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Answering AuschwitzPrimo Levi's Science and Humanism after the Fall$
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Stanislao G. Pugliese

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823233588

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823233588.001.0001

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Primo Levi's Struggle with the Spirit of Kafka

Primo Levi's Struggle with the Spirit of Kafka

(p.137) Chapter 10 Primo Levi's Struggle with the Spirit of Kafka
Answering Auschwitz

Massimo Giuliani

Fordham University Press

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

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