Memory as Hunger of the Brain

Raffaella Di Castro


In the chapter “Communicating”, in The Drowned and the Saved”, Levi compares a certain kind of memory – involuntary, ostensibly useless and senseless – to a sort of “hunger of the brain”, “the mental equivalent of our need for bodily nourishment” (Levi, 1989, pp. 73-74). I believe this analogy should be taken seriously, almost literally, and its implications thoroughly explored. Hunger and memory are often closely associated in the poems or dreams of the Lager, while in If This Is a Man, eating frequently appears to restore a semblance of temporal progression. Memory is, for Levi, a “hunger of the brain”, also in the sense of the free and fertile methodological choice of one who does not merely remember the facts, but continues to question them, contemplating both the dynamics and the problems of memory. And perhaps this “hunger” for memory must, in a certain sense, endure, if one wishes to use memory to “build [tomorrow] from its roots”, “without giving in to the temptation to recompose the shards of old shattered idols and without constructing new ones” (Levi, 1991, p. 95).


Memory; Hunger; Brain

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