IPTA 2017 Shortlist: Primo Levi’s Resistance

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2017 Italian Prose in Translation Award. Starting in 2015, the Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) recognizes the importance of contemporary Italian prose (fiction and literary non-fiction) and promotes the translation of Italian works into English. This prize is awarded annually to a translator of a recent work of Italian prose (fiction or literary non-fiction). This year’s judges are Elizabeth Harris, Jim Hicks, and Olivia Sears.

Primo Levi’s Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy
By Sergio Luzzatto
Translated from the Italian by Frederika Randall
(Metropolitan Books)

Primo Levi’s Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy—by the historian Sergio Luzzatto, translated into English by Frederika Randall—tells for the first time the story of the days preceding Primo Levi’s capture and subsequent deportation to Auschwitz. In taking on this tale, Luzzatto is also compelled to reveal what, in his Periodic Table, Levi memorably described as an “ugly secret [that] weighed on us, in every one of our minds: the same secret that had exposed us to capture, and just a few days before had extinguished all our will to resist, even to live.” Mining the depths of this illuminating episode (from a period when, in Italy, World War II became a civil war as well as a war of liberation), Luzzatto’s history shows the complexity of the choices as well as the sometimes random events that determined the fates of both antifascist partisans and the defenders of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic. As Luzzatto follows both sides, the voice and gravitas of Primo Levi act as his spiritual guide, and, in its final pages, the book’s refrain is borrowed from Cesare Pavese: “Every war is a civil war: every man who falls resembles another who lives, and calls on him to explain.” This ultimately impossible work of explanation is in effect Luzzatto’s great achievement; in English, he is aided at every step by Frederika Randall, first through her preface, which provides historical background essential for the Anglophone reader, and then by her admirably clear, concise, and cogent phrasing.

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