Carlo Levi 1902-1975
Italian novelist, memoirist, journalist, and travel writer.
A medical doctor, artist, and author, Levi was considered one of the most promising writers of post-World War II Italy. His best-known work, Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (1945; Christ Stopped at Eboli), is a chronicle of Levi's year of exile in Gagliano, one of Italy's poorest regions. The book—considered a travel narrative, memoir, political essay, and anthropological study—catapulted Levi to national prominence in Italy and inspired praise from critics and audiences around the world.
Levi was born November 29, 1902, in Turin, Italy. In 1924 he received his M.D. from the University of Turin. He served in the Italian military in 1925, and founded the Italian Action Party, an anti-Fascist group that opposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, in 1930. He also established Guistizia e Liberta, an anti-Fascist periodical, in 1931. His political activities resulted in his arrest in 1934; a year later he was exiled to the remote and impoverished village of Gagliano, Lucania. His year in exile provided the material for his study, Christ Stopped at Eboli, which garnered much positive critical attention. After his release from exile, he emigrated to France, but returned to Italy during World War II. He continued his subversive activities and was rearrested in Florence on political charges in 1942. After his release he became editor of Nazione del Popolo and Italia Libera, two anti-Fascist, liberal periodicals. In the 1960s, he served two terms as an independent senator in the Italian senate. An accomplished artist, he had several one-man exhibits of his work in Europe and the United States. Levi died of pneumonia January 4, 1975, in Rome.
Christ Stopped at Eboli remains Levi's best known and most highly regarded work. In 1935, exiled for his anti-Fascist activities, Levi spent a year among the peasants in Italy's poorest region. He recorded his experiences, as well as his impressions of the people, their customs, landscape, mythology, and architecture. Christ Stopped at Eboli is regarded as a multi-layered study of a region and its people. His other works also emphasized sociology, history, psychology, and politics. His novel L'Orologio (1948; The Watch) chronicles a few days among intellectuals in Rome shortly after the Italian liberation at the end of World War II. Using the symbol of a watch he inherited from his father, Levi explores the themes of time and man's relation to history. In La doppia notte dei tigli (1959; The Linden Trees), Levi records his impressions from a short trip to postwar Germany. Although the work is categorized as a travel narrative, Levi also strove to analyze the mindset of the German people.
Today Levi's critical reputation rests on the worldwide success of Christ Stopped at Eboli. When it was published in 1945, it was praised for its compassionate and complex portrayals of the people of the region and their historical, political, and sociological milieu. His ability to provide more than just cursory character sketches earned laudatory reviews in Europe and the United States. There has been critical debate about the genre of Christ Stopped at Eboli; the book has been classified as novel, memoir, diary, sociological essay, anthropological study, and series of sketches. It garnered favorable critical and popular attention, and Levi was viewed as one of Italy's most promising authors in the years after World War II. His subsequent efforts, however, failed to earn such enthusiastic critical reaction.
Cristo si è fermato a Eboli [Christ Stopped at Eboli] (memoirs) 1945
L'Orologio [The Watch] (novel) 1948
Paura della libertà [Of Fear and Freedom] (essays) 1948
Il futuro ha un cuore antico: Viaggio nell' Unione Sovietica (travel essay) 1956
Le parole sono pietre: Tre giornate in Sicilia [Words Are Stones: Impressions of Sicily] (travel essay) 1956
La doppia notte dei tigli [The Linden Trees] (travel essay) 1959
Tutto il miele è finito (travel essay) 1964
Coraggio dei miti: Scritti contemporanei, 1922-1947 (memoirs, journalism, novel, and travel essays) 1975
(The entire section is 78 words.)
SOURCE: White, Lawrence Grant. “Beyond Civilization.” Saturday Review of Literature 30, no. 16 (19 April 1947): 12.
[In the following positive review of Christ Stopped at Eboli, White contends that Levi “has proved his competence by making a readable and interesting book out of grim and forbidding material.”]
