In an earlier post I talked about the inspirations in The Hidden Bend, citing Primo Levi: “It was my fortune to be deported to Auschwitz…” because, he says, in the camp he learned more about himself and humanity in all its forms.
Redemption has two definitions: one spiritual, the other very worldly and transactional. Being saved from sin or evil is the definition evangelicals preach. Retailers and other marketers offer the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment. In both senses there is a trade. An actual or even potential loss is compensated by greater ethical strength in the sacred realm. In the profane world something like a coupon may entitle a person to own a product.
It seems to me that Levi combines both standard definitions into his implicit personal sense of his own experience. In Auschwitz Levi lost everything, but he later owned something more, intellectually and morally, derived from the absolute evil of the death camps.
There are many ways to describe what he acquired, and I won’t attempt to impose some interpretations on Levi here, but it gave him a more profound insight into humanity. The insight was intellectual, because Levi was that type of man, and also an understanding of his own being, with and without the life he had had before his capture. Perhaps that trade might be called redemptive.
It is this middle, or imprecise, sense which I brought to The Hidden Bend.
The characters in The Hidden Bend either lose or have the things that identify them taken from them. Without the people or the things that they have always had and known, they are changed. At the end they reconcile to the new world, and may adapt. But in doing so they acquire something else, maybe something Levi understood.
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