imaginary stories and dialogues about biblical figures and that intentionally forces the original texts or interprets the silence of the tales with the goal of deducing a moral teaching, a psychological detail. It is suggested here that in Levi's science-bio-fictional stories there is more spirit of Kafka than Levi himself is ready to admit; and there is a deep link between the “testimony” of Auschwitz, written by Levi, and his parabolic stories of imagination, that work on extreme technological hypotheses. Beyond the limits of Hercules' pillars, once the ethical prohibitions are transgressed, there is only a tragic destiny, a mass suicide, a self-destruction—in Kafka's words, a death sentence that is carried out like a banal bureaucratic task.

Keywords: Primo Levi; science-fiction stories; modern midrashim; Kafka; Auschwitz

Chapter.  4329 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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