[Christ Stopped at Eboli] is a well-written account, by a sensitive and cultivated anti-fascist, of a year spent as a political exile at Gagliano, a primitive and remote village in Lucania, which forms the ankle of the Italian peninsula. Here civilization had hardly penetrated. The natives said that “Christ stopped at Eboli,” a town in the neighboring province of Campania; and to them, Christ is synonymous with civilization. This explains the obscure meaning of the title.
It was in 1935 that the author, wearing handcuffs, was escorted from the Regina Coeli prison in Rome to Gagliano. With a painter's understanding he describes the stark beauty of the countryside; windswept hills denuded of their once luxuriant forests; white clay pitted with caves in which strange swart people, descendants of some aboriginal Italic race, lived like troglodytes. The intangible characteristics of the locality were hatred, superstition, ignorance, and malaria. There were family feuds dating back to the days of the Bourbons and the Carbonari. The horns of a dragon, slain by a...
(The entire section is 790 words.)
SOURCE: Paulding, C. G. Review of Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlos Levi. Commonweal 46, no. 3 (2 May 1947): 72-3.
[In the following favorable review, Paulding applauds the compassionate and evocative portrayal of the peasants of Gagliano found in Christ Stopped at Eboli.]
When the Italians set forth to conquer the world, starting with Ethiopia, they attended to one little detail by requesting Carlo Levi to live very quietly until further notice within the limits of a village called Gagliano, which is in the province of Lucania, a miserably sad, malarial and abandoned region just north of the Gulf of Taranto. It is just north of Calabria which is abandoned also. Carlo Levi lived in Gagliano for a year or so, and in this book [Christ Stopped at Eboli] writes about what he saw, what he heard, what the peasants told him, what he thought.
He thought and the peasants thought that Christ, that Christianity, that any hope, any possibility or reason for hope, had never come nearer to Gagliano than the town of Eboli—a railroad station on the main line, an outpost of Neapolitan civilization, many miles to the north. “We're not Christians,” the peasants told him, “we're not human beings, we're not thought of as men but simply as beasts, beasts of burden, or even less than beasts, mere creatures of the wild.”
No one ever goes to Lucania—not to stay...
(The entire section is 649 words.)
SOURCE: Bazelon, David T. “Outside of History.” Nation 164 (24 May 1947): 635-36.
[In the following review, Bazelon describes Christ Stopped at Eboli as a “new kind of modern lyricism.”]
Plot is always the essential—even, or perhaps especially, when it is so subdued as to seem negligible or secondary. When moments are big, it is the context that enlarges them. Overtly, Christ Stopped at Eboli is merely sensitive reporting of a year (1935-36) spent in exile by a cultured Italian anti-Fascist. Most of the book consists of description of the daily life and mind of the peasants who live in Gagliano, a village in Lucania, where Christianity—in its ancient or its modern version—has never become an integral form in life. Thus, to some extent outside of history, the peasants are pictured carefully, with interest, in detail. The silent plot of the book, however, resides in the attempt of “history” or “Christian civilization” or “consciousness”—in the person of Mr. Levi—to see, or establish continuity with, something that is very much not itself. The product of this attempt is a new kind of modern lyricism: the book is a well-wrought, lyrical vase.
There are two very striking aspects of this new lyricism: one is its great objectivity—the calm, almost total submission to the reality of the Other; the second is the silent, pervading dream quality...
(The entire section is 551 words.)
SOURCE: Wood, G. J. “Italian Villages.” Canadian Forum 27, no. 319 (August 1947): 117-18.
[In the following review, Wood deems Christ Stopped at Eboli as a vigorous and colorful account.]
