Arduous Tasks: Primo Levi, Translation and the Transmission of Holocaust Testimony
Published: May 2009© 2009
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 340 Pages
Dimensions: 6.37 x 9.36
340 Pages, 6.37 x 9.36 x 1.00 in
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One of twentieth-century Italy's greatest thinkers, Primo Levi (1919-1987) started reflecting on the Holocaust almost immediately after his return home from the year he survived in Auschwitz. Levi's powerful Holocaust testimonials reveal his preoccupation with processes of translation, in the form of both embedded and book-length renderings of texts relevant to Holocaust survival. In Arduous Tasks, Lina N. Insana demonstrates how translation functions as a metaphor for the transmission of Holocaust testimony and broadens the parameters of survivor testimony.
The first book to study Levi and translation, Arduous Tasks overcomes the conventional views of the separation between his own personal memoirs and his translations by stressing the centrality of translation in Levi's entire corpus. Examining not only the testimonial nature of his work, Insana also discusses the transgressive and performative aspects of transmission in his writings. Arduous Tasks is a superb and innovative study on the importance of translation not only to Levi, but also to Holocaust studies in general.
‘Insana’s book provides a brilliant and exceptionally well-researched set of case studies that take up Levi’s preoccupation with translation throughout the arc of his career as a writer and his concern that, as a translator, he was making himself and the world more vulnerable to further violence.’ Michael Bernard-Donals: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol 25:01:2011
‘The book is well argued and offers new perspectives on Levi’s literary writing as a survivor of and witness of the Holocaust… Arduous Task provides translators and scholars of translation studies alike with novel insights in the two-way transformation that takes place any time interpretation of the other is complicated by experiential or textual traumas.’ Valerio Ferme, Italian Culture - vol 32:01:2014
'Arduous Tasks offers a compelling and forensically argued analysis of a fascinating, largely neglected corner of Primo Levi's work, that of translation. Intellectually ambitious and stimulating, Lina N. Insana's study draws on insights from translation theory to read Levi's multiple practices of translation, opening out into a wide-ranging exploration of Holocaust interpretation and the nature of testimony.' Robert S.C. Gordon, Cambridge University
- Winner - Twentieth Century Book Prize awarded by American Association for Italian Studies