Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Two Short Stories by Primo Levi. -"The Tranquil Star" and "Bear Meat"

One of the greatest things about the reading life is there will always be great new writers to discover.  A few months ago you might have never heard of a writer and now you cannot imagine not having read their work. This is also one of the saddest aspects in that you probably will never become aware of many writers you would have loved, writers that would have changed your perspective, helped you fight off the darkness, delighted you with their brilliance and the beauty in their prose.  

Levi, I first was motivated to read him by a suggestion of Linda Lappin and thd appearance of two of his short stories in the archives of The New Yorker provided me with the opportunity to do so, is not just a great writer, he was a great person.

"A Tranquil Star" (published in translation for the first time Feb 12, 2009 in The New Yorker- I do not know the original date and place of publication.  If you do, please leave a comment) begins with narrator reflecting on the inadequacy of language to describe the immensity of stars.  The narrator very interestingly and I think rightly tells us that language of size makes sense when you say an elephant is large or a flea small but not when we apply these terms to entities observable by science like stars and atoms.  I think based in just the reading of two stories by Levi that one of his themes is that modern man needs to renew his spirit by opening  up to the natural world as free if the blinders of received culture as we can.  At about midpoint the narrative line splits and we learn are with an astronomer at an observatory in the Peruvian Andes, where the air is clearest.  He speaks of stars going nova, exploding, and taking with them planetary systems and civilizations unknown to humans.  

You can read, for a couple of months, this story here.

"Bear Meat" (Published in translation in The New Yorker - Jan. 8, 2007, I also need original publication data on this story, please) is about the experinces of three young mountain climbers who spent a night in a shed atop an arduously claimed peak.  In the darkness the narrator begins to see other people in the shed.  He thinks only a certain kind of person can make the climb.  The power of the story begins in conversations with two of the others in the shack.  Like "Tranquil Star" the story is partially about the renewing cleansing power of primal unfiltered by human artifacts encounters with nature.  This story is just wonderful, a true joy to read.

You can for a while read this story here

I greatly enjoyed both these stories.  I sense a great depth of thought in them.

There is an excellant reflection of the life and work of Levi here

I hope very much to read his autobiographical Survival in  Austweitz.

Please share your experience with Primo Levi with us.  

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