The South of Italy has long been known to tourists as a land of brigands, poverty, and excessive heat. Although the brigands may have declined somewhat in prestige during this century, lured perhaps to those American centres which felt the need of their peculiar talents, the poverty and the uncompromising climate have remained. Into this stark area, with its forbidding mountains and its wretched villages, came Dr. Carlo Levi of Turin, banished thither in 1935 for his opposition to the Abyssinian Campaign, then about to begin. On Levi, physician, philosopher, and artist, was thus imposed an existence which might well have been the despair of other men of similar parts. However, determined to make the best of the situation, the exile set out with palette and brush to capture the more interesting features of this land and its people; in addition, he lent a helping hand wherever medical aid was required, although his services in this capacity were somewhat restricted by the petty and officious interference of his village custodians.
[In Christ Stopped at Eboli] Levi is as skillful with his pen as with his brush in assisting one to experience with him the atmosphere of this remote...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
SOURCE: Mandel, Siegfried. “Pre- & Ant-Christian.” Saturday Review of Literature 33, no. 8 (25 February 1950): 30.
[In the following review, Mandel outlines the major thematic concerns of Of Fear and Freedom.]
Carlo Levi is now known in this country for his brilliant Christ Stopped at Eboli, a sociological, anthropological, and political diary-novel describing Levi's year of exile in a small Southern Italian town because of political activities against Mussolini in 1935. Toward the close of the book he makes a strong distinction between two civilizations—that of the country and that of the city. The former he regards as pre-Christian, the latter as a civilization no longer Christian.
Of Fear and Freedom explores briefly but profoundly in essay form the question of what is psychologically common to both civilizations and what is materially different. What might be taken for Mr. Levi's main theme is his cogent observation:
History is nothing but the eternal venture of the human mass in its laborious endeavor to determine itself, to resolve itself into state, poetry, liberty, or to abscond into religion, rite, custom …
Each phase of this theme is lucidly developed down to very nearly its last nuance. Along with becoming conscious human beings, there is in the experience of all men the urge to...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
SOURCE: Edman, Irwin. “Thoughts in the Dark.” New Republic 122 (3 April 1950): 19-20.
[In the following review, Edman offers a negative assessment of Of Fear and Freedom.]
The author of Christ Stopped at Eboli commands the interested attention of anyone who read that wise and touching picture of a remote, oppressed peasant community in the hills of southern Italy. One felt in Levi's admirable vignette of eternal humanity the sensibilities of a poet and something of a seer. Now comes a book, written five years earlier, when the author was living in France. It was at the beginning of World War II; Levi was depressed about the future as well as the present and disenchanted with the past. He thought it at least a good moment to make his peace with himself and his estimate of the universe. This volume constitutes a philosophy, the author's philosophy, his confession of faith, his testament of feeling at one of the darkest moments in modern history. Now, in a moment scarcely less dark, he has chosen to issue the book, unrevised.
Of Fear and Freedom is declared by its translator (the exact translation of “Paura della libertà”—“Fear of Freedom”—would have been more meaningful) to be a work of genius, of that special genius in which ideas are merged with the music of their utterance and in which everything is suggestion and intimation, stirring the paths of our...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
SOURCE: White, Lawrence Grant. “Time and the Man.” Saturday Review of Literature 34, no. 26 (30 June 1951): 8-9.
[In the following review, White maintains that The Watch is a well-written and worthwhile book.]
Carlo Levi, the gifted author of Christ Stopped at Eboli, has written another book about Italy. Its obscure title, The Watch, refers to a graduation present from his father, symbolizing the unity of time and recurring as the subject of a curious dream.
The method used in the two books is similar: the meticulous recording of the author's impressions of scenes and events and the conversations and opinions of the people he meets. But within these similar frames the subject matter differs widely. For Eboli is a vivid picture of life in a remote and primitive town, and The Watch is a record of a few days among intellectuals in Rome during the confused times immediately following the liberation in the last war. There are a few reminiscences of the author's editorial activities in Florence and a description of his eventful trip to his uncle's deathbed in Naples.
