30 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    1. Jean è attentissimo

      As Levi writes in the preface to the theatrical adaptation of SQ - produced in collaboration with Pietro Alberto Marché - all those imprisoned in the Lager hoped to find an attentive audience: ‘speravamo non di vivere e raccontare, ma di vivere per raccontare. È il sogno dei reduci di tutti i tempi, e del forte e del vile, del poeta e del semplice, di Ulisse e del Ruzante’ (OC I, 1195). In this chapter, therefore, Ulysses’s canto does not simply identify the monologue of Dante’s Ulysses, which Levi painfully pieces together from memory and translates for Pikolo; it also signifies the song of the hero who has survived his ordeal and is eager to tell his story to anyone who is willing to listen. Levi drew inspiration for his radio and theatre adaptations of SQ from an earlier, independent radio program on Canadian national radio. Levi praises this experiment for its ability to capture the lack of communication, aggravated by the confusion of languages, that had been a central device in the Lager’s machine of dehumanisation and annihilation. As Levi reports, the Canadian authors explained their decision not to translate the bits of dialogues in different languages to convey the author’s experience, ‘perché questo isolamento è la parte fondamentale della sua sofferenza, e la sofferenza, sua e di tutti i prigionieri, scaturiva dal proposito deliberato di espellerli dalla comunità umana, di cancellare la loro identità, di ridurli da uomini a cose’ (OC I, 1196). Tellingly, the moment of catharsis between Levi and Pikolo is made possible by the act of translation, the only instrument capable of redeeming the Babelic confusion of languages.

      A willingness to listen, however, is the key precondition for successful communication and a veritable ‘flaw of form’ in the universe of the Lager, especially when this attitude is displayed by someone (like Pikolo) who enjoys a superior position in the camp’s hierarchy. Levi’s gratuitous election to be Pikolo’s travelling companion in the journey to the kitchen, and Pikolo’s openness to listen, may be fittingly celebrated through a subversive reinterpretation of Ulysses’s last words, ‘come altrui piacque’. Could this be part of the unspoken realisation that is capable of reshaping, albeit only contingently, Levi’s own understanding of their condition in the Lager?

      In two contiguous short stories from Lilít e altri racconti, Levi further elaborates on the ethical imperative to listen that is at the heart of ‘Il canto di Ulisse’. In these stories, I argue, Levi reworks the same narrative situation and Dantean subtext from ‘Il canto di Ulisse’, but inverts the characters’ roles and their symbolic movement outside the ‘infernal’ hole (see also the story ‘Capaneo’).

      In ‘Lilít’, a heavy downpour of rain makes it impossible for prisoners to work and compels them to find shelter and temporary rest. Levi slides into a large pipe. From the other side of the pipe, another inmate known as Tischler enters. Tischler spends this recreational time sharing with Levi the story of Lilít. According to some Kabbalistic interpretations of the Bible, Lilít was Adam’s first wife. For rebelling against both Adam and God, she was turned into a devil and eventually became God’s mistress. Their union continues today and is the cause of evil and suffering in the world. Tischler teases Levi for not knowing this story and jokes about Levi being an Epicurean like all other Westerner Jews. The use of the label ‘Epicurean’ to define the ‘miscredenti’, I suggest, gestures to the subtext of Dante’s Inferno 10, where the sin of heresy is named precisely as Epicurus’s sin. Those punished for this sin are condemned to burn in a sarcophagus. Each sarcophagus houses several souls who, like Levi and Tischler, must share the same narrow space, but, crucially, are uninterested in communicating with each other. (Indeed some of Tischler’s phrasing echoes Dante: e.g. verrà un potente… farà morire Lilít’, and cf. Inf. 1.101-02.) This Dantean reminiscence is not the only element that links ‘Lilít’ to ‘Il canto di Ulisse’. Both stories recount a successful act of communication and storytelling in the Lager. But there are two significant inversions: this time, the protagonists move inside a hollow space and Levi is the one who plays the part of the attentive listener. This shift, I believe, is signalled in the text by Tischler’s injunction: ‘perché oggi la mia parte è di raccontare e di credere: l’incredulo oggi sei tu’ (OC II, 252; emphasis added). Tischler’s words seem to echo Levi’s thoughts in ‘Il canto di Ulisse’ that ‘Se Jean è intelligente capirà. Capirà: oggi mi sento da tanto’. That Tischler plays the part that had been Levi’s in his dialogue with Pikolo is further confirmed by the former’s gesture of sharing an apple with Levi, before telling his story, as a way to celebrate their common birthday. This act amounted to blasphemy in the Lager, where everyone used every means to survive, even stealing food from other inmates. In ‘Il canto di Ulisse’, Levi tells us that, like Tischler, he would be willing to give up his daily ration of food in exchange for being able to remember Dante’s text correctly and share it with Pikolo: ‘Darei la zuppa di oggi per saper saldare “non ne avevo alcuna” col finale’. Like Pikolo, and unlike Dante’s Epicureans, Levi pays attention to Tischler’s story and, by retelling it, saves it from annihilation.

