It astounds me that Primo Levi could’ve survived the concentration camps with his humanity intact. I am struck dumb when I think that Elie Wiesel saw babies dashed against trees and woman burned alive and still went on living. I am in awe of all the survivors of trauma and atrocity who manage to retain some seed of normalcy within their hearts. And yet, I was even more astounded to discover that Primo Levi had a son—Renzo, named after Lorenzo Perrone, someone who helped Levi survive imprisonment by giving up part of his ration and bread for six months.
Why? Because while I have seen little of the world, and even less of the true extremes of human nature, I still find many sources of sorrow and despair. For example, when I think about having children I think to myself how great it would be—for me. But soon after, a question arises in my mind. If I put aside my own desires and dreams and ask myself, “Do the possible joys of life outweigh the inevitable suffering?”, I find myself, at times, wanting to answer in the negative. And giving such an answer, how can I knowingly bring another person into being?
Going further, I cannot begin to imagine the strength required of a father like Levi, a father who, truly, saw the best and the worst of us. And I cannot begin to decide whether the birth of Levi’s child was the result of an heroically wise or an heroically foolish choice.