Primo Levi wrote books that have been called "the essential works of humankind," including Survival in Auschwitz and The Periodic Table. Yet he lived an unremarkable existence, remaining to his death in the house in which he'd been born; managing a paint and varnish factory for thirty years; and tending his invalid mother to the end. Now, in a matchless account, Ian Thomson unravels the strands of an influential life.
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IAN THOMSON was one of the last writers to interview Primo Levi and devoted ten years to this biography. He lives in London.From Publishers Weekly:
Thomson's biography of Primo Levi comes a little over a year after Carole Angier's Levi biography, The Double Bond. The merits of the two are sharply distinct from each other. Where Angier considered broader questions of culture and identity, Thomson is brisk and novelistic. Thomson had extensive, exclusive access to Levi papers and family members, where Angier had almost none. For that reason alone, any Leviphile will derive considerable pleasure from Thomson's account. The fast-paced narrative sometimes results in frustratingly concise characterizations ("Chemistry was to be a powerful magnet for the inadequate teenager looking for a focus to his life"), but that may well be the price for a book that follows Levi's comings and goings so closely. Thomson, who has translated the novels of Sicilian crime writer Leonardo Sciascia into English and wrote Bonjour Blanc, is particularly attentive to the often glossed-over later years of the author's life, tracing the twin courses of his publishing career and his deepening struggle with depression. Since Levi's tragic suicide in 1987, the search for the true man behind the mythic Holocaust survivor has only intensified; Levi biographers always find they must compete not only with each other but with their subject, whose immortal memoirs will inevitably have the final say. In the end, Thomson's contribution may concentrate more on the trees than the forest, but its smoothly assembled accumulation of details renders an invaluable service to the Levi legacy.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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