      In ‘Un discepolo’, Levi is back in the underground tank and, as with Pikolo, he is trying to translate to another Häftling, Bandi, the text of a letter from his family that had been smuggled into the camp by an Italian worker. The episode is almost identical to the one narrated in ‘Il canto di Ulisse’. Once again, moreover, Levi emphasises his listener’s attention: ‘Bandi mi ascoltava con attenzione: non poteva certo capire molto, perché il tedesco non era la mia lingua né la sua, e poi perché il messaggio era scarno e reticente. Ma capì quello che era essenziale’ (OC II, 258; emphasis added). Bandi too shares food with Levi. Hence, the act of sharing/giving up food becomes a physical marker of their desire to share their lives through human communication and let themselves be nurtured by it.

      For Levi, the real protagonists of these exceptional acts of communication in the Lager are not the messengers but the listeners. Those, in other words, who were able to resist the continuous and exhausting process of reification enforced by the camp and could muster enough human empathy and curiosity to listen con attenzione.


    2. Si annunzia ufficialmente che oggi la zuppa è di cavoli e rape: – Choux et navets. – Kaposzta és répak.

      Levi and Jean’s fleeting Dantean reprieve is abruptly halted by the return to the ‘sordid, ragged crowd of the soup queue’. Standing in contrast with Dante’s majestic verses and Ulysses’ voyage of discovery is the cramped enclosure of the queue and the banality of the description of the day’s cabbage-and-turnip soup. But the contrast is also between Levi’s own Italian language and sense of cultural identity and the Babelic experience of the Lager. Linguistic chaos is a key component of Levi’s experience and subsequent description of the camp, and one to which he was unusually attentive. Early on in his testimony (and once again, Dante is an important model here), Levi designates the camp a ‘perpetua Babele’. He evokes the linguistic confusion of the camp by including in his account unfamiliar tongues. We see this here in the soup queue but also, for example, in his recollection of the distribution of bread (‘la distribuzione del pane, del pane-Brot-Broit-chleb-pain-lechem-kenyer’) and in his description of the industrial tower in the camp (‘i suoi mattoni sono stati chiamati Ziegel, briques, tegula, cegli, kamenny, bricks, teglak’). Linguistic chaos contributes acutely to the condition of extreme isolation associated with the Lager.

      Levi’s most sustained meditation on language in Auschwitz comes in the essay ‘Comunicare’, found in the 1986 collection I sommersi e i salvati. Here he reflects not only upon the extreme linguistic isolation of the camp and the psychological damage this often wrought, but also upon the degradation of language he witnessed. Violence and brute force would often replace linguistic exchange as the ‘communicative’ medium between individuals. Levi describes how, for those who did not speak German, words were used not on account of their referential function but as blunt aural instruments that could elicit the desired response from the receiver. The linguistic interaction between guards and prisoners became more reminiscent of that between humans and working animals than that between human beings existing on the same level.


