To Write is to Transmit

By Rohan Kamicheril

Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence has an illuminating piece on Primo Levi's inclusion of Paul Celan's Todesfuge in his anthology-as-biography The Need for Roots: A Personal Anthology. Levi was almost famously perplexed by the darkness and obscurity in Celan's poetry, and as Kurp mentions in his piece, he said in a 1981 interview following the publication of The Need for Roots in Italy:

íI think the desperation we see in Babel is posthumous, attributed to him only in the light of his murder. He seems to me rather a man of adventure, an explorer of the spirit. There is pure despair, however, in Celan, and yet I have also put him in my anthology.ë

Kurp's piece is an intriguing and touching exploration of the conflict Levi felt about his decision to include Celan, and on the tensions between Celan's increasingly cryptic, labyrinthine writing and Levi's own commitment to writing that "transmits" its idea clearly to its reader.


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