The Voice of Memory by Primo Levi
Interviews 1961-1987

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The Holocaust survivor, writer, and scientist Primo Levi, in his own words. Over the course of more than twenty-five years, Primo Levi gave more than two hundred newspaper, journal, radio, and television interviews, speaking with such varied authors as Philip Roth and Germaine Greer. Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon have selected and translated thirty-six of the most important of these interviews for The Voice of Memory. We recognize the familiar voice of Levi's masterpieces, from The Periodic Table to The Drowned and the Saved. But we also see a fuller, more varied, and more complex picture of the writer famously shrouded in his past. There is Levi the Holocaust witness; the writer; the chemist; the intellectual; the political polemicist; and the atheist and Jew, holding onto his Jewish culture while rejecting the symbols of a faith he could not share. Levi emerges in a rich, contradictory, and essentially human light--he was a classic figure out of place. As he put it, "I am an amphibian, a centaur. . . . I live with this paranoiac split." Levi's status as perhaps the most important of the survivor-writers of the Holocaust is enhanced still further by his many voices speaking in this remarkable book.

From The Voice of Memory: "Survival in itself proves nothing; as someone who has survived I do not feel in any way either a hero or a resister. I am at peace with myself because I have borne witness, because I kept my eyes and ears open so that I could tell the story of what I saw truthfully, with accuracy. . . . Even today, after so many years, I have preserved a visual and acoustic memory of my experiences there that I cannot explain. . . . For some reason that I cannot fathom, something anomalous happened to me, almost an unconscious preparation for the task of bearing witness."


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. Robert Gordon has written for major publications in the U.S. and England, and has contributed to several books. He produced the Al green CD box set, "Anthology", for which his liner notes were Grammy nominated. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning blues documentary "All Day and All Night", and his music video work has appeared on MTV, BET, and CMT. He is the author of a forthcoming biography of Muddy Waters, and director of the companion documentary. He lives in Memphis with his wife and two daughters.
Published January 1, 2001 by New Press. 306 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Edith Bruck’s 1976 portrait, “Jewish, up to a point,” offers a rare glimpse into Levi’s personal side, and the section entitled “Auschwitz and Survival” contains many superlative pieces, notably “A Self-Interview: Afterword to If This Is a Man.” Gems scattered throughout include Levi’s reflecti...

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