    3. «... la terra lagrimosa diede vento...» no, è un’altra cosa.

      This verse is not from Inferno 26 but from Inferno 3, the canto of ‘lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’intrate’ and of ‘diverse lingue, orribili favelle, parole di dolore, accenti d’ira’. Both Inferno 3 as a whole, and this line in particular, could have served Levi well to describe his internment in Auschwitz (a land of despair, a Babel of languages, sorrowful words, angry imprecations). Here, however, Levi does not want to refer to the Dante of Inferno 3, the poet whose words could possibly be read as a direct reminder of the world of the camp, but to the Dante of Inferno 26, whose lines offer a revelatory insight into Levi’s (and the other inmates’) existence and destiny.


    4. Qui mi fermo e cerco di tradurre.

      The late Stuart Woolf (1936-2021) must have smiled to himself when he first translated these lines, as a young historian working on his PhD in 1950s Turin. Woolf is the only published English translator of SQ; his fluid and immediate rendering of Levi’s words remains the version known to millions of anglophone readers. While the task of a translator is never easy, it may be that the clarity and simplicity of Levi’s style lends itself to translation and grants his writing a certain universality - almost like a chemical formula.

      ‘The Canto of Ulysses’ can be read as an ode to translation, not just from one language to another, but in a metaphorical sense, in the repositioning of meaning between people and time. This goes back to the idea implied in the etymology of the word ‘translation’, which comes from the Latin translatio, to ‘carry over’, to ‘bring across’. In this chapter, instances of translation form a mise en abyme that ‘carries over’ from Homer to Virgil, Virgil to Dante, Dante to Levi, Levi to Pikolo, Italian to French, Italian to English, and text to reader.

      This more conceptual idea of ‘translation’ has become a way of understanding the testimonial act, central to Holocaust studies (Insana 2009; Felman and Laub 1992). Witnesses ‘translate’ into words their experience and their trauma. This process is often thought of as entailing a loss: an ineffable residue that cannot be communicated through language. However, the exchange that takes place between Levi and Jean in ‘The Canto of Ulysses’ invites us to rethink translation in terms of expansion, with each new version becoming part of the original’s harvest. The non-Italian reader’s lack of familiarity with ‘Who Dante is’, ‘What the Comedy is’, may at first seem a disadvantage. And yet, this has the enriching effect of aligning us with Jean: the reader/Pikolo attempts to overcome a linguistic and cultural barrier, to be in communion with the narrator/Levi. Conversely, Italian readers are likely to identify more closely with Levi, as they try, with him, to remember lines learned in their schooldays.

      The new interpretative perspectives created by the translated text respond to the original and form a polyphony. This polyphonic effect works on two different levels: first, just as a piece of music sounds different when sung by a different voice, a translation performs a text in another language, with another instrument. Second, by co-existing in the literary universe of the original text, the many translations of this chapter embody the multiple voices that have resonated from Levi’s writing. As Levi and Jean walk, we see the process of translation unfold. As they come to understand each other, communication through words falters, and another kind of translation begins to happen:

      O forse è qualcosa di piú: forse, nonostante la traduzione scialba e il commento pedestre e frettoloso, ha ricevuto il messaggio, ha sentito che lo riguarda, che riguarda tutti gli uomini in travaglio

      The ‘something more’ is in the polyphony of their exchange, where the ensemble is greater than any individual line. It takes on a special significance in Woolf’s translation - or in any translation of these lines, for it becomes another performance, or layer, of the initial translational act. The message of the original seems to swell, rather than subside. And, just as a melody transcends individual notes, the concern for individual words is eventually superseded by the harmony between Levi and Jean. Describing Dante’s approach to divine grace in Paradiso, George Steiner writes:

      But as the poet draws near the Divine presence, the heart of the rose of fire, the labour of translation into speech grows ever more exacting. Words grow less and less adequate to the task of translating immediate revelation (Steiner 1967).

