Cover image for The voice of memory : interviews, 1961-1987 : Primo Levi
The voice of memory : interviews, 1961-1987 : Primo Levi
Levi, Primo.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Primo Levi English
Publication Information:
New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxix, 306 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
"First published in Italy as Primo Levi : conversazioni e interviste : 1963-1987"--T.p. verso.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ4872.E8 Z47413 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"During the course of more than twenty-five years, Primo Levi gave over two hundred newspaper, journal, radio, and television interviews, speaking with figures as varied as Philip Roth and Germaine Greer. Thirty-six of the most important of these interviews - selected by Marco Belpoliti and Robert Gordon, with many translated into English for the first time - appear in The Voice of Memory." "We recognize here the familiar voice of Levi's masterpieces, from Survival in Auschwitz to The Drowned and the Saved. But we also encounter a fuller, more complex picture of the writer who was famously shrouded in his past. We see Levi the Holocaust witness alongside Levi the writer, the chemist, the intellectual, the polemicist, and the atheist and Jew, embracing his Jewish culture as he rejects a faith he could not share." "Levi stunningly emerges in a rich, contradictory, and essentially human light - he was a classic figure out of place. As he himself states, "I am an amphibian, a centaur . . . I live with this paranoiac split." Perhaps the most important of the Holoaust's survivor-writers, Levi's stature is still further enhanced by the remarkable voices speaking in this remarkable book."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Author Notes

Primo Levi was born on July 31, 1919 in Turin, Italy. He pursued a career in chemistry, and spent the early years World War II as a research chemist in Milan. Upon the German invasion of northern Italy, Levi, an Italian Jew, joined an anti-fascist group and was captured and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He was able to survive the camp, due in part to his value to the Nazis as a chemist.

After the war ended, Levi did chemistry work in a Turin paint factory while beginning his writing career. His first book, If This Is a Man (title later was changed to Survival in Auschwitz) was published in 1947 and its sequel, The Truce (later retitled The Reawakening) came out in 1958. These two books recount Levi's story of surviving concentration camp life.

Levi also published poetry, short stories, and novels, some under the pen name Damianos Malabaila. His 1985, largely autobiographical work, The Periodic Table, cemented his world fame. Awards in tribute to his writing included the Kenneth B. Smilen fiction award, presented by the Jewish Museum in New York.

Ironically, despite his surviving Auschwitz, Primo Levi appears to have died by suicide, in Turin on April 11, 1987.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The Jewish writer Levi was born in Turin, Italy, in 1919. In December 1943, Levi, who had joined a group of partisans, was captured by the Fascist militia and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp. He died in 1987, in what was widely believed to be a suicide. His testimony to what he had endured is conveyed in a series of extraordinary books, the first of which, If This Is a Man (1947), bears crucial witness to the horrors of the Holocaust. This collection brings together 36 newspaper, journal, radio, and TV interviews given by Levi between 1961 and 1987. Germaine Greer, Philip Roth, Anthony Rudolf, and Ian Thomson interview Levi in part 1. Part 2 reveals aspects of Levi's experiences and interests that are often overshadowed by his status as a Holocaust survivor. Parts 3 through 6 offer further delving into Levi's life and mind, exploring the complex nature of this remarkable man. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

Primo Levi's (1919-1987) Survival in Auschwitz (originally translated as If This Is a Man) is now almost universally recognized as one of the great masterworks of Holocaust literature. With this collection of interviews drawn from the course of more than a quarter of a century, Levi can now be recognized not only as a writer of the Holocaust but as a seminal thinker of the 20th century. Belpoliti, who is editing Levi's collected works, and Gordon, a lecturer in Italian at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, have added interviews not found in the original Italian edition of this book. Among the more than two dozen pieces here, there is, of course, the famous 1986 interview with Philip Roth as well as the more comprehensive "self-interview" that appeared in the 1986 English edition of Survival in Auschwitz. American readers will discover for the first time the wide range of Levi's thinking, from science fiction and poetry to Judaism and the role of the intellectual in contemporary society. American readers will be intrigued by Levi's detachment from his ancestral religion (he "was turned into a Jew by others") and perhaps outraged by his criticism of Israel. What will come as a surprise is his politics: Levi was a democratic socialist, a point often (in fact almost always) overlooked in the substantial body of criticism concerning his work and life. Levi offers no facile answers to the moral catastrophe of the Holocaust or modern consciousness: "I am a centaur... I am split in two," he said in a 1966 interview. Inevitably there is some repetition, as the interviews often cover the same ground. As Levi recognized, the Holocaust will inevitably recede into history. As it does we will come to recognize and appreciate his writing and life all the more, for he represents one of the most humane, fertile and powerful responses to the barbarity of an age. (Mar.)Forecast: The best introduction to Levi is his own writing, but this will appeal to those who know his work and want to learn more about the man, providing modest but steady sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Independent scholar Belpoliti and Gordon (Italian, Cambridge Univ.) have translated and annotated 36 interviews, out of over 200, given by Primo Levi (The Periodic Table, Survival in Auschwitz) between 1961 and 1987. The editors contend that these interviews, many of them not previously available in English, provide readers with new insights into Levi's complex character. The interviews cover a variety of subjects, from mountaineering to reflections on Levi's visit to Auschwitz in 1982. Of particular interest to those who study the Holocaust are a 1961 set of questions and answers on the nature of anti-Semitism and the uniqueness of the Shoah. In this interview, Levi not only generalizes about anti-Semitism, he also reveals his sense of the motivations behind human behavior. The publication of this material will be welcomed by devotees of Levi's work, as well as scholars in general, for the material provides a wider perspective on Levi the man. Recommended for Judaica and specialized libraries.DFrederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

PrefaceRobert Gordon
'I am a Centaura' Marco Belpoliti
Editors' Note
Part I English Encounters
Germaine Greer Talks to Primo Levi (1985)
A Man Saved by His SkillsPhilip Roth (1986)
Primo Levi in LondonAnthony Rudolph (1986)
Primo Levi in ConversationIan Thomson (1987)
Part II Life
The Little Theatre of Memory (1982)
Turin (1980)
Mountaineering (1984)
Chemistry (1983)
The Sinister Power of Science (1987)
Poetry and Computers (1985)
Me. Old? (1982)
Part III Books
The Truce (1963)
Science Fiction (1966/1971)
The Periodic Table (1975)
The Wrench (1979)
La Ricerca delle Radici (The Search for Roots) (1981)
If Not Now, When? (1982)
The Drowned and the Saved (1986)
Part IV Literature and Writing
A Mysterious Necessity (1972)
A Conversation with Primo Levi (1979)
Interview for a Dissertation(1981)
An Encounter with Primo Levi (1981)
An Assault Called Franz Kafka (1983)
Primo Levi (1984)
The Essential and the Superfluous (1987)
Part V Auschwitz and Survival
The Jewish Question (1961)
A Self-Interview, Afterword to If This is a Man (1976)
Return to Auschwitz (1982)
The Duty of Memory (1983)
Words, Memory, Hope (1984)
Part VI Judaism and Israel
Jewish Up to a Point (1976)
Interview with Primo Levi (1979)
God and I (1983)
Primo Levi: Begin Should Go (1982)
If This is a State (1984)
Bibliography of Levi's Works In Italian and English