‘On the Bottom’ and ‘A Letter to Daniel’ are hard to compare at first as both include reports of past life experiences. Fergal Keane introduces his stories inside his report but Primo Levi’s ‘On the Bottom’ report is the actual story of his experience.
In Keane’s letter he tells that he is in Hong Kong and his thoughts and his stories all come from that one moment at 6am. But in the first few paragraphs of Primo Levi’s report Levi makes it mysterious as to where he is and has written it more like a diary and the reader is forced to pick up clues from the information given.
‘On the Bottom’ is basically written and put together by detailed facts. Both writers have extremely different backgrounds. Primo Levi was an Italian Scientist who eventually committed suicide, reading his reports from the concentration camps it is unsurprising. Fergal Keane was a popular reporter who traveled widely.
Primo Levi shows his report as impersonal but also gives a strong feeling of self-pity towards his reader. Unlike Levi, Fergal Keane is so personal that he tells the public of the letter he wrote and feelings he felt whilst holding his newborn baby. Fergal Keane is more open with his writing unlike Primo Levi’s. Primo Levi’s skill of writing shows off his way of letting the reader feel and understand what it is like for him.
Both stories tell what it was like, their experience(s) and main events of their lives but in Levi’s ‘On the Bottom’ whilst reading I sensed it was the readers role to imagine themselves in Levi’s part. Instead of using ‘I’ as himself he often uses ‘one’ in a sentence, the reader feeling he writes for the majority. He quotes; ‘some of us are immediately convinced all is lost, that one cannot live here, that the end is near and sure’- (p141-line 45), ‘Today in our times, hell must be like this.’- (p132) and ‘No human condition is more miserable than this’. Levi brings across a negative and self-pitying note.
Both reports are truthful in ways that move the reader. Both reports show ignorance in one way or the other towards the outside world. While as we have seen Fergal Keane, in that moment in his life experiences the thoughts and cares only for his baby, Levi on the other hand although showing little thought at all, I sense that he had given up. Levi quotes ‘It was better not to think’ as his last sentence.
‘A Letter to Daniel’ presents new life and happiness; ‘On the Bottom’ shows and grasps the matter of death and the suffering. Neither of these write-ups contains tension or cause tension for the reader but more are physiologically moving.
Fergal Keane shares his sorrow for the children who are less fortunate, who have suffered a great deal from disturbing causes – causing the reader to feel sad for the poor children. But Primo Levi, even though the personal reports are brief and minimal the reader is led to feel his pain and grief instead of the people he tells about. Fergal Keane’s ‘A Letter to Daniel’ jumps from one brief story to another stemming from his own. But Primo Levi’s ‘On the Bottom’ shows the longer story of his experience at a concentration camp. As Fergal Keane’s report tells of several different stories it has far more characters than Levi’s report which only introduces a few.
In Primo Levi’s story names are mentioned but they are names of officers who are addressed as ‘Mr.’- this gives the reader the sense that he cant and the officers don’t acknowledge the prisoners. They are numbers unlike the characters in Keane’s write-up remembering the names of the children and their stories in detail.
The most important basic and important conclusion that I’ve made is that Keane’s report altogether shows hope and positive thoughts of birth, the youth and the living. Although Primo Levi’s end to his report his one of a sad and more depressing note of grief, death and the suffering.