In the March essay, I wrote about the life and work of the Italian novelist, Primo Levi. For the May essay, I would like to consider the life and works of another writer and artist named Levi, this time the figure is Carlo Levi. He was a contemporary of Primo Levi (although not related to him), who worked creatively in two areas of artistic expression…literature and painting, in addition to being a medical doctor. Levi’s most famous literary piece is Christ Stopped at Eboli, published in 1945, which was a fact/fiction memoir of his time spent in exile in Lucania, Italy, after being arrested in 1935 by Mussolini’s henchmen in connection with his anti-Fascist activism. (In 1979, the book became the basis of a movie of the same name, directed by Francesco Rosi and starring Gian Maria Volontè as Carlo Levi, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mfj6KP5l70). Lucania, now called Basilicata, was historically one of the poorest and most backward regions of the impoverished Italian South. Levi’s lucid, non-ideological and sympathetic description of the daily hardships experienced by the local peasants helped to propel the “Problem of the South” into national discourse after World War II. I find him a fascinating figure that, like Primo Levi, was caught in the anti-Fascist feelings that combined artistic endeavor with political activism.
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