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For the Young

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    Talking, Teaching, Learning about Auschwitz

     

    Primo Levi wrote in his 1976 Appendix to his account of the Shoah, “If This is a Man has been accepted by students and teachers with a favor that has by far surpassed my own expectations and those of my editors. Hundreds of students from all over Italy have asked me to comment on my book in writing or, if possible, in person. Within the limits of my commitments, I have satisfied these requests, so much so that I have added a third profession to my other two – that of presenter and commentator on myself – or rather, on that far-away self that had lived through the adventure of Auschwitz and had told of it.”

    Each of these encounters brought out “many questions – naïve or knowledgeable ones, emotional or provocative ones, superficial or basic ones,” such, in any case, to feed an intense dialogue that has gone one even after Levi’s death. In fact, his works, even in school editions, are among the most read books in the various levels of schools and, in general, among young people primarily in Italy but also in France, the United States and other countries. The interest of the world of education in Primo Levi is also demonstrated by the number of schools and libraries named after him.

    Thus it may be useful to create a specific space in this site dedicated to the relationship between Primo Levi and the younger generations that will help us go over his innumerable encounters beginning in the 1950s and to stimulate a dialogue that is still very much alive.

     

    "Student: I wanted to know what you think about the young people of today?
    Levi:

    This is the question that is never missing. I think that they are luckier than the young people of yesterday in a certain way because they are living in a world at peace, at least temporarily, and because all of them or almost all of them have access to culture. I am not talking only about school, but I’m also thinking about newsstands. Today there is a vast selection before a newsstand. You can choose to be informed, be entertained, to be educated. I’m thinking of the ease with which we can travel today, even without a lot of change. Today you take a bicycle, a mountain pack and go. The borders are all open. You can go into any country in the world. Yet, there is what balances this out and it is the very serious problem that we are witnessing today – and not only in Italy – of what happens after school, and this is the problem of finding work. […] As for a judgment of the young people of today, I refuse to make it, if you permit me. I don’t think that the youth of today are different than the young people of yesterday in their human make up. I believe that in Italy they are at least better than us because some basic concepts are more widespread than they were 30 or 40 years ago – those that we talked about before – concepts of tolerance, democracy, and the right of equality in inequality.”
    [Luciana Costantini & Orietta Togni (Eds.), Primo Levi, "Il gusto dei contemporanei" [The Taste of Our Contemporaries], Quaderno numero 7, Banca Popolare Pesarese e Ravennate, 1990].

     

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