In 1943, twenty-four-year-old Primo Levi had just begun a career in chemistry when, after joining a partisan group, he was captured by the Italian Fascist Militia and deported to Auschwitz. Of the 650 Italian Jews in his transport, he was one of fewer than 25 who survived the eleven months before the camp’s liberation. Upon returning to his native Turin, Levi resumed work as a chemist and was employed for thirty years by a company specializing in paints and other chemical coatings. Yet soon after his return to Turin, he also began writing—memoirs, essays, novels, short stories, poetry—and it is for this work that he has won international recognition. His first book, If This Is a Man, issued in 1947 after great difficulty in finding a publisher, remains a landmark document of the twentieth century.
About Jewish Lives:
Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present.
In 2014, the Jewish Book Council named Jewish Lives the winner of its Jewish Book of the Year Award, the first series ever to receive this award.
More praise for Jewish Lives:
"Excellent." –New York Times
"Exemplary." –Wall Street Journal
"Distinguished." –New Yorker
"Superb." –The Guardian
"Berel Lang's brilliantly nuanced book is, as far as I know, the first to successfully extract a philosophically coherent worldview from Primo Levi's artistic, biographical and essayistic writing. Such an enterprise requires tact, subtlety, and sensitivity to what is implicit and latent in a writer like Levi, whose 'clarity' masks as well as manifests the complexity of his sensibility."—Hayden White, University of California
"Lang develops a strikingly original approach to an old problem: the relation of thought and feeling to experience. Primo Levi says much that is new, and compelling, in an area where it was hard to imagine there was anything new to be said."—Howard Needler, Wesleyan University
"Lang has written a wise and deeply-felt examination of the personal and philosophical conditions that made Primo Levi’s work possible."—William Giraldi, New Republic~William Giraldi, New Republic
“Professor Lang has written an informative and wide-ranging guide to the life and work of a man, who like Dante before him, had been to hell and back.”—Ian Thomson, Evening Standard ~Ian Thomson, Evening Standard
"Berel Lang has given us a fresh vision of a fascinating and rather mysterious figure."—Philip K. Jason, Jewish Book Council~Philip K. Jason, Jewish Book Council
“In this concise, well-researched, unemotional account of the writer’s life and death, philosopher and Holocaust scholar Berel Lang remains scrupulously agnostic about such straightforward cause and effect.”—Tim Adams, The Observer ~Tim Adams, The Observer