Intertextual Reference to the Book of Genesis

23 Nov

                The Book of Genesis is the first portion of the Hebrew Bible (not Torah), or the Old Christian Testament. It contains a section dedicated to the Tower of Babel which explains the creation of different languages on Earth by God. The section which describes the occurrences after man started construction over tower take place after the flooding of the earth. All those who remained after this flood were considered to be in good faith.

                Primo Levi explicitly refers to the Tower of Babel when describing the coming of spring to Buna-Monowitz, “they were cemented by hate; hate and discord, like the Tower of Babel.” But also by stating the facts that the prisoners hated their masters and bricks were used in construction small and loose connection can be made to the story of the Tower of Babel.

                The interconnection Levi makes is not necessarily based upon the lines which he quotes but instead the general context of the chapter. As we know those who were saved by Noah to see the realization of the Tower of Babel were considered to be in belief that God exists. Levi attempts to put forward the idea that the Jewish prisoners in the camp or him alone, was in good faith. Also it attempts to show that Levi was one of the enlightened ones, who had firm belief and strength to endure the obstacles which the camp offered. The population of the camp is not shown as brainless savages, but instead they are introduced as a united humanity similar to the story of the Tower of Babel.

                Another important connection to the story of Tower of Babel is that its purpose of creating a pass to heaven and the tower fails to serve its purpose. It may be that Levi implies that although prisoners attempt to better their life within the barbed wire fences it is impossible. Or the same contextual example could have been used by Levi to imply that because they are scattered by differences in their language, they cannot achieve to better the environment which they live in.

                As Primo Levi states in the text and as in the story of the Tower of Babel it is said that, “erected in defiance of heaven like a stone oath.” Levi introduces such ideas to again explain the inhumanity of the camp and also introduce the idea of the unholy nature of the camp. Also this statement refers to the grandeur of the masters in this case being Adolf Hitler the master of the SS Militia having an insane dream. Levi states: “and in it we hate the insane dream of the grandeur of our masters”.

                The reference to the Tower of Babel in the Chapter named A Good Day shows that even the best day in the camp is a disaster therefore the worst day in the camp should be as living in the pits of hell. Levi further attempts to strengthen the idea of the horrific tortures of Buna-Monowitz, being not essentially physical but mental.


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