by Primo Levi
translated from the Italian by Harry Thomas and Marco Sonzogni
Samson of Timnah, rebel,
Big talking earthshaking Judaean,
Was in my delicate hands
As workable as clay.
It was easy to get out of him
The secret of his vain strength.
I flattered and cajoled him,
I had him sleep on my lap,
Still full of his foreign semen.
I blinded him, then sheared him,
Knocking out his kidneys.
My anger and my lust
Have never known such peace
As when I beheld him chained.
Not when I felt him inside me.
Let him go to his fate. I’m done.
April 5, 1985
Primo Levi (1919–1987) lived most of his life in Turin. During the Nazi occupation of Italy, he joined a partisan group in the Alps, but was soon arrested and sent to an internment camp in Fossoli and then to Auschwitz. After the war he worked as a chemist in a paint factory and wrote many books, including Survival in Auschwitz and The Periodic Table, which London’s Royal Institute voted in 2006 “the best science book ever.” (5/2010)
Harry Thomas lives now in Los Angeles. (5/2010)
Marco Sonzogni is an Italian, who, educated in Pavia and Dublin, lives in Wellington, New Zealand. (5/2010)