Primo Levi

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Primo Michele Levi (pronounced [ˈpriːmo ˈleːvi]; July 31, 1919 – April 11, 1987) was a Jewish-Italian chemist and writer. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays, and poems, but is best known for If This Is a Man, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. The book has been described as one of his best books, by one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.[1]



Early life

Levi was born in Turin at Corso Re Umberto 75 into a liberal Jewish family. His father Cesare worked for the manufacturing firm Ganz and spent much of his time working abroad in Hungary, where Ganz was based. Cesare was an avid reader and autodidact. Levi’s mother Ester, known to everyone as Rina, was well educated, having attended the Istituto Maria Letizia. She too was an avid reader, played the piano and spoke fluent French.[2] The marriage between Rina and Cesare was arranged by Rina’s father.[2] On their wedding day, Rina’s father, Cesare Luzzati, gave Rina the apartment at Corso Re Umberto where Primo Levi was to live for almost his entire life.

In 1921 Anna Maria, Levi's sister was born; he was to remain close to her all of his life. In 1925 he entered the Felice Rignon primary school in Turin. A thin and delicate child, he was shy and thought of himself as being ugly, but he excelled academically. His school record includes long periods of absence during which time he was tutored at home at first by Emilia Glauda and then by Marisa Zini, daughter of philosopher Zino Zini.[3] Summers were spent with his mother in the Waldensian valleys south-west of Turin where Rina rented a farmhouse. His father remained in Turin partly because of his dislike of the rural life, but also because of his infidelities.[4]

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