When I think of Primo Levi, I think of the title of Myriam Anissimov ‘s Levi biography: Tragedy of an Optimist. