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Description - Primo Levi by Ian Thomson

On 11 April 1987 the Italian writer Primo Levi fell to his death in the house where he was born. More than forty years after his rescue from a Nazi concentration camp, it now seemed that Levi had committed suicide. Levi's account of Auschwitz, If This Is a Man, is recognised as one of the essential books of mankind. No other work interrogates our recent moral history so incisively or conveys more profoundly the horror of the Nazi genocide. Ian Thomson spent over ten years in Italy and elsewhere researching and writing this rich and definitive biography. New light is shed on Levi's recurring depressions and vital information is unearthed regarding the writer's premature death. This matchless book unravels the strands of a life caught between the factory and the typewriter, family and friends.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099515210
ISBN-10: 0099515210
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 128mm x 38mm)
Pages: 640
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Feb-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Primo Levi by Ian Thomson

US Kirkus Review » A rich life of the enormously gifted but deeply troubled Italian Jewish writer. Primo Levi's suicide on April 11, 1987, at the age of 67, angered some of his fellow Holocaust survivors, writes English journalist Thomson (Bonjour Blanc, not reviewed, etc.), who were "incensed at the apparent uselessness of the act." Others, however, well understood his decision to end his life, seeing in it one of the few acts of unbridled freedom in a carefully controlled and luckless life. Levi grew up in a comfortable Turin household where emotions were not easily expressed; "in later years," Thomson writes, "Levi told a journalist that he could not remember 'a single kiss or caress' from his mother." Whether or not that was true-and Thomson doubts that it is-Levi grew up to be a morose young man whose hopes of becoming a writer were dashed by the indifference of publishers (among the editors who rejected him were the writers Cesare Pavese and Natalia Ginzburg, the latter of whom later regretted her decision) and of a public that wanted to forget the historical realities that underlay Levi's extraordinary memoirs. Those were, of course, the mass deportation of Italian Jews, along with Jews from everywhere in Europe, to Auschwitz and other death camps, the setting for Levi's If This Is a Man and the allegorical Periodic Table, among others. These works are now part of the canon of Holocaust literature, even if Levi was uncomfortable as a spokesman and determined not to serve as "a symbolic rallying point for other people's suffering." In this sympathetic consideration of Levi's life, Thomson well fulfills his pledge, at the outset, to write a biography "not found in his books"-no easy task, given that much of Levi's output is an extended autobiography, but aided by Thomson's diligence in seeking out and interviewing those who knew the author. Readers may have trouble choosing between this and Carole Angier's The Double Bond (2002). Each has considerable merit, and admirers of Levi will want to know both. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Ian Thomson

Born in 1961, Ian Thomson was among the last to interview Primo Levi. He is an expert on Italian literature and has translated the Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia into English. His account on Haiti, Bonjour Blanc, was highly praised by reviewers, including J. G. Ballard and Norman Stone. Thomson, who has also written a book on southern Italy, is a freelance writer and journalist living in London with his wife and children.

Books By Ian Thomson

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