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Monday, January 8, 2007

Reading Primo Levi

posted by on January 8 at 13:31 PM

I was reading the latest New Yorker this weekend, and was surprised to see a short story by Italian writer Primo Levi, since he’s been dead since 1987. He came to writing later in life, after he had survived the horrors of internment at Auschwitz. I always read his writing with a bit of sadness, since I learned that his death was ruled a suicide. His book Survival in Auschwitz gets the attention, but the book that has always stayed with me is The Truce, a recounting of his eight-month journey across Europe to get home after he was released from the camp. It chronicles his bafflement at his own survival and his attempts to reconnect with the post-war world.

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1

So is there an explanation? I saw the byline and didn't know what to think. I'll admit I didn't poke around the mag too carefully to see how they got the piece or if it was a new translation of a well-known Italian piece.

Posted by Jonathan | January 8, 2007 2:33 PM
2

I wanted to enjoy the Milan Kundera piece in the issue as well, but it also seemed to be screaming victimhood.

Posted by andrew | January 8, 2007 2:53 PM
3

Apparently the story was originally published in Italian in 1961.

Posted by gillian | January 8, 2007 3:21 PM
4

Primo Levi reads like northern Italians speak -jagged crescendos, arias and interludes - interwoven between and within stories, paragraphs and sentences. He sounds like the topography of the Italian Alps.

Posted by M | January 8, 2007 4:31 PM
5

I read his book on the days preceding a trip to see Dachau. It made the experience so much more meaningful. I am very sorry to hear that he committed suicide.

Posted by StrangerDanger | January 8, 2007 4:50 PM
6

> I always read his writing with a bit
> of sadness, since I learned that his
> death was ruled a suicide.

I always read his book with a bit of crackerbread, a slice of bree, and a glass of dry sherry since I learned that his death was ruled a suicide. I used to read his writing with a juicy orange and a glass of New Coke when I thought he'd died while fucking his wife. But that just didn't seem appropriate after I learned I he'd died as a suicide. After I learned his death was a suicide, I moved his books from the shelf of writing by people who will go to heaven to the locked cabinet under my bed full of writing by people who are going straight to hell. It is a better reading, I've found. Harper Lee is nice and all, but when I want to get down with some writing, I crack the spine to my edition of "Lepers, Suicides, and Crack Hos." I can go through three boxes of Twizzlers, a six pack of PBR, and a packet of Gardenias Burgandy Kleenex (Our Most Soothing Tissue!) before I'm off of the copyright page.

A bit of fucking sadness. Please. A single tear for Primo Levi who survived the Holocaust.

Posted by Diane Williams | January 8, 2007 7:04 PM
7

I'm always happy to hear that Stranger staffers read The New Yorker.

Posted by Sean | January 8, 2007 9:41 PM
8

Elie Wiesel wrote that "Primo Levi died in Auschwitz forty years later."

Posted by Tank | January 29, 2007 8:36 PM

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