Though not as powerful as the earlier book, The Watch is equally well written. The characters are alive, and the scenes are graphically described with the pen of a painter who knows how to write. The result is a glittering mosaic, highly polished but lacking a...
(The entire section is 836 words.)
SOURCE: Keene, Frances. “One Moment in History.” Nation 173 (21 July 1951): 54-5.
[In the following review, Keene provides a laudatory assessment of The Watch and views it within the context of Levi's oeuvre.]
First of all, of course, this isn't a novel, as the jacket and its blurb would have you believe. It would be a mistake to expect Levi to construct, out of historical incident and personal experience, a technically acceptable work of fiction. So let's get the idea out of the way that The Watch even pretends to be a novel, complete with plot, sub-plot and, if possible, love interest. Then perhaps we can talk fairly about the book.
It is, instead, a prolonged meditation upon one moment in recent history. Levi's work has always had to do with man in relation to the historical moment, and the present book gives it continuity and cumulative force. He is a writer animated by a clinical interest in his fellow-man, but unlike many clinicians, he has also great love for his fellows. It is not the kind of love which breeds false values or the eternal sentimentalities of men who “mean well.” It is the love of a good doctor, which Levi was trained to be, the doctor who knows when merely to advise, when to cut and stitch, even when to prescribe the death draft.
This loving man, this writer who is piling up human and personal documents in his books, has...
(The entire section is 1541 words.)
SOURCE: Match, Richard. “The Captive Instant.” New Republic 125 (30 July 1951): 21.
[In the following review, Match derides the lack of characterization in The Watch.]
On page 68 of The Watch, Carlo Levi (speaking through one of his characters) expresses an opinion about Tolstoy. I quote it here because I think it tells what Levi himself was trying to do in The Watch.
“Tolstoy,” says Levi, “was not a novelist. The huge machines that he used carried him who knows where, but his true value was a different one. … He is the poet of the unique instant, which cannot last nor repeat itself nor change … outside of time, outside of every novel … fixed and intense … beyond story-telling. … He's like the great impressionist painters. And like the impressionists, he doesn't need to tell a story or paint historical pictures. All he needs to do is to catch, once and for all, an instant that will never come back, that has no before nor after.”
Whether or not the foregoing shoe fits Tolstoy comfortably, it most assuredly fits Carlo Levi, accomplished painter, physician, and perhaps more than any other living writer, “the poet of the unique instant.” His new book is neither more nor less than a thousand such instants, magically caught, seen and remembered by a painter's eye in the postwar cities of Rome and Naples. And the sum of those brilliant...
(The entire section is 516 words.)
SOURCE: Hughes, Serge. Review of The Watch, by Carlos Levi. Commonweal 54 (10 August 1951): 436-37.
[In the following review, Hughes asserts that The Watch “is one of the most beautiful nostalgic works to have come out of Europe recently.”]
Carlo Levi's new book will never vie with his first novel, Christ Stopped at Eboli, in popularity. It appeals to a more limited number of readers. Where the first novel was brilliantly successful in conveying a fresh poetical interpretation of Italy's perennial problem, the problem of the South, and all of Levi's vision was focused on one place and one people, this second novel lacks both the intensity and the freshness of theme of the first. And the moods of the two works are so different! Whatever one may think of some of the political reasoning of Levi in Christ Stopped at Eboli, it was a hopeful vision he had. It was a very young book which looked to the future and had a warmth and a vitality to it. The Watch, instead, is nostalgic, it is mellow, and it does not look to any future but meditates on disillusionment. It is one of the most beautiful nostalgic works to have come out of Europe recently.
It may appear to some that in this instance Levi indulges too much in ideas, that he is flirting with the novel of ideas, but he is not. He uses ideas as he uses his images. His ideas are remarkable for their...
(The entire section is 537 words.)
SOURCE: Schwartz, Delmore. “The Miraculous Ayme and Others.” Partisan Review 18, no. 5 (September-October 1951): 575-81.
