The fifth Primo Levi lecture was given by Anna Bravo, Professor of Social History at the University of Turin, on November 7, 2013, at the Primo Levi Lecture Hall of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Turin to a large audience including some classes of the secondary school “Albert Einstein”, in Turin.
His lecture, entitled Raccontare per la storia / Narratives for History, has been published by Einaudi in April 2014.
Primo Levi did not consider history to be the universal heir to the past. Rather, he gave historical studies analytical tools and concepts that potentially broke ground for radical change. It is mainly due to him that the topic of the deportation of the Jews came forward to take its place beside that of the deportation of political prisoners, which was the dominant topic of the 1940s and 1950s. It is due to him that distance was taken from interpretations tending to create heroes or to comfort readers, that the drifts and limits of memory were reflected upon, that some of the strongest arguments against holocaust denial took shape, and that the key concept of the gray zone was formulated -- i.e. that broad middle territory inhabited by the big and little figures in the hierarchy among the deportees. Not one of these teachings would have been appeared without Levi’s radical independence of judgment, without his refusal to submit his faith in direct experience to ideological imperatives or group solidarity, and without his courage in exposing himself to criticisms, rejections and misunderstandings. His most striking teaching is the current extension of the category of the gray zone to any set of obscure or ambiguous circumstances. The highly ideological historiography of the 1970s ad 1980s has only partially received the teaching of Levi. However, from today’s perspective, so different than then, we can benefit from it fully, starting out with his call for responsibility, its root and source.
Anna Bravo has collected the narratives and moral and political diagnoses of Primo Levi, through a 1983 interview, and explains why they are still valid today and will remain so for the forseeable future.
In occasione del Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino, il 9 maggio 2014 è stato presentato Raccontare per la storia, il volume di Anna Bravo tratto dalla quinta Lezione Primo Levi e pubblicato da Einaudi in edizione bilingue italiano/inglese.