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Narrative and Imperative


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About the Author

The Author: Risa Sodi is Senior Lector in Italian at Yale University, Director of Undergraduate Study, and Director of the Italian Language Program. She received her M.Phil. and her Ph.D. in Italian language and literature from Yale University, and her M.A. in French and Italian literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In addition to numerous articles in professional journals on Italian-Jewish authors and the Italian Holocaust in literature and film, she is the author of A Dante of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz (Peter Lang, 1990) and has interviewed Primo Levi, Liana Millu, and Giuliana Tedeschi.


With 'Narrative & Imperative: The First Fifty Years of Italian Holocaust Writing (1944-1994)', Risa Sodi has identified a significant literary corpus, organized around an occulted theme that is only now coming into the forefront of scholarly attention. The literary representation of the Italian-Jewish experience, with its tragic connection to the Holocaust, has found a long-awaited venue in this deeply thoughtful and beautifully written study. By considering the texts of such renowned figures as Giorgio Bassani, Giacomo Debenedetti, Primo Levi, and Elsa Morante, alongside those of such lesser-known authors as Paolo Maurensig, Liana Millu, Bruno Piazza, and Giuliana Tedeschi, Sodi leads us to new understandings of the former while recommending the latter for our most serious and impassioned critical scrutiny. What emerges from this important study is the existence of a coherent, if variegated, body of writings that bring all the power of Italian literary tradition, linguistic expressivity, personal experience, and imaginative elaboration to bear on this most searing of historical chapters. (Millicent Marcus, Professor of Italian, Yale University) 'Narrative & Imperative' is a much-needed and intelligent survey of Italian Holocaust literature, both fiction and nonfiction. It introduces the reader to a range of authors beyond the classic writings of Primo Levi and Giorgio Bassani, while not neglecting these classics. Risa Sodi makes us realize how narrow our canon has been by careful, lively, and contextualized readings of authors rarely taken up, even in Italy. An original feature of her work is a sophisticated taxonomy of the writers she has chosen to discuss, one that is useful for the entire domain of Holocaust literature. This is a book that will stimulate further research and should be in every major library. (Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, Yale University)

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