      Levi draws us to a similar source, one that sounds ‘like the blast of a trumpet, like the voice of God’. This ‘something more’ that is not bound to language has the universality of music. It reaches towards an inexpressible goodness or enlightenment. This is in direct contrast to the negative ‘ineffability’ that is so often used to describe elements of testimony in Levi and others, in the challenge the Holocaust posed to language, in the impossibility of its translation. Here, language does not drift towards a void of suffering, but towards a chorus of joyful expression, a blast of trumpets. Unlike elsewhere in SQ, the ambiguity present in the meeting of languages is not represented as a chaotic and hellish Tower of Babel, but as a fecund, creative space. Translation is momentarily reclaimed, and acts as an implicit resistance to the obsessive uniformity of Nazi ideology. But their ‘canto’ is interrupted by the cacophony of Auschwitz, and this revelatory chink is closed with a tragic, symphonic surge:

      Infin che ’l mar fu sopra noi rinchiuso.


    5. Infin che ’l mar fu sopra noi rinchiuso.

      The chapter ‘Il canto di Ulisse’ in SQ ends with a shipwreck. Levi closes the chapter with the same line that Dante uses to conclude Inferno 26, ‘Infin che ’l mar fu sopra noi rinchiuso’. (As Alberto Cavaglion has pointed out, the citation contains a significative lapsus: ‘rinchiuso’ instead of ‘richiuso’.) How should we interpret this ending? I would like to offer a creative reading that plays on the metaphorical meaning of navigation and shipwreck in Western culture.

      In Shipwreck with Spectator, Hans Blumenberg argues that humans have sought to grasp the movement of their existence above all through the metaphor of the perilous sea voyage. As the reverberations of the Greek idea of the κυβερνήτης (governor) show, navigation is a widespread metaphor for politics, philosophy, and life itself. Among these reverberations we find an ancient motto that is particularly interesting for its ambivalence and paradoxical structure: naufragium feci, bene navigavi. This motto was first mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, but we find multiple versions of it throughout European culture. To cite a couple of examples from the Italian context, I would recall Leopardi’s ‘naufragar [...] dolce’ (‘L’infinito’) and Ungaretti’s Allegria di naufragi.

      How can we interpret the seeming contradictoriness of this motto? The motto calls into question the idea that shipwreck is the sign of bad navigation. On the contrary, there is a mutual implication between good navigation and shipwrecking. This is made explicit by Erasmus in the Adagium 1878:

      Nunc bene navigavi, cum naufragium feci (Now that I am shipwrecked, my navigation has gone well/I’ve learnt how to navigate)

      Here shipwreck is not in contrast with navigation, but is rather a necessary passage, something without which we cannot have a full and proper ‘navigation’. To put it a different way, only when we have experienced shipwreck can we claim to have navigated well. On the one hand, ‘shipwreck’ is an enriching experience, a possibility that gives meaning to every metaphorical ‘navigation’. On the other hand, in our human existence, it is impossible to navigate without ever experiencing shipwreck. In our finite, imperfect world, shipwreck is ultimately unavoidable.

      With this in mind, I would like to suggest that we could read ‘Il canto di Ulisse’ in SQ through the prism of the motto naufragium feci, bene navigavi. I am not arguing that this is what Levi intended to say, but simply that this is one of the ways of reading the text. If we see ‘texts and readers as co-creators of meaning […], [whereby] interpretation becomes a co-production between actors that brings new things to light rather than an endless rumination on a text’s hidden meaning or representational failures’ (Felski 2015, 173-74), ‘Il canto di Ulisse’ could be read as a (metaphorical) navigation on three levels. First, Levi and Pikolo’s journey to get the soup is a navigation through the camp that provides a ‘moment of reprieve’. Second, Levi’s translation of Dante is a metaphorical navigation in the labyrinth of memory, an attempt to trace a route through a sea of oblivion. Finally, Levi’s translation is also a ‘metanavigation’, for it concerns another navigation and shipwreck, that of Ulysses. By overlapping his navigation with that of Ulysses, Levi raises crucial questions regarding the human condition and the fate of the Häftlinge in the Lager.

