This seminar will discuss a chapter by Philippe Mesnard in which he compares two texts Primo Levi wrote at the same time, in February 1946, when he began If this is a man, his first work of testimony. The first text formed part of If this is a man as the penultimate chapter. The second is the first tale of what would become a long series of tales published many years later. At first glance, these two texts look very different from each other, nevertheless, there are intimately connected and a close reading reveals how testimony and fiction can work together to build what we could call “the Truth of the Witness” according to Levi.
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Philippe Mesnard is a Professor of Comparative literature at University of Clermont Auvergne and belong to the Institut Universitaire de France, in which he has been directing the program « The place of Witness and Testimony ». Amongst other books, he wrote a biography of Primo Levi (Fayard, Hardcover, 2011, paperback, 2019) and he is editor of Sonkerkommando’s archives in France, Spain, Nederland and Italy.