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Primo Levi Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Monkey's Wrench (1978) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
If Not Now, When? (1982) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Magic Paint (2011) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

The Periodic Table (1975) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Shema (1976) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Mirror Maker (1986) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Collected Poems (1988) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Sixth Day and Other Tales (1990) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
A Tranquil Star (2007) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Survivor (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

If This Is a Man (1960) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Survival in Auschwitz (1961) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Truce (1965) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Moments of Reprieve (1981) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Reawakening (1986) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Drowned and the Saved (1988) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Other People's Trades (1989) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Conversations (1989) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Voice of Memory (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Search for Roots (2001) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Black Hole of Auschwitz (2002) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Auschwitz Report (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Primo Levi was a Jewish Italian chemist, Holocaust survivor and author born in 1919 in Turin, Italy. Growing up, he was a sickly and frail child and was often mocked for his timid disposition and small frame. As such, he became socially withdrawn though he excelled in his academic pursuits and was among the Jews that got their degree from the university before it was made illegal for them to attend colleges. During the Holocaust, Levi became a partisan while his mother and sister hid from the police. Unfortunately, his partisan group was infiltrated by Mussolini fascists and he was caught and sent to a labor camp in Italy before being transferred to Auschwitz. Primo was among the very few that survived the horrors of the camp though his experience came to define him and his later career as an author. After the war, He started writing about his experiences through poetry and in 1946 he began writing the manuscript for his debut novel “If This Is A Man.”

Primo Levi was known for his nuanced approach to writing, an objective style that was neither self-aggrandizing nor self-pity and close attention to detail. While most authors portrayed Auschwitz purely as good or evil he saw it as a complex system that dehumanized its victims by putting them in an animalistic fight for survival against each other. Through the oppression of the victims, the Nazis have also dehumanized themselves as they sought to destroy the humanity of their prisoners first before killing their bodies slowly after that. In the same vein, he was also very sensitive to the smallest acts of compassion and kindness at Auschwitz as these proved that human beings have an inherent ability to rise above all the darkness. In a 1986 interview, he asserted that he never stopped recording the people and the world around him as he has a curiosity and intense wish to understand everything. As such, he not only wrote about his experiences but also those of the people around him. However, as a chemist at Auschwitz, he asserts that he was better off than many of the other prisoners though he also had to endure the beatings minimal food rations and beatings that were the portion of the Jewish slave laborer. He credits his survival to an Italian civilian named Perrone who smuggled food to him and by his plain and natural manner reminded him that a remote possibility of good still existed outside the prison camp and that it was worth surviving. With a few inmates, he managed to survive and tell the harrowing tales of the indignity and horror of the Nazi camp.

In 1945, Levi went back home after the liberation of Auschwitz, visibly shaken and barely recognizable from all the horrors he had to endure. While his immediate family had somehow managed to survive the Nazis, most of his friends had not and Levi never could shake the dark shadow of his internment at Auschwitz. In 1948, he finished writing the manuscript for “Survival in Auschwitz” though finding a publisher proved tough. When the book was finally published the sales were not as high as he had expected. The publisher believed that perhaps people were not yet willing to accept an honest account of the brutality and cruelty visited on fellow human beings at Auschwitz. Still, the book went on to become an internationally acclaimed bestseller when it was republished in 1958. The novel is an unsentimental look at one of the most notorious internment camps of the Nazi era and has now been acknowledged as a literary masterpiece. Primo later published “The Truce” otherwise known as “The Reawakening” that was the story of his arduous journey home after the liberation of Auschwitz that took the best of 10 months. In the novel, he also recounts his experiences meeting and talking with other survivors of the holocaust and those of other people who helped him in his journey of reintegration into the world. “The Periodic Table” is another of his very popular books that is a collection of personal anecdotes and short stories that are tied to the chemical elements. He has also published many other collections of short stories, essays, and poems about his life including the likes of “The Monkey’s Wrench” and “If Not Now, When.”

Primo Levi’s “If This is a Man” is one of the most authoritative works of literature on the atrocities committed by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Einaudi the publisher of the book had initially rejected the manuscript only putting out 1400 copies on first publication. After it was reprinted in 1958, the world was finally ready to accept it as the masterpiece that it is. Levi who was a chemist with a love for literature combined the analytical viewpoints of a literary aficionado with that of a scientist to come up with compelling memories of his experiences. In the novel that was later published as “Survival in Auschwitz,” he tells of his experiences over nearly a year when he had to endure slave labor, cold, sleep deprivation, hunger, and severe physical suffering. Levi writes without commentary with a cool tone that lacks any of the anecdotes in his essays and short fiction. He takes on the role of a researcher rather than express his emotions. As such, the story is not about venting on the horror of his experiences as he leaves that for his readers, which is so unlike any other writer of the Nazi era.

Levi’s “The Periodic Table” tells of the author’s experiences through life. It goes from his teenage discovery of chemistry, his education years at the University of Turin and his defiance of the Fascist injunctions that had them wearing comical black shirts. He showcases his admiration of the chemistry textbooks which he believes are scientific but are full of the disdain for humanity that he believes the professor has. Throughout the stories of the novel, there is an originality and witty pragmatism right from the descriptions of the metals, gases, and minerals to the science of how they interact. For instance, he says that Zinc is a boring element with its colorless salts and weak chromatic reactions. Levi also writes about his colleagues and friends some of whom make an appearance in his other books such as “Survival in Auschwitz.” For instance, his friend from Auschwitz Alberto Dalla Volta makes a comeback together with the Catholic man Giulia Vineis who is surprisingly devoid of the disorderly, generous and rigid characteristics that we would expect from such a man.

“The Wrench” illuminates Primo Levi’s life as a working chemist and then showcases his biography before he was deported to Auschwitz. Similar to the “Periodic Table” it is a set of linked stories that shows the author as the lover of Joseph Conrad, the Italian neorealist and populist. It also chronicles the lives of obscure men who do their part working in quiet virtue with obdurate matter that is still very important for the rest of society. The lead protagonist of the novel is a yarn spinner and Conradian protagonist named Faussone, who is an itinerant builder of industrial structures. He tells people that while a knight used a sword to earn his living his sword is the wrench. While there is no mention of Auschwitz, Primo still asserts that just like in the internment camps, it is the dignity of work that makes one truly free.

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