Primo Levi

(1919-1987) Jewish-Italian memoirist, novelist, short-story writer, and poet. Levi was active in the resistance during World War II and was captured and sent to Auschwitz. After the war, he worked for many years as an industrial chemist. His best-known works are Se questo e un uomo (1947; tr If This Is a Man, 1959; U.S. Survival in Auschwitz, 1961) and La tregua (1958; tr The Truce; U.S. The Reawakening, 1963), the first and second volumes of his autobiographical trilogy. Both are Holocaust memoirs distinguished by a combination of compassion and detachment and an extraordinary absence of personal bitterness. A chemist by profession, Levi gained international attention with is final volume of autobiography, Il sistema periodico (1975; tr The Periodic Table, 1984), a brilliant tour de force consisting of twenty-one imaginative pieces, each named after a chemical element robing personal, social and political experiences. After the appearance of The Periodic Table Levi attracted much more attention among English-language readers; several translations of his books have appeared, including Se non ora, quando? (1982; tr If Not Now, When?, 1985), a novel, and The Monkey’s Wrench (1986).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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