Intertextuality in “If This is a Man”

25 Nov

In the novel If This is a Man by Primo Levi, the author mentions many different texts, which is called intertextuality, a text within a text. One of the texts mentioned was Divine Comedy which is a poem written by Dante Aligherri.  It was written between the dates of 1308 and 1321. It is known as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem is about trip through the afterlife. The poem has three different parts: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.  The poem describes a journey of a man through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. It is an allegory of afterlife and describes “the soul’s journey towards God”. [wikipedia] The text is mentioned in Chapter 11, The Canto of Ulysees, where we are introduced to a new character, Pikolo, who wants to learn Italian. Primo Levi mentions the Canto of Ulysees, and recites some parts from 26th part to Jean, which is a part of Inferno. In Inferno, a journey to hell is described and the prisoners in If This is a Man are going through things that are similar to the journey to hell in Inferno, like for example, their identities are being taken away and they become nobody. The quote in the end of the chapter “And over our heads the hollow seas closed up” mentioned within the text If This is a Man means that they all have no future in the camp and even the little bit of hope they had for one was taken away.


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