Excerpt from Primo Levi's short essay, 'Fear of Spiders'
From Primo Levi's short essay, 'Fear of Spiders':
As for my personal and slight phobia, it has a birth certificate. It is the etching by Gustave Doré which illustrates Arachne in the twelfth canto of Dante's Purgatory, and with which I collided as a child. The young girl who dared challenge Minerva in the art of weaving is punished by a foul transfiguration: in the drawing she is 'almost half a spider', and is brilliantly depicted as utterly frantic, with full breasts where one would expect to see her back and from her back have sprouted six legs, knotty, hairy, painful: six legs which, together with human arms that writhe desperately, add up to eight. On his knees, before the new monster, Dante seems to be contemplating its crotches, half disgusted, half voyeur.
Primo Levi, 'Fear of Spiders'in Other People's Trades (translated by Raymond Rosenthal)