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A Tranquil Star


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Primo Levi, born in Turin, Italy, in 1919, and trained as a chemist, was arrested during the Second World War as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. His experience in the death camp and his subsequent travels through Eastern Europe were the subject of powerful memoirs, fiction and poetry. Levi died in Turin in April 1987.


Holocaust memoirist Levi (1919-1987) also wrote small fiction sketches, reminiscent of contemporaries Dino Buzzatti and Italo Calvino, for periodicals, collected here and introduced by Goldstein. Of two realistic pieces that recall The Periodic Table and Survival in Auschwitz, one concerns the last minute in the life of a resistance fighter whose act against his German captors would today be called a suicide bombing. Transparent political allegories, of the kind that were fashionable in the Cold War period up to the late '60s, predominate. In the slighter of the 17 works, a miraculous paint is developed to replace lucky charms, and a Mad Max-like look at sports of the future describes tourneys conducted between men armed with hammers and cars. "The Molecule's Defiance" concerns the inexplicable spoiling of a batch of synthetic chemical, eerie in its description of a monstrous, gelatinizing mass expanding rapidly in a reactor, as though revolting against its human makers. While these pieces (published in Italian from 1949 to 1986) don't really stand on their own, they shed further light on Levi's life and work. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Levi (1919-87) was an Auschwitz survivor, a chemist, a paint factory manager, a member of the Italian anti-Fascist resistance, and, yes, ultimately a writer. This book honoring the 20th anniversary of his death collects 17 of his short stories. Most English-speaking readers know Levi for his memoir, Survival in Auschwitz, but his larger body of work (essay collections, novels) consistently shows a range of humanity that is an affirming delight to read. This collection showcases both his playfulness and grave seriousness in its clean, precise style. But whether Levi is employing astronomy, mountain climbing, or the cleaving proximity of a Nazi grenade in a boxcar, his metaphors resonate throughout: "I read somewhere-and the person who wrote it was not a mountaineer but a sailor-that the sea's only gifts are harsh blows, and, sometimes, the opportunity to feel strong." For larger collections.-Travis Fristoe, Alachua Cty. Lib. Dist., FL Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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