Toni Morrison on Primo Levi

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American Nobel Prize and wondrous author Toni Morrison reviewed the complete work from Italian writer and thinker Primo Levi for the Guardian.

Here are a few lines and poems she quotes - in English:

"For this articulate survivor, individual identity is supreme; efforts to drown identity are futile. He refuses to place cruel and witless slaughter on a pedestal of fascination or to locate in it any serious meaning. His primary focus is ethics".


"Melancholy and sorrow reside more in his poetry than in his prose. There, we find insects, accusatory ghosts and the sadness of place. In two of his poems, “Song of the Crow I” and “Song of the Crow II”, desolation is an inner reality monitored by a malevolent companion".
In the first, memory and sorrow are fixed and eternal.
I’ve come from very far away
To bring bad news.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
To find your window,
To find your ear,
To bring you the sad news
To take the joy from your sleep,
To spoil your bread and wine,
To sit in your heart each evening.
The second “Song of the Crow” is even more redolent of despair.
What is the number of your days? I’ve counted them:
Few and brief, and each one heavy with cares;
With anguish about the inevitable night,
When nothing saves you from yourself;
With fear of the dawn that follows,
With waiting for me, who wait for you,
With me who (hopeless, hopeless to escape!)
Will chase you to the ends of the earth,
Riding your horse,
Darkening the bridge of your ship
With my little black shadow,
Sitting at the table where you sit,
Certain guest at every haven,
Sure companion of your every rest.
The Complete Works of Primo Levi, edited by Ann Goldstein, is published on 17 September as a Penguin Classic.


Read the article article here:

Primo Levi in Turin, 1985

 Primo Levi in Turin, 1985. Photograph: Rene Burri/Magnum


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