A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi
Unpublished Short Stories of Primo Levi

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A Tranquil Star, the first new American collection of Primo Levi previously untranslated fiction to appear since 1990, affirms his position as one of the twentieth century's most enduring writers.

These seventeen stories, first published in Italian between 1949 and 1986, demonstrate Levi's extraordinary range, taking the reader from the primal resistance of a captured partisan fighter to a middle-aged chemist experimenting with a new paint that wards off evil, to the lustful thoughts of an older man obsessed with a mysterious woman in a seaside villa. In the title story, Levi demonstrates his unerringly tragic understanding of the fragility of the universe through the tale of a pensive astronomer, terrified by the possibility that a long-dormant star might explode and reduce the entire planet to vapor. This remarkable new collection affirms Italo Calvino's conviction that Levi was "one of the most important and gifted writers of our time."

About Primo Levi

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Primo Levi was born on July 31, 1919 in Turin, Italy. He pursued a career in chemistry, and spent the early years World War II as a research chemist in Milan. Upon the German invasion of northern Italy, Levi, an Italian Jew, joined an anti-fascist group and was captured and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He was able to survive the camp, due in part to his value to the Nazis as a chemist. After the war ended, Levi did chemistry work in a Turin paint factory while beginning his writing career. His first book, If This Is a Man (title later was changed to Survival in Auschwitz) was published in 1947 and its sequel, The Truce (later retitled The Reawakening) came out in 1958. These two books recount Levi's story of surviving concentration camp life. Levi also published poetry, short stories, and novels, some under the pen name Damianos Malabaila. His 1985, largely autobiographical work, The Periodic Table, cemented his world fame. Awards in tribute to his writing included the Kenneth B. Smilen fiction award, presented by the Jewish Museum in New York. Ironically, despite his surviving Auschwitz, Primo Levi appears to have died by suicide, in Turin on April 11, 1987. Ann Goldstein , an editor at The New Yorker , won the PEN Prize for Italian translation in 1993. Alessandra Bastagli is the translator of Primo Levi's stories in A Tranquil Star and his essays in The Complete Works . She lives in New York.
Published April 11, 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company. 176 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Tranquil Star

Kirkus Reviews

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There’s a hint of Borges in the description of a lavish fantasyland populated by famous literary characters (featuring such promising pairings as the Marquis de Sade’s Justine with Dracula), and one of Calvino in a fable of social unease as experienced by a kangaroo invited to a lavish “Buffet Di...

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The New York Times

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Not having a divine idea of human nature, Levi was constantly exposing the fault lines of secular humanism — he defended human dignity even as he developed a growing sense that the human animal was somehow indefensible.

May 27 2007 | Read Full Review of A Tranquil Star: Unpublished ...

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Feb 19 2007 | Read Full Review of A Tranquil Star: Unpublished ...


In the creative short story 'A Tranquil Star', Primo Levi brings the phenomenon of a star to life in it’s brilliant beauty by contemplating our perception of it as a galactic natural wonder;

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Literary Review

In my view only half a dozen are important, while another half dozen equally important remain untranslated – stories that explore Levi’s deepest themes, such as communication, what it is to be human, and the difficulties and dangers of love (eg ‘Quaestio de Centauris’ from Storie naturali...

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Socialist Review

The title story explores the function of description and the importance of accuracy in writing (Levi wrote If This is a Man in only a few months, straight after his liberation, desperate to tell the truth about the Holocaust), but the fluidity of definition.

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Project MUSE

As he remarked in an interview with the American writer Philip Roth: “In my own way, I have remained an impurity, an anomaly, but now for reasons other than before: not especially as a Jew but as an Auschwitz survivor and an outsider-writer, coming not from the literary or university establishmen...

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