Primo Levi Embraces Europe: A Precursor to Amin Maalouf’s 2008 European Language Treaty

Rhian Collings

Abstract


In the words of Zygmunt Bauman, ‘Europe is not something you discover; Europe is a mission’ (Bauman, 2013). The writing of the Italian Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, plays an important role in this ‘mission’, by promoting a European sense of belonging that goes beyond national and linguistic borders. This is particularly apparent in his autobiographical novel published in 1962, La tregua, in which Levi gives an optimistic portrayal of his contact with different linguistic communities during his journey home from Auschwitz. His stance on the importance of respecting and glorifying linguistic and cultural diversity is reflected in current European language policy in A Rewarding Challenge, a treaty written by Amin Maalouf in 2008. Consequently, this paper aims to bring together Levi and Maalouf along with several other contemporary thinkers of Europe, such as Derrida, Bauman and Habermas, to highlight similarities in their perception of the bonds that exist between Europeans. After first discussing Levi’s positive account of his contact with various European languages and cultures during his repatriation to Italy, I will then examine how in A Rewarding Challenge Maalouf deals with many of the issues already raised by Levi. Whilst showing that protecting the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe is certainly a challenge, my paper will clarify why Maalouf states that it is ‘a rewarding challenge’. The benefits of accepting this challenge will be shown to represent essential stepping-stones towards creating a collective European identity that defies national and linguistic boundaries.

To read or download this article, please follow this link: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1502388

DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.055


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