[In the following review, Schwartz notes the lack of thematic unity in The Watch.]
Many passages in Carlo Levi's The Watch have a wonderful eloquence, vividness, and vigor. Yet the book does not make a whole, and the reader finds himself in the middle of it making a fresh start again and again. This is partly due to the subject, which is panoramic and includes all of Italy soon after the second World War; and it is partly due to Levi's attitude toward his subject. He writes in the first person and in his own literal being as an Italian, a painter, and an author. But he holds back and refuses to involve himself in the subjectivity of personal revelation: at one point, he actually says of a relationship which he deliberately keeps hidden: “It is a true story, too true for me to want to talk about it, or to be able to talk about it; at least until I am so old that the words will come out of my mouth like stones.” And this refusal is matched by an equal unwillingness to commit his perceptions to the process and the order of a genuine narrative, an unwillingness which may be an aspect of Levi's complete fidelity and exactitude, but with the result that much of his book occupies some undefined middle ground. At times, it is the journal or diary of a human being of the greatest...
(The entire section is 626 words.)
SOURCE: Swados, Harvey. “Fiction of Three Countries.” Hudson Review 4, no. 3 (autumn 1951): 467-70.
[In the following excerpt, Swados offers a negative review of The Watch.]
The dust jacket of the new Carlo Levi volume describes it as “a new novel”, which is stretching the term out of recognition, for The Watch is a highly personal memoir of Levi's experiences over a brief period in the early days after the Liberation. If names have been changed, even if incidents have been rearranged and invented in order to dramatize the author's emotional reaction to the time when it looked as though Italy might really be reborn, that is hardly sufficient reason to charge Levi with having committed a novel. There are other criticisms that should be made of the manner in which The Watch has been presented. The anonymous translation, although occasionally rising to lyrical heights, seems to have been done in haste: “‘And why did you come back?’ asked Matteo with interest, who, as an old immigrant, looked on America as his second fatherland.” And while the publishers have mercifully spared us the fantastic collection of footnotes citing Stalin, Hemingway, Veblen, and 123 others which appeared in the Italian edition, they have not attempted to cut the text itself, which in this case is a pity; for The Watch is as undisciplined as a writer's private journal. Description after minute...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
SOURCE: Secondari, John H. “Golden Coast and Barren Interior.” Saturday Review 41, no. 36 (6 September 1958): 35.
[In the following review, Secondari comments on Levi's distance from his subject matter and the lack of facts in Words Are Stones.]
As a prophet is least attended in his own home, Carlo Levi is less thought of in Italy than abroad. Certainly much less in Italy than in the United States, where his reputation rests solidly on the impact and success of his wartime Christ Stopped at Eboli. That was possibly the first book to pull back the curtain from the tragic, desert-like, dusty world of the Southern Italian peasant, and allow a foreign audience to peek. It was only after the war that the Italian Communists made the conditions of the Southern Italian peasant and land reform twin subjects generally familiar to the world at large.
Words Are Stones deals with that same world. It is about Sicily, and the fantastically beautiful sea which now is almost completely empty of fish. It describes that ancient life, a mixture of Arab and Greek, Spanish and Norman, and a little bit of Italian. It pictures the golden coast and the barren interior, where peasants live and die where they are born, never even finding out what lies on the other side of the mountain. It tells of the slowly changing world which is—in one of its aspects—substituting trucks for the painted...
(The entire section is 710 words.)
SOURCE: Rugoff, Milton. “Powerful Pictures of Sicily's Peasants.” New York Herald Tribune Book Review (7 September 1958): 3.
[In the following review, Rugoff commends Levi's portrayal of the Sicilian people in Words Are Stones.]