      As in the case of Ulysses, each of the three levels of navigation ends with a shipwreck. But is Levi’s translation of Dante really a failure, or could it be read as the sign of a good navigation? In the Preface to SQ, Levi argues that when the idea that ‘every stranger is an enemy’ becomes the ‘major premise in a syllogism, then, at the end of the chain, there is the Lager’. The whole Lager could indeed be read through the curse of the Tower of Babel (see ‘Una buona giornata’). Translation is therefore a way of countering this course, a way of reining in the effects of Babel by restoring the humanity of the stranger and building a bridge through language, as Levi argues in ‘Tradurre ed essere tradotti’. By translating Dante to Pikolo, then, Levi is not just recovering fragments of memory. He is countering the logic that lies at the root of the Lager and restoring – if temporarily – his and Pikolo’s humanity. The translation ends with a shipwreck, yes, but that experience – the attempt of ‘enacting’ the human through a navigation – is a good shipwreck: naufragium feci, bene navigavi.


  2. Mar 2023
  3. Dec 2022
  4. Aug 2022
  5. Oct 2021
    1. Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.


      The Tower of Babel

      When I first read this manifesto, I had immediate associations with the Tower of Babel. The cathedral project of global neoliberal capitalism began as a socialist utopian project in the Weimar Republic as Germany’s first experiment in democracy. The democratic experiment failed when the Nazis shut down the Bauhaus in 1933.

      The experiment continued in the United States of America as the Bauhaus diaspora spread the ideas of modernism to the art, design and architecture academies around the world.

      The World Trade Center in New York City embodied the vision of modern architecture that Walter Gropius had been exploring at the Bauhaus, defining the trinity of building materials of the modern world: steel, glass, and concrete.

      When the twin towers collapsed on 9/11, the modernism movement came to an abrupt end. Ever since, we have been living in a distinctly postmodern world.

  6. Jul 2021
  7. Dec 2020
  8. Nov 2020
  9. Oct 2020
    1. Babel is a complex system which requires considerable effort and knowledge to get working. I believe full legacy Edge compatibility can be reached simply by adding a single Buble transform to the rollup/webpack config.
  10. Sep 2020
    1. Snowpack uses Babel for transpiling TS to JS, because Babel is much faster than TS compiler. The reason for that is that Babel only strips out the types and does not do any type checking.
  11. Nov 2019
    1. What once began as a humble side project on Reddit, which you can see here, has now grown so much that it has fundamentally transformed how we build and develop Node.js applications.
    1. Whereas Webpack bundles all our JavaScript source code files into one bundle (including custom configured build steps), Babel enables us to use recent JavaScript features that are not supported by many browsers yet.
  12. Sep 2019
  13. Feb 2019
    1. to have sprung from some common source,

      I heard once that Noah Webster subscribed to this view of all languages coming from one ancient language, but I can't find any source to corroborate that.

  14. Dec 2018
  15. Oct 2018
  16. Jun 2017
    1. npm install eslint-loader --save-dev

      Note, if you haven't already, you must install eslint,and babel-eslint alongside eslint-loader. Otherwise, you'll get an error from your npm start script.

      npm install eslint babel-eslint eslint-loader

  17. Feb 2017
  18. Mar 2016
    1. generate(ast, null, code);

      The code argument here is used for sourcemaps. Each node in the AST has source location information, which is retained as the AST is transformed. This information is then used to generate a sourcemap.

  19. Aug 2015
    1. A stub-only implementation of Babel =================================== Babel is a loop-avoiding distance vector protocol that is suitable for both wired and wireless networks documented in RFC 6126.