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  • Human Beings after Catastrophe: Poetical Portraits by Primo Levi and Tamiki Hara

    Veronica De Pieri

    Chapter from the book: Jonsson, H et al. 2021. Narratives Crossing Borders: The Dynamics of Cultural Interaction.

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    January 27, 1945: the Red Army set Auschwitz concentration camp free, making this date the liberation day for thousands of inmates, victims of the Nazi’s idea of a master race. August 15, 1945: Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan on Japanese radio after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. XX century witnessed two of the most abominable atrocities of human history whose repercussions still affect not only German and Japanese societies, involved at first place, but also each individual’s consciousness too.

    Over the past decades different studies have been investigating these indelible marks on history on many levels: historical, political, sociological, psychological and even artistic approaches were called into question in the search for the truth about Shoah and atomic bombing catastrophes.

    This study offers a different perspective on the topic by comparing the poetical responses of two representatives of the so-called Shoah Literature and Atomic Bombing Literature: Primo Levi and Tamiki Hara. Both authors, although the space-related distance and the different nature of the traumatic experiences they witnessed, gave birth to similar poetical responses under the title of Se questo è un uomo (“If this is a man”) and Kore ga ningen na no desu (“This is a human being”). This research sets itself the ambitious goal to demonstrate how, regardless of territorial, cultural and stylistic boundaries, a similar human response toward catastrophe can be detached in the literary productions of Levi and Hara: a comparison on stylistic, figurative and expressive level reveals the analogous literary solutions adopted by the authors to depict human’s frailty in front of trauma.

    Both authors answer the literary imperative of writing: their commitment unveils the aim to bear witness and to convey memory to the future generations. Words, enriched by authors of allusive and critical meanings, represent an effective and necessary means to keep alive and to preserve the traumatic memory. The literature of the catastrophe, then, becomes a language that unites, rather than divides, different societies. It serves as an universal mouthpiece for victims’ experiences to prevent Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to happen again. Submission date: September 2017.

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    How to cite this chapter
    De Pieri, V. 2021. Human Beings after Catastrophe: Poetical Portraits by Primo Levi and Tamiki Hara. In: Jonsson, H et al (eds.), Narratives Crossing Borders. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bbj.e

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on June 15, 2021


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