Science and the creation of objective testimony in the Holocaust works of Primo Levi / by Eva Gold.
This dissertation focuses on the Holocaust works of Italian author and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi and the narrative strategies he employed to construct an account of his imprisonment in Auschwitz that would be received as purely factual. Levi's attempts to seem the rational scientist who merely recorded his experiences have been successful, as he earned the reputation as an objective, unemotional witness to the atrocities of the Holocaust. Yet there is a fundamental paradox in this approach to narration: all testimony to trauma is innately subjective, and therefore a perfectly objective reportage of the facts is virtually impossible for a Holocaust survivor to produce. Chapter one examines Levi's Se questo e un uomo, I sommersi e i salvati, and various short stories against the background of contemporary studies of the questions of trauma and survival in Holocaust testimonies. It focuses on Levi's strategic construction of himself as capable of scientific objectivity. In addition, building on contemporary works on trauma and the problematics of witnessing, it examines the ways in which Levi's work had to be carefully constructed in order to achieve his goal. Chapter two treats the role of language in Levi's opus: the author's own manipulation of the written word as well as his reflections on the possibility of and impact of communicability within the world of the Nazi Lager. It also deals with the Lager jargon born in the camps, as well as the violence done to language during the war and the repercussions of this violence in the subsequent literary production. Chapter three examines the issues of survivor's guilt and shame in Levi's works and discusses the ways in which, despite his "enrollment among the saved", Levi did not renounce his dignity or integrity. Chapter four illustrates that throughout Levi's writing for the Italian newspaper "La Stampa", as well as in his novels Il sistema periodico, La chiave a stella, and various short stories contained in Lilit e altri racconti and L'altrui mestiere, he consistently addressed these topics, as if seeking to convince the reader of his moral standing as a person and reliability as a narrator.
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