Having interpreted southern Italy with extraordinary understanding in Christ Stopped at Eboli, it is not surprising that Carlo Levi should now turn to Sicily. Not that this small collection of reports and impressions is comparable to the earlier book. And yet at its best it displays the same remarkable capacity to see a people with all their past upon them—from the eras of Greek and Saracen, through generations of feudal lords, down to the Mafia-and-landowner rule of today—victim of a hundred wilful masters.
Perhaps that is why he opens his book with a piece about the return of Vincent Impellitteri—onetime Mayor of New York—to his native town of Isnello. Impellitteri embodied for the Sicilians who welcomed him the legend of an earthly Paradise where a poor shoemaker's son could become the head of a great city; and at the same time he pointed up the hopelessness of life in Sicily itself. The fact that Impellitteri never himself knew Isnello, having left it at the unripe age of one, or that he was a less than memorable public figure, only underscores the point, which is that as far as the average Sicilian was concerned he was a dream come true....
(The entire section is 638 words.)
SOURCE: Harrison, Joseph G. “Island with Individuality.” Christian Science Monitor 50, no. 294 (10 November 1958): 9.
[In the following review, Harrison calls Words Are Stones “a perceptive and ably written book, which confers a deep insight into a storied but tortured part of the Western world.”]
Each morning I ride to work with a friend who, during and after World War II, traveled widely in a number of African and European countries. In discussing these lands we have found only one point of deep disagreement—our respective views of the island of Sicily. To him, having tramped and ridden the parched roads of the island during the Allied advance, having seen the poverty of the villages and the distress of the villagers, Sicily is a region to be avoided, an area without charm or attraction, sad and pitiful.
There is, of course, no denying the validity of this view, for Sicily is one of the most impoverished, neglected and, in many ways, unhappy corners of the Mediterranean world. Yet, to this reviewer, it has long been an island with a particular fascination. Its immense antiquity and turbulent history, its many unique customs, the fiery pride and dignity of its inhabitants, the wonderful clarity of its air, sea, and mountains, all these confer upon it an unusual and powerful individuality.
It is this individuality which created this short volume of...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
SOURCE: Freidin, Seymour. “An Italian on His First Visit to Germany.” New York Herald Tribune Book Review (11 March 1962): 6.
[In the following review, Freidin is dismayed by Levi's negative portrayal of Germany and its citizens in The Linden Trees.]
Germany has many scars that go more than skin deep. Gifted, highly sensitive Carlo Levi seems to have run his delicate fingers over them like an expert surgeon. He made his diagnosis before he set out from his homeland, Italy. It was based on what Mr. Levi calls pre-judgment. Some would call it prejudice. The talented Italian writer probably would not disagree if it were put to him that way. He admits he has prejudices especially when Germany and its Germans are up for analysis and assessment.
This slender book is more than just a travel narrative. It is the compulsive attempt of an artist to sift through the sights, sounds and smells of a divided Germany. Mr. Levi tries to tell, from his point of view, why Germans—East and West—behave today as they do. The Linden Trees is an apolitical book in the sense that other contemporary efforts are consciously, and often ponderously, political.
Mr. Levi has found, in his travels and encounters in Germany, deeply-rooted senses of guilt, a haunting desire to belong to someone or something and a search for the future in today. He does not attempt, as he writes, to...
(The entire section is 643 words.)
SOURCE: Cooper, Elias. “The Eye of a Cyclone.” Nation 194 (2 June 1962): 499-500.
[In the following review of The Linden Trees, Cooper praises Levi's poignant and insightful observations on post-World War II Germany.]
The poet Umberto Saba has said, “After Maidenek all men have in some way been diminished. All of us—executioners and victims—are, and for many more centuries to come will be, much less than we were before.” In The Linden Trees, his narrative of travel in Germany, Carlo Levi agrees with that judgment, but postulates that “even at the extreme edge of the dehumanized a new human moment can come to birth.” It is for that “human moment” that Levi searched in Germany. He is not sure that the absurd violence of the past may not be “in some mysterious and necessary fashion also in ourselves.” The Germany of today represents to him the most important mystery of our time. Is the new Germany different? “Our very life,” he says, “depends on this.”
