Week 2 of the latest Rome Book Club "Primo Levi’s The Truce: a guide to returning to life” led by Prof. Barry McCrea.
The Truce operates on several different levels. It is a richly detailed account of an actual journey of nine months, on trains, on foot, on horsedrawn cart, across mountains, rivers, and plains, through Poland, the USSR, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and finally Italy; it gives realistic descriptions of the temporary communities that spring up in the various refugee camps and other provisional “homes” Levi lived in on the way. But it is also a symbolic odyssey of a wounded human spirit gradually bringing itself back to life and learning to love the world again.
Levi does not shy away from the privation and violence which haunts the war-ravaged landscape, but he manages simultaneously to present it to us as a land of marvels and wondrous encounters with extraordinary beings and phenomena. The vivid portraits of the people he meets along the way – “the Greek”, one the few survivors amongst the Jews of Salonika, or Cesare, a canny merchant from the Roman ghetto – are historical testaments to a cultural world obliterated by the Holocaust, pragmatic allies in dire straits, and spiritual guides out of static desolation into the realm of joy and action