The annotated bibliography
Annotated bibliography of works on Primo Levi from 1947 to the present: features and means of access
written and edited by Domenico Scarpa
All the critical texts collected so far by the Center have been entered into the bibliography of works on Primo Levi. Our research and collection activities have dedicated special focus on several contexts of particular interest.
a) The earliest reviews were collected: these are often the most significant for their roughness and for the disorientation that Levi’s works produced on their first readers. This repertory of reviews seems to indicate, for example, that the first edition of If This is a Man (Turin: De Silva, 1947) met with some modest but not negligible success and that the book was continually mentioned with warmth and esteem during all of the 1950s up until the new Einaudi edition of 1958.
b) Early reviews outside of Italy. The value of early reviews can also be seen outside of Italy: a considerable part of our research is dedicated to documenting the beginnings of the fortunes of Primo Levi in the principal countries of the world. So far, we have managed to collect items mainly from England and the United States, but relatively fewer items from Germany. On the other hand, all the research into the early fortunes of Levi in France, Spain and other countries still remains to be done. It is here that we are counting on the help of our readers-visitors, as we well say better further on.
c) We tried to enter biographical accounts about Levi in the most scrupulous way, even if very short. It often happens that these accounts are found (and, in some cases, hidden) in critical essays and so had run the risk of being overlooked.
d) In these same critical essays it often happened that we found excerpts from Primo Levi’s private letters addressed to the author of the critical essay (or biographical account). These are noted scrupulously in the "Additional Notes" that accompany the various records in the bibliography.
e) We searched for quotations and accounts about Levi in the letters and diaries of prominent personalities in intellectual and civil life, for example Giorgio Agosti, Piero Calamandrei and Franco Venturi.
f) We examined all the collective works as they have been found (conference proceedings, special issues of journals, etc.). At the same time, we entered a complete transcription of the indexes in the "Additional Notes" to the works considered as a whole. We did the same for the biographies and monographs on Levi.
g) We developed a specific field of interest in the reviews of Primo Levi’s works in scientific journals. Because of the originality and importance of this field, we have decided for the time being to collect them in a special repertory created at the center’s site under the entry Science.
At present, this bibliography does not cover the kinds of texts listed below.
a) Theses and doctoral dissertations on Levi (eventually, these could be surveyed specially, but perhaps such a survey would prove too broad.)
b) Critical texts published only on the web (a very small number of these were included, however.)
c) Creative works modeled after or inspired by the works or the figure of Levi. These include stories, novels, poems, films, theatrical texts, musical scores, and visual art works. Eventually, these too should be surveyed specially. All more often Levi has become a character, sometimes a protagonist, in images, pieces of music, poems, and prose works of major and minor authors. Exceptionally, this bibliography does include, at least in part, Francesco Rosi’s film The Truce / La tregua, which was released in 1997 on the 10th anniversary of Levi’s death and turned out to give rise to a substantial body of critical and biographical analyses that went beyond the discussions of the filmic event.
d) Scholastic texts.These are the introductions to selections from Primo Levi’s works that appeared in scholastic anthologies. Levi’s literary fortunes owe much to the schools, above all the elementary and middle schools. His fame was established over the years thanks to the consensus (or word of mouth) among general readers who at times were very young students. Primo Levi has entered our shared cultural memory mainly because of these students and their teachers. In fact, the intense work of the literary critics and scholars began only in the 1980s. Surveying the “scholastic” part of literary fortunes of Levi is a task that goes beyond the present potential of the center. However, this bibliography does include several entries pointing out anthologies that have printed texts of excerpts of Primo Levi since 1948. What is interesting is that this is before the first Einaudi edition of If This is a Man in 1958. We also included a reference a middle-school anthology compiled in 1981 by an exceptional editor, Natalia Ginzburg.
e) Reviews of critical works about Primo Levi: they include books, monographs, conference acts, special issues of journals and other collective works. However, this bibliography does include reviews of the three biographies dedicated to Primo Levi so far: those by Myriam Anissimov (1996), Carole Angier and Ian Thomson (2002). These biographies sparked very lively discussions that are worth including. Also included were the works of several authors that have made their marks on Primo Levi criticism -- Giorgio Agamben, Marco Belpoliti, Alberto Cavaglion, Ernesto Ferrero, Robert S.C. Gordon, and Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo.
f) Casual quotations of Levi: these are works where Levi is only quoted in passing. There are, as can be imagined, very many of these. In the United States, for example, a great number of writings in philosophy, political science, and anthropology draw from notions coined by Levi such as gray zone, shame, useless violence. In a great many cases, the use of these quotations does not imply that there is an examination of the texts of Levi where they come from.
g) Casual references to Levi: these are very short notes about Primo Levi’s works, mainly about the re-printings of his works.
h) Casual news items: these are superficial or repetitive news items. Unlike the critical texts, we did choose just a small selection of these based on their worth so as not to weigh down the bibliography.
We made great efforts to give our users as much information as possible on the contents of the texts while we were gathering and constructing the bibliography. In fact, every single record, every element in the repertory, is accompanied by a series of useful directions that allow users access by author, title, date, etc. (according to well-established documentary criteria), as well as by a thematic access conceived in a two-fold way:
- by Works: every bibliographic record is accompanied by references to the works of Primo Levi that the record in question refers to. This was done in order to help the readers find all the texts that refer to any specific work by Primo Levi.
- by Keywords: several dozen keywords were identified on the basis of the characteristics of Levi’s works and of the development so far of the discussions of them. Our aim was to describe the contents of the critical texts on Levi as thoroughly as possible.
All the titles of the works and all the keywords function as hypertext links – i.e. users can click on these links to retrieve an ordered list of everything that has been written on various topics. Some examples are the writings on The Monkey’s Wrench, on the Conversations / Dialogo between Primo Levi and Tullio Regge, on references to Dante in Levi works, on Levi’s skill as an anthropologist/ethologist, on the relationship between Levi and Einaudi publishers or between Levi and the city of Turin, or on the connections between Levi’s works and those of Jean Améry, Giorgio Bassani or Elias Canetti.
Many of the bibliographical items are also complemented by “Additional Notes,” which contain information relevant to the items in question. This includes, for example, the existence of different drafts before or after the item, any noteworthy circumstance in the history of this item, the relationship between the writer of the item and Primo Levi, etc.
This bibliographical repertory is being updated constantly and therefore is destined to grow quickly. Every bibliography is a collection and, like all collections, is incomplete. However, this bibliography, as opposed to other collections, can become the property of everyone and we expect to receive contributions from whoever is interested in having the collection thrive and circulate. We would like to ask our users to point out any eventual mistakes, gaps, and inaccuracies of any kind. We ask anyone who has written an essay on Primo Levi to send it to us, so that we can enter it in this bibliography as soon as possible. We ask everyone the world over to send us material on Primo Levi that fills in the gaps on our work. We excuse ourselves in advance with the writers whose texts are not in this bibliography. We apologize and, at the same time, invite you to point them out to us and to send us a copy.
Alphabetical list of titles of Levi’s works in Italian and dates of publication that serve as keywords for research.
Alphabetical list of thematic keywords.