that disquieting moment when you see that what you laughed at


“Playful” is probably the last adjective one would think to use for the oeuvre of the Primo Levi who wrote Survival in Auschwitz, describing the ordeal he lived through but never left behind. And yet, on reading the latest collection of his stories to be translated into English, A Tranquil Star, on the anniversary of his death twenty years ago, one cannot avoid the impression of playfulness in these small stories written between 1949 and 1986, each of which seems to be an offspring of the question “What if…?”

What if a kangaroo were to go to a dinner party? What if the weekend’s entertainment were a gladiatorial battle between men and automobiles? What if there were a magic paint that brought good fortune to anyone covered with it? What if all the characters invented by novelists were to live in a theme park together?

more from the NYRB here.