Primo Levi by Ian Thomson
A Life

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Synopsis

Primo Levi, author of Survival in Auschwitz and The Periodic Table, wrote books that have been called the essential works of humankind. Yet he lived an unremarkable existence, remaining until 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 last. Now, in a matchless account, Ian Thomson unravels the strands of a life as improbable as it was influential, the story of the most modest of men who became a universal touchstone of conscience and humanism.

Drawing on exclusive access to family members and previously unseen correspondence, Thomson reconstructs the world of Levi's youth-the rhythms of Jewish life in Turin during the Mussolini years-as well as his experience in Auschwitz and difficult reintegration into postwar Italy. Thomson presents Levi in all his facets: his fondness for Louis Armstrong and fast cars, his insomnia and many near-catastrophic work accidents. Finally, he explores the controversy and isolation of Levi's later years, along with the increasing tensions in his life-between his private anguish and gift for friendship; his severe bouts of depression and passion for life and ideas; his pervasive dread and reasoned, pragmatic ethic.

Praised in Britain as "the best sort of history" and "a model of its kind," Primo Levi: A Life is certain to take its place as the standard biography and a necessary companion to the works themselves.
 

About Ian Thomson

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Ian Thomson is the author of Primo Levi, which won the Royal Society of Literature's W. H. Heinemann Award in 2003. He lives in London.
 
Published March 11, 2014 by Metropolitan Books. 640 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Primo Levi

Kirkus Reviews

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A rich life of the enormously gifted but deeply troubled Italian Jewish writer.

Jun 24 2010 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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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 dis

Oct 06 2003 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

The New York Times

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Ian Thomson’s life of the Italian Holocaust survivor Primo Levi seeks to answer a lingering, and troubling, question.

Nov 30 2003 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

The Guardian

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The Double Bond: Primo Levi, A Biography Carole Angier 928pp, Viking £25 Primo Levi Ian Thomson 624pp, Hutchinson £25 When Primo Levi fell head-first down a stairwell in April 1987, he destroyed not only his life but the illusions of his readers.

Mar 23 2002 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

The Guardian

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Primo Time by Antony Sher 180pp, Nick Hern, £9.99 In the winter of 1966, Primo Levi attended a stage version of his Auschwitz memoir, If This is a Man.

Apr 02 2005 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

The Guardian

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Primo Levi Ian Thomson Hutchinson £25, pp640 Publishing can be a brutal game of chance.

Apr 07 2002 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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Thomson's biography of Primo Levi comes a little over a year after Carole Angier's Levi biography, The Double Bond .

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London Review of Books

At the same time, literary memory – the cultural baggage impressed on liceo students – made life bearable for Levi: one thinks of his beautiful account of reciting Dante to his uncomprehending companion in the most unpromising of circumstances.

Sep 05 2002 | Read Full Review of Primo Levi: A Life

Boston Review

In the United States, echoing Camon, Elie Wiesel said: "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later."9 Four years after the writer's death, Maurice Goldstein, the president of the Auschwitz international committee, wrote: "Aus...

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