The duel had not resembled its models: it had been unbalanced, unfair, dirty, and had dirtied him. The models, even the most violent, are chivalrous; life is not. He set out for his appointment, knowing that he would never be the same man as before.
In his short story “Force Majeure, ” Primo Levi compresses his experience of the Holocaust into a frightening confrontation between a citizen and a sailor.1 The story, a metaphor for the major tragedy of his life, brings Levi's Holocaust experience closer to us as he presents a dangerous quandary, an episode that could conceivably happen to us. The story opens with the protagonist, identified only as “M., ” rushing to make an important appointment with the manager of a library. In an unfamiliar part of town, he asks a passerby the quickest way to get to his appointment. The stranger points to a long, narrow alleyway. It disturbs M. to see that there are no doorways or niches in the alley, and when he is halfway down the alley he sees “a husky lad in a T-shirt, perhaps a sailor, come toward him.” The sailor whistles for a dog, and M. hears the panting dog come up behind him: “They both advanced until they came face to face. M. moved close to the wall to free the passage, but the other did not do the same: he stopped and placed his hands on his hips, completely obstructing the path. He did not have a threatening expression; he calmly seemed to be waiting, but M. heard the dog let out a deep snarl: it must be a large animal.”2____________________