Primo Levi

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Primo Levi Italian-Jew writer and chemist, who gained first fame with his autobiographical story SE QUESTO È UN UOMO (If This is a Man, 1947) of survival in Nazi concentration camps. Levi devoted the last fourty years of his life to attempts to deal with the fact that he survived Auschwitz. Levi published also poetry, science fiction, essays, and short stories. Levi was born in Turin. Just before the Fascist racial law of 1938 forbade Jews access to academic status, Levi started his chemistry studies at the University of Turin and graduated in 1941. Levi wrote also for the resistance magazine Giustizia e Libertà. When he tried to contact a partisan group he was captured in December 1943, and interned in a transit camp in Fòssoli. Two months later he was deported to the camp ofMoniwitz-Auschwitz. From the transport of 650 people, fifteen men and nine woman survived. Liberated by the Soviets in January 1945 Levi returned in Turin, after an eight-month odyssey. Levi took up his work as a chemist, living in a stately old building that his family had occupied for three generations. In 1961 Levi became the general manager of a factory producing paints. He retired in 1977 to become a full-time writer. His prison recollections Levi wrote in the form of memoir, Se questo è un uomo. It was reprinted in an enlarged edition ten years later. The book sold over half a million copies in Italy, was translated into eight languages and adapted for the theater and radio. It documented how the camp deprived each individual of his and her identity and dignity, and brought about annihilation of the internees. Levi's alert moral consciousness blocked any hate for the oppressors, in spite of the brutality to which he was subjected. LA TREGUA (1963) was its sequel, and portrayed the wanderings that Levi and his companions followed at Russian directive through a devasted eastern Europe. Among Levi's other works is IL SISTEMA PERIODICO (The Periodic Table, 1975). The work uses the Russian chemist Mendeleyev's periodical table of elements as the base of autobiographical meditations, each named for a chemical element, where among others 'Vanadium' represents his unexpected encounter with a former official Auschwitz and 'Zinc' explorers the fascist myth of racial purity. SE NON ORA, QUANDO? (1989) combined the emergence of Jewish consciousness and pride with the historical documentation of action taken on the Russian front by partisan Jewish groups against retreating Nazi forces. Levi died in Turin on April 11, 1987. His death was apparently a suicide - in his home building Levi hurled himself down the
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