Carlo Levi did not go to Germany as a hunter of facts, incidents, or news items. He spent only two short weeks there. It was his first visit to the country and he admits that what he offers are the hurried impressions of a humanist. He has none the less written with greater insight on the German reality than have most experts or experienced travelers since the end of the war. He does not attempt...
(The entire section is 1106 words.)
SOURCE: Catani, R. D. “Structure and Style as Fundamental Expression: The Works of Carlo Levi and Their Poetic Ideology.” Italica 56, no. 2 (summer 1979): 213-29.
[In the following essay, Catani provides a stylistic analysis of Levi's prose works.]
The resurgence over the last decade in critical studies on Levi has largely been based on a recognition that convictions first expressed theoretically in Paura della libertà (1939) offer a key to a deeper comprehension of his work. As a result, a daunting task of interpretation has been set and undertaken.1 This article will attempt to define and analyze certain processes in the author's prose writings as illustrating the interrelated concepts of differenziazione and contemporaneità which are central to his fundamental convictions. The first part of the article will deal with the conscious application of these concepts to literature in structural processes directed towards the intentional breaking down of conventional narrative sequence: especially in Levi's own peculiar methods of character presentation, best illustrated by a close analysis of L'orologio (1950), but also in his various memorial devices and cumbersome factual insertions. The second part of the article will try to show how certain stylistic processes, in particular well known recurring symbols and the prominent use of color, carry the same...
(The entire section is 6086 words.)
SOURCE: Baldassaro, Lawrence. “Paura della libertà: Carlo Levi's Unfinished Preface.” Italica 72, no. 2 (summer 1995): 143-54.
[In the following essay, Baldassaro offers an overview of Paura della libertà, perceiving it as “a watershed moment” in his literary development.]
Long before the Resistance movement evolved into the armed rebellion depicted in neorealist films, Carlo Levi was one of that handful of Italians who challenged the fascist regime armed only with the words they printed in clandestine newspapers and magazines. Levi was only twenty years old when, in 1922, he began his anti-fascist activities by contributing to Piero Gobetti's weekly review, La Rivoluzione liberale. Later he played a key role in Giustizia e Libertà, the underground political movement that was a major force in the struggle against fascism in the thirties.1 Levi was twice imprisoned for his anti-fascist activities, first in 1934, then again in 1935. It was this second arrest that resulted in his year-long confinement in Lucania, the experience that was to become the subject of Cristo si è fermato a Eboli.
Following his release from confinement, Levi, as he had so often done since completing medical school in 1924, went to France. In 1939, after so many years of political struggle, he found himself witnessing the total domination of Italy by...
(The entire section is 4997 words.)
SOURCE: Ward, David. “Carlo Levi: From Croce to Vico.” In Antifascisms: Cultural Politics in Italy, 1943-46, pp. 157-91. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1996.
[In the following essay, Ward examines Levi's journalistic and political writings and traces the development of his work.]
PAURA DELLA LIBERTà: CARLO LEVI, RESISTANCE, AND CREATIVITY
Succeeding Alberto Cianca, Carlo Levi was editor of L'Italia Libera (IL) from August 1945 until his resignation in February 1946 in the wake of the split that took place in the Action Party during its first postwar congress in Rome. Previously, while participating in the Tuscan CLN, Levi had written a number of leading articles for the Florence-based Resistance newspaper Nazione del popolo (NdP). Over a span of eighteen months, Levi contributed at least seventy-five articles, signed and unsigned, to both newspapers, relatively few of which have been republished elsewhere.1
Many of his articles rehearse Action Party themes and analyses that we have already had occasion to observe: that the party was a newcomer to the political scene, free from the pre-Fascist legacy that still trammeled other parties; that Fascism itself was the inevitable result of the inadequacies of pre-Fascist Liberal Italy; that the seeds of a new form of fascism lay in the Liberal Party's...
(The entire section is 19229 words.)
SOURCE: Friguglietti, Mark. “Carlo Levi's Cristo si è fermato a Eboli: An Anthropological Assessment of Lucania.” Annali d'Italianistica 15 (1997): 221-36.
[In the following essay, Friguglietti reads Christ Stopped at Eboli as an anthropological study and focuses on the descriptions and role of architecture in the southern Italian village.]
Lucania, the mountainous region wedged between Campania, Calabria and Apulia, comprises a large percentage of the hinterland of Southern Italy. Insular and remote, Lucania has infrequently attracted the interest of historians and anthropologists. The culture of the people who have inhabited this desolate land for millennia has been too neglected in historical accounts, which have focused primarily on the politico-economic forces that have struggled to dominate Southern Italy. For its own part, the indigenous population of Lucania was largely nonliterate and incapable of leaving its own written testimony of its unique culture. Today, as modern society rapidly encroaches upon older cultures throughout the world, evidence of this unknown Lucania is rapidly vanishing and it has become imperative to establish a valid account of this past before it disappears altogether.
One of the few written texts offering cultural evidence of Lucania is not an anthropological treatise, but the novel Cristo si è fermato a Eboli by Carlo Levi....
(The entire section is 7371 words.)
SOURCE: Raffa, Guy P. “Carlo Levi's Sacred Art of Healing.” Annali d'Italianistica 15 (1997): 203-20.
[In the following essay, Raffa explores Levi's anthropological vision in light of the theories of Victor Turner and René Girard.]
Written in 19351, the year of Carlo Levi's exile in Lucania, Charlotte Gower Chapman's Milocca: A Sicilian Village is an anthropological study of a Sicilian village based on the author's fieldwork in 1928-29.2 Modeled on Robert Redfield's Tepoztlan, a Mexican Village (1930), Chapman's Milocca is the “only full-scale Italian village study in existence which was carried out before World War II” (Cronin 18). While Levi's Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (1945), despite its resistance to generic classification, was unquestionably the product of—among other things—its author's literary-artistic imagination, it also inaugurated a new direction in Italian anthropological research along the lines of Chapman's study as the nation sought to rediscover itself after the years of Fascism and the war. Levi's first novel, in fact, provided the “stimolo determinante” for Ernesto de Martino's expedition to Lucania in the early 1950s (Lanternari 213), fieldwork that represented the initial stage of the ethnologist's important trilogy treating religion and magic in the Mezzogiorno: Sud e magia (1959), Morto e pianto rituale...
(The entire section is 7555 words.)
Arndt, Mari. “Sean O'Faolain and Carlo Levi: Travelling on Different Passports in Southern Italy.” In The Classical World and the Mediterranean, edited by Giuseppe Serpillo and Donatella Badin, pp. 147-51. Cagliari, Italy: Tema, 1996.
Contrasts the descriptions of southern Italy of Levi and the Irish writer Sean O'Faolain.
Basso, Hamilton. “Carlo Levi's Memorable Year.” New Yorker 23, no. 10 (26 April 1947): 91-3.
Positive review of Christ Stopped at Eboli, Basso asserts that “the best thing about Mr. Levi's book, and the thing that gives it enduring value, is the story it has to tell of peasant culture.”
Coleman, John. “Two Italies.” New Statesman 103 (30 April 1982): 28.
Positive review of the cinematic version of Christ Stopped at Eboli.
Guerard, Albert. “Carlo Levi's ‘Theology’.” Nation 170, no. 7 (18 February 1950): 158.
Guerard provides a personal reaction to Of Fear and Freedom, contending that the book “is not communication but communion.”
Pauker, John. Review of Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi. Furioso 3, no. 1 (fall 1947): 79-81.
Favorable review of Christ Stopped at Eboli, Pauker discusses Levi and his work as part of the...
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