Canto of Ulysses Primo Levi - The Canto of Ulysses oFers a...

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The Canto of Ulysses offers a vivid and intimate glimpse into a seemingly less dramatic moment during Primo Levi’s imprisonment in Auschwitz, detailing a singular discussion between he and a fellow inmate. Levi and Jean, a young Frenchman with the role of “Pikolo” (or messenger-clerk), are assigned to fetch the daily soup of the entire Kommando (or unit). It is a task which takes an hour and allows for a brief moment of reprieve for the two. This conversation acts as a pivotal moment for Levi, whose stirred memories of pre-war bring back the reclamation of once thought to be lost humanity and morality. His revelation begins with Jean innocently asking Primo to teach him Italian, and “why not try? […] Why not immediately, one thing is as good as another” during this hour of peace (112). Levi is immediately hit by the memory of Ulysses’ canto from Dante’s Inferno, and he tries to remember the verses for Jean. Yet while recounting the verses, Levi remembers his own story, his life before the war, his home and family. This seemingly mundane moment acts as a retrieval of humanity and culture for Levi, a reminder that he himself was a man, not a part of “an anonymous mass” (90), or a ‘beast’ (41), or some different ‘species’ (106). And this glimpse back into the world outside, after being “deprived of everyone he loves, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short everything he possesses” (27) reminds
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