Scheda Articolo

If wood were an element: Primo Levi and the material world

di Gerry Kearns

in Versus n. 119, Traces of Terror, Signs of Trauma, pp.21-49

Abstract (italiano)

labour quarters of the industrial complex that was Auschwitz-
Monowitz offers an opportunity to reflect upon aspects of
the materiality of the signs of the Holocaust. This shed is very
likely one that Primo Levi knew and its survival incites us to
interrogate its materiality and significance by engaging with
Levi’s own writings on these matters. I begin by explicating the
ways the shed might function as an ‘encountered sign,’ before
moving to consider its materiality both as a product of modernist
genocide and as witness to the relations between precarity and
vitality. Finally, I turn to the texts written upon the shed itself and
consider the performative function of Nazi language.