17 more from primo levi


Still, A Tranquil Star is mostly wonderful, and will perhaps begin to change our understanding of Primo Levi. In Britain in particular Levi is best known for his Holocaust writings, which deliver a message of hope even from the depths. But we did not know his reason: that if you could not spread hope, it was better to remain silent. And we did not know, or were only beginning to know, that there was another, much darker, Primo Levi. That is because we did not look into the places where he hid his darker side: his poetry and “precisely” his stories.

Even the minor stories here are stamped with this darker vision. “In the Park” is the most light-hearted a jeu d’esprit about an autobiographer who enters the Park of immortality reserved for literary characters, where the weather is always spectacular, and there are no ordinary people (for example, Levi jokes, no chemists), but only “cops and robbers”, lovers and kings, and especially prostitutes, “in a percentage absolutely disproportionate to actual need”. But even here there is death and oblivion, which in the Park are the same thing.

more from Literary Review here.