Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sopra un oceano dipinto di parole: fasi e prospettive della sperimentazione plurilingue in Primo Levi

  • Author(s): Pepe, Tommaso
  • et al.
Abstract

In his books Primo Levi employed a remarkable selection of heteroglot linguistic fragments, derived from the languages that the author encountered in his wanderings across Europe: German and Polish, Yiddish and Russian, besides several other Slavic languages of Eastern Europe. The relationship Levi had with these languages is centrifugal and articulated, following an itinerary where linguistic curiosity and anthropological inquiry blend together. The purpose of this paper is to examine the diverse functions of Levi’s plurilingualism and its semantic stratifications, following to this purpose a diachronic approach. In his first works (If This is a Man, The Truce) the hereteroglossia is set in a framework dominated by the Babelic myth, while the experience of the ‘inhuman’ idioms of the universe concentrationnaire results in a harsh expressive mixture that pervades the linguistic representation. However, Levi’s plurilingualism will successively feature more meditated forms of cultural elaboration. In his later works, the focus will shift from languages symbolizing oppression and violence to the oppressed idioms of the Jewish diaspora – the Yiddish and a peculiar Judeo-Pidmontese dialect. The choice of these languages will emphasize thus a function of cultural and memorial recovery, expressed in both the linguistic orchestration of Argon and the recreation of a Yiddish intertextuality that characterizes Levi's last novel, If not now, when?.

Main Content
Current View