Reflections on the Ethics of Technical and Literary Language in Primo Levi

  • Patrizia Piredda Independent scholar


In this article I will analyse the two modalities of writing which characterised Levi’s life, namely the technical writing of weekly professional reports, and the literary writing of poetry and short stories. I will above all focus on such texts as The Wrench, The Periodic Table, Other People’s Trades and the Essays and I will analyse the way in which chemistry lies at the basis of his poetic. The most significant difference between the above-mentioned forms of writing rests in the fact that Levi’s technical writing always describes reality on the basis of models created by sciences. Literary writing, on the other hand, does not reproduce a model nor describes a fixed order, because it functions as a way of representing the possibilities that lie beyond existence, i.e. it is a way of creating an order; literary writing does not restrict itself to describing an object, but instead produces new interpretations of the object, and consequently new interpretations of life. Therefore, I will analyse the function of metaphor because, from Levi’s perspective, it is necessary for good literature: in fact, thanks to its structure, metaphor is apt to show what cannot be described in a rigorous way, namely ethics and aesthetics.
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