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Species of Sentimentality

February 28, 2007

In an excellent review of Joan Acocella’s new book Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays, Joyce Carol Oates draws attention to this paragraph, in which Acocella is considering a recent biography of Primo Levi:

…Even if Levi did commit suicide [as the biographer argues], it is a species of sentimentality to think that the end of something tells the truth about it. That’s the case with mystery novels, but not with lives. Nor do we have any reason to believe that life should not be sad. Many lives are sad, and fraught with double binds, which just means conflicts. We make of them what we can, then throw up our hands and die. The things that Levi made of his life — Survival in Auschwitz, The Reawakening, The Periodic Table — are in no way diminished by the possibility that he killed himself. They may even seem more remarkable and moving: the darker the night, the brighter the stars.

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One comment

  1. That WAS a great review, and it got me interested in Acocella’s book.



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