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Primo Levi (Turin, July 31, 1919 – ibid, April 11, 1987) was an Italian writer of Sephardic Jewish origin, author of memoirs, stories, poems and novels. He was a resistant antifascist, a Holocaust survivor. He is known above all for the works he dedicated to testify about this Holocaust, particularly the account of the ten months he was a prisoner in the concentration camp of Monowice (Monowitz), a subordinate of Auschwitz.
His work If this is a man is considered one of the most important of the twentieth century.
Levi was born on July 31, 1919 into a liberal Jewish family. He graduated in Chemistry from the University of Turin in 1941. But because of the new racial laws, Levi has a hard time finding a job and works clandestinely in an asbestos mine in Balangero.
In 1943 he and some comrades left the camp and tried to join the Italian antifascist resistance. Completely inexperienced for such an adventure, he was arrested on December 13, 1943 by the fascist militia, which handed him over to the German occupation army when he identified himself as a Jew. If he had identified himself as a partisan, he would have been shot immediately. On February 21, 1944, he was deported and the following month he arrived in Monowice, one of the concentration camps that formed the Auschwitz complex, located in Nazi-occupied Poland, where he spent ten months before the camp was released by the Red Army. Of the 650 Italian Jews in his “remittance,” Levi was one of the twenty lucky ones who survived the extermination.
Returning to Italy, Levi worked as an industrial chemist at the SIVA chemical factory in Turin. He soon began to write about his experiences in the field (If this is a man) and his subsequent return home through a long journey through Eastern Europe (The truce), in which they became his two classic memories: If this is a man and The truce.
He also wrote two other highly appreciated memoirs, Moments of Pardon and The Periodic System. The first deals with characters he observed during his prison. The second is a collection of short pieces, mostly episodes of his life, as well as two stories, all related in some way to some of the chemical elements. The ambitious novel If Not Now, When ?, which tells the story of a band of Jewish partisans during the Second World War wandering through Russia and Poland, won the prominent Viareggio and Campiello awards when it was published in Italy and made Levi internationally known .
His best-known stories are in The Twist of the Monkey (1978), a collection of stories about work and workers told by a narrator who remembers Levi himself.
Levi retired from his position as a SIVA manager in 1977 to devote himself to writing full-time. The most important of his last works was his final book, The Sunk and the Saved, an analysis of the Holocaust in which Levi explained that, although he did not hate the German people for what had happened, he had not forgiven him.
Levi died, apparently by suicide, on April 11, 1987; He did not leave a note clarifying that he took his life. The question continues to fascinate literary critics due to the characteristic mixture of darkness and optimism in the writing of this author. Levi rushed through the stairwell of his building, from the third floor where he lived. Some of the biographies published later explain this fact as an inevitable consequence of the open wounds of his stay at Auschwitz, as well as the horrors he experienced there, which are reflected in his work. But it is a controversial issue, because close friends, who often spoke with him, did not foresee such an outcome at any time. There are those who argue that the method chosen to take his own life might not be the most appropriate for someone who has knowledge of chemistry. It is still unknown if it was really a suicide.
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