Gender and Translation: Writing as Resistance in Primo Levi's Se questo è un uomo

The European Legacy 16 (2):147-165 (2011)
Abstract
This essay argues that translation in Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man) (1947), as well as in related pieces, functions for Primo Levi as a key means for claiming and potentially repairing manhood. In its capacity to reposition meaning, translation functions as a powerful vehicle for affirming agency, particularly gendered agency. What emerges in Levi's writings, particularly in Se questo's ?Canto of Ulysses? chapter, is the figure of the translator as resistance fighter: the man who uses his intellect, his love of languages and other men, and his desire to communicate in order to combat the assault on humanity perpetrated by Nazism and sustained by its legacy. In this Levi's writing exists on a continuum with the cultural work of the founding members of Giustizia e Libertà and, accordingly, complicates Italy's postwar understanding of partisan activity. Throughout Se questo è un uomo and related works, translation proves a vital if imperfect means for reclaiming manhood and for asserting the possibility of friendship across cultural, regional, ethnic, and gender boundaries
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