2017 - CPL - Centro Primo Levi
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Outrageous Fortune : Luck and the Holocaust
- Robert Gordon explores the literary tradition and philosophical quandaries thrown by the workings of luck, chance and fortune. Examining a body of literature going from Dante to Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Shakespeare, he points to how myths, images and patterns of thinking about Fortuna were taken from classical culture and adapted by both Christian and Renaissance humanist writers. He also suggests that these very traditions, which persist to the present day in our contemporary imagination, are evidence of a universal trait of human society and, almost certainly, of human consciousness itself: an acute awareness of the uncontrollable disorder of our world. Part of our vocation as storytelling animals comes, indeed, from a need to imagine ways of coping with the vagaries of 'outrageous fortune'.
- In the second part of the book, Gordon jumps forward to the twentieth century, and finds compelling and surprising links between this tradition of storytelling about fortune and the Shoah. In particular, he finds a disturbing but illuminating convergence on the question of survival: who survived the Lager and why, and what does it mean to say - as Primo Levi often did - that survival in the Lager was, more than anything else, the work of pure chance? [Publisher's text]