On 18 May, the Italian Cultural Institute in London will present a conference on the theme of Levi’s contribution to science fiction, the place of the genre within Italian studies and Levi’s own perception of science fiction.
Organised by Eleonora Lima (Trinity College Dublin), Michele Maiolani (University of Cambridge) and Marco Malvestio (Università di Padova / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
While Primo Levi is known mainly for his painstaking and harsh books about his imprisonment in Auschwitz, he also wrote two main collections of short stories that can be labelled as science fiction: ‘Storie naturali ‘(1966) and ‘Vizio di forma’ (1971).
A chemist by training, Levi wrote these stories in a time when science fiction was still perceived as unworthy of attention by Italian intellectuals – to the extent that ‘Storie naturali ‘was initially published with a pseudonym.
In both books, Levi uses science fiction to investigate the ethical implications of technological progress and probe its hidden and inherent flaws while adopting a – only apparent – light tone. The eerie effect reached by many of these short stories is due to a strong clash: the literary genre was considered superficial and disengaged by the vast majority of Levi’s contemporaries, and yet the writer addresses crucial existential questions in his narrations of clones, intelligent technologies, mutant animals.
By drawing attention to Levi’s contributions in science fiction, this one-day conference aims to contribute to reshaping the scholarly reputation of this genre within Italian Studies, and to question Levi’s perception vis-à-vis his position within the hierarchy of genres. This event brings together some of the most renowned scholars of Levi, who explored the intersections between his work and science fiction.
Look for more information on: iiclondra.esteri.it