Levi died in Turin on April 11, 1987. His death was apparently a suicide – Levi hurled himself down the central stairwell of his home building. Before and after Auschwitz Levi had suffered from depression, but his death was interpreted as a sign that he had not triumphed over his horrible experiences. In a lecture in 1979 Levi had expressed his deeply pessimistic view of humanity, seeing life as terrible.
The last work he completed was the essay collection I SOMMERSI E I SALVATI (1986), where Levi returned to his belief in the historical uniqueness of the Holocaust. He asked how much of the camp is alive and well in our time, and how long it will remain in our memories.
Levi points out that anti-Semitism was part of German culture, not merely a Nazi invention, and sees a paradoxical analogy between victim and oppressor. In the camp system also the oppressed unconsciously strove to identify with their oppressor. Useless violence dehumanises both guards and prisoners. “Before dying the victim must be degraded, so that the murderer will be less burdened by guilt,” he stated.
Diego Gambetta throws down on what exactly happened with Levi, and whether he killed himself at all.
Eichmann and his pocket square
For Adolf Eichmann
by Primo Levi
The wind runs free across our plains,
The live sea beats forever at our beaches.
Man makes earth fertile, earth gives him flowers and fruits.
He lives in toil and joy, he hopes, fears, begets sweet offspring.
Eichmann with Jude Law hairline
…And you have come, our precious enemy,
Forsaken creature, man ringed by death.
What can you say now, before our assembly?
Will you swear by a god? What god?
Will you leap happily into the grave?
Or will you at the end, like the industrious man
Whose life was too brief for his long art,
Lament your sorry work unfinished,
The thirteen million still alive?
Oh son of death, we do not wish you death.
May you live longer than anyone ever lived.
May you live sleepless five million nights,
And may you be visited each night by the suffering of everyone who saw,
Shutting behind him, the door that blocked the way back,
Saw it grow dark around him, the air fill with death.
translated from the Italian by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann
from Paris Review 108
They’re currently on 182:
A subscription is very affordable and makes a lovely Christmas gift for someone. Likewise for CapGun, but we can’t promise poems against mass murderers, maybe Kim Jong Il, IDK.
“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” – Elvis Presley (mp3)
“Suspicious Minds” – Elvis Presley (mp3)
“There Goes My Everything” – Elvis Presley (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
True love waits for real girls.
Someone still feels the love of Ronald Reagan.
Encyclopedia Brown and the case of the Owen Wilsons.