by Primo Levi
translated from the Italian by Harry Thomas and Marco Sonzogni
Son of a sterile mother,
I also was announced
By a messenger, a man
Of terrifying countenance.
I was a child of the Sun,
And was myself the Sun.
I had the Sun’s force focused
In my bull loins. Sun, beast,
I slew enemies by the thousands,
Battered down doors and broke chains,
Forced women, set fire to harvests,
Until Philistine Delilah
Sheared off my hair and strength,
And put out the light in my eyes.
Against darkness there is no fighting.
My hair has grown again,
And so has my animal force,
But not my joy in living.
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)