restricted access Paul Valéry Revisited by Walter Putnam (review)
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Book Reviews87 of Primo Levi might just as well reside in his verse. It is here, unlike in his prose, that Levi's ghosts and nightmares from his past burden him violently . Other, almost negligible mistakes in this book include, for instance, a missing endnote (#3, from ch. 6), and minor punctuation problems such as faulty capitalization and missing umlauts. I would also have to add that one misses a concluding chapter in Patruno's work (the ending is anti-climactic ), especially because he has so intelligently and open-mindedly guided his reader through some 150 pages. His own closure would be welcomed, much like his coherent and appreciated six-page introduction which draws his coordinates so clearly for his readers. Overall, though, Primo Levi by Patruno is an excellent book: there is solid, thorough research, and months, if not years, of preparation which shine throughout. The updated bibliography is intelligently selective, and includes only titles that are truly significant for the latest Levi scholarship. The chronology of Levi's life at the beginning of Patruno's volume is to the point and complete. In Understanding Primo Levi, Patruno has to deal with difficult topics; and he does so with a great sense of integrity, as in the case of his discussion about the privileged prisoners of Auschwitz (118), or when he writes about the ever-lasting scar of the aftermath of the concentration camp (53). Also solid are his discussions about amnesia vs. memory (114-115), and his excellent insight about the role of Levi as a writer in The Periodic Table ("Readers will be best served, then, if they recognize that Levi's intent is to present a universally applicable drama concealed within his descriptions of his own experiences" [56]). Another great point of praise for Patruno's work is that it does not "reduce " Primo Levi to a Holocaust writer. This volume affords the same space to Levi's novels, short stories, and science fiction as it does to Levi's more autobiographical writings and socio/philosophical essays. Patruno's extensive study on The Periodic Table successfully proves how Levi was able to bridge the purported gap between science and humanities, and the chapter on The Monkey's Wrench illustrates beautifully Levi's skills as a linguist, and Levi's understanding of the working-class' pride for a job well done. In conclusion, Patruno's writing is intelligent, passionate, academic, clear, fluid. His prose is captivating, and the pages move fast. His own personal insights make the reading well worth it. ILONA KLEIN Brigham Young University WALTER PUTNAM. Paul Valéry Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1995. 172 p. Walter Putnam's book is another title in the Twayne's World Author Series, that useful collection of introductory volumes on celebrated authors. 88Rocky Mountain Review In his preface, Putnam addresses his book to those who have been "daunted" (ix) by Valéry's reputation. Despite this modest aim, Putnam's slim book addresses the breadth and scope ofValéry's oeuvre without being reductionist. Another admirable quality is the balance struck between global overviews and chronological readings of individual pieces. Putnam shares Valéry's concern for the reciprocal relationship between parts of a work and its whole, for throughout the volume he consistently relates the topic at hand either to Valéry's poetics or to his place in modernism. The volume contains a biography, followed by an introduction to Valéry's poetics, then covers in successive chapters his volumes of poetry and prose works. The chapters on poetry contain abbreviated explications de texte which offer lucid orientations to Valéry's greatest works. A single chapter on prose works covers essays, articles, and Socratic dialogues. Putnam completes his treatment with a chapter on Valéry's critique of the modern world, a summary compiled from disparate sources, and a chapter on the voluminous Cahiers. In his chapter on poetics, Putnam relates Valéry's belief that poetic rhythms can come from a harmonious conjunction of three elements: the world, his body, his mind. Valéry called this system C.E.M. (Corps, Esprit, Monde = Body, Mind, World), and developing it remained a preoccupation throughout his...