Primo Levi

(1919 - 1987 / Turin / Italy)

Primo Levi
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Primo Levi was born in Turin in Italy in 1919, to a family of non-religious Jews with Spanish roots. Pursuing an education in chemistry, he flouted Mussolini's racial laws of 1938, which prohibited Jews from higher education. Levi received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Turin in 1941. He eventually landed a position in a pharmaceutical laboratory where he worked until 1943, when the Germans invaded Northern Italy.

Leaving his job, the young chemist traded his glassware for a pistol, joining a band of partisans devoted to fighting Germans and Italian fascists. After being betrayed by one of their own number, Levi was handed over to the Germans and deported ... more »

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Primo Levi Quotations

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  • ''Anyone who has obeyed nature by transmitting a piece of gossip experiences the explosive relief that accompanies the satisfying of a primary need.''
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. repr. In The Mirror Maker (1989). "About Gossip," La Stampa (Turin, Italy, June 24, 1986).
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  • The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in general it is understood completely only when it is broken: ...
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. "Ex-Chemist," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
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  • ''I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.''
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. "My House," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
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  • ''The aims of life are the best defense against death.''
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian author. The Drowned and the Saved, ch. 6 (1988).
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  • Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument.... The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or...
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian author. The Drowned and the Saved, ch. 1 (1988).
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Comments about Primo Levi

  • Fabrizio Frosini (12/7/2015 2:43:00 PM)


    GET UP!

    We used to dream in those brutal nights
    Dense, violent dreams
    Dreamed with soul and body:
    To return; to eat; to tell our story.
    Until it sounded - brief, low
    The command of dawn:
    Wstawac '';
    And the heart cracked in the chest.

    Now we've recovered our homes,
    Our bellies are full,
    We've just finished telling the story.
    It's time. Soon we'll hear again
    That foreign command:
    Wstawac ''.

    - -


    Sognavamo nelle notti feroci
    Sogni densi e violenti
    Sognati con anima e corpo:
    Tornare; mangiare; raccontare.
    Finché suonava breve sommesso
    Il comando dell’alba:
    E si spezzava in petto il cuore.

    Ora abbiamo ritrovato la casa,
    Il nostro ventre è sazio,
    Abbiamo finito di raccontare.
    E’ tempo. Presto udremo ancora
    Il comando straniero:


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Best Poem of Primo Levi

To My Friends

Dear friends, and here I say friends
the broad sense of the word:
Wife, sister, associates, relatives,
Schoolmates of both sexes,
People seen only once
Or frequented all my life;
Provided that between us, for at least a moment,
A line has been stretched,
A well-defined bond.
I speak for you, companions of a crowded
Road, not without its difficulties,
And for you too, who have lost
Soul, courage, the desire to live;
Or no one, or someone, or perhaps only one person, or you
Who are reading me: remember the time
Before the wax hardened,
When ...

Read the full of To My Friends