Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival

By Frederic D. Homer | Go to book overview

12
Levi's Death

But we [the survivors] were denied the screen of willed ignoranceU +2026. The ocean of pain, past and present, surrounded us, and its level rose from year to year until it almost submerged us. It was not possible for us [to close our eyes to the pain] nor did we want to become islands; the just among us … felt remorse, shame, and pain for the misdeeds that others and not they had committed, and in which they felt involved, because they sensed that what had happened around them and in their presence, and in them, was irrevocable. Never again could it be cleansed.

The Drowned and the Saved

Go away. I haven't dispossessed anyone, Haven't usurped anyone's bread. No one died in my place. No one. Go back into your mist. It's not my fault if I live and breathe, Eat, drink, sleep and put on clothes.

—“The Survivor”

How to measure another's sufferings against one's own?

Other People's Trades

The need to comment on Primo Levi's death and his views on suicide was reinforced in a communication I had with a graduate school friend, George Balch. I told him I was writing about Primo Levi. I said I was gathering his ideas into a political philosophy and that Levi's ideas would be useful

-255-

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Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival *
  • Introduction 1
  • I - The Origins of Levi's Philosophy 7
  • 1 - Force Majeure 9
  • 2 - Hobbesian Hell 23
  • II - Ill-Constituted Beings 43
  • 3 - Ill-Constituted Beings 45
  • 4 - Violence 57
  • III - Optimistic Pessimism 89
  • 5 - The Tragic Sense of Life 91
  • 6 - Useful Qualities of Human Nature 117
  • 7 - Choices 131
  • 8 - Purpose and Work 161
  • 9 - Optimistic Pessimism 180
  • IV - Defense of Modernism 197
  • 10 - Civilized Liberalism 199
  • 11 - A Defense of Modernism 220
  • V - Conclusion 253
  • 12 - Levi's Death 255
  • Bibliography 265
  • Index 273
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