A fresh view: Primo Levi's Complete Works
CPL Recommends: A dialogue between Ann Goldstein and Marco Belpoliti, editors of Levi’s Complete Works respectively in English and Italian Marco Belpoliti, essayist and
CPL Recommends: A dialogue between Ann Goldstein and Marco Belpoliti, editors of Levi’s Complete Works respectively in English and Italian
Marco Belpoliti, essayist and writer, teaches at the University of Bergamo, contributes to many newspapers and magazines, and co-edits the series “Riga” (Marcos y Marcos) and the online cultural magazine “Doppiozero.” A leading scholar of Primo Levi’s works, he curated the Italian edition of the complete works of Levi in 1997 for the publisher Einaudi, which is now releasing an expanded edition with unpublished materials. His book Primo Levi Di Fronte e Di Profilo (Primo Levi Front-View and Side-View; Guanda, 2015) is the summation of his two decades of research on the writer.
Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker and a recipient of a PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her 2015 edition of The Complete Works of Primo Levi (Liveright/Norton, 2015) was selected as a Washington Post Notable Book; she edited the three volumes and contributed her own translations as well. She is the translator of all of Elena Ferrante’s novels and of many other notable works; and she was among the seven distinguished translators of the Zibaldone by Giacomo Leopardi.
From Printed Matter
A Primo Levi Atlas: Primo Levi di fronte e di profilo. Alessandro Cassin interviews Marco Belpoliti
Marco Belpoliti has crowned his decades long critical engagement with Levi with an ambitious new book, Primo Levi di fronte e di profilo (Primo Levi: Front and Side-View), Guanda, Milano, 2015, that approaches its subject from a plurality of perspectives.
Printed_Matter discussed this impressive genre-bending book, at present available only in Italian, with the author.
Alessandro Cassin: your book seems like a —perhaps temporary— point of arrival of the long years you devoted to the study of Primo Levi.
Let’s start with the book’s structure. In the manner of an intellectual biography, it organizes information on the life and works of its subject, yet it is not a biography. It appears more like a sort of encyclopedia, or better yet a website where you can jump from one section to another, building a path of personal reading and consultation. Could you explain how you conceived of this volume, who are the target readers and how do you envision people reading/using it?
Marco Belpoliti: I had a vast amount of material I had written over the course of twenty years, and even more material, (from conferences, research projects, work outlines, etc.), only sketched out. Much of it had been published in Italian and foreign magazines, and books. Then there was material I had gathered for the issue of “Riga” (a thematic journal on art and literature founded by Marco Belpoliti and Elio Grazioli, published by Marcos y Marcos, editor’s note) on Primo Levi, and for the notes to the 1997 edition of to Levi’s Complete Works, as well as a book from the same year, for Bruno Mondadori, conceived as a lexicon. Further, there were several essays that had appeared in foreign languages, English, French and German; notes for my university courses, and more. I was concerned that this material was not readily available to readers because it was dispersed in many different locations. So I started to read it and work on it during my train rides back and forth from Bergamo to Milano (60 minutes each way). In addition, I conceived of new essays, some have been completed, others not. Eventually I began to imagine how to organize all this material, and the solution came by itself. I had imagined a bigger book, almost an atlas, with three different graphic levels of texts, one above the other, like notes. But the publisher dissuaded me. Instead, as I started to put the material in order, I came up with the idea of using different fonts and font sizes to differentiate each section. I handed over 500 pages to the book editor at Guanda, then, during the following two years, I added 200 more pages. Of the book’s 735 pages at least 200 are new, previously unpublished material. The publisher probably had not noticed that the book was leavening like bread. For nearly ten years I have presented and explained over and over again the material in the book in my classes at the University of Bergamo. At the end, with the help of my wife Paola Lenarduzzi, who is a graphic designer, we found an affordable solution for the publisher: we did the layout of the manuscript ourselves using different fonts for each section. This book is the result: we made a virtue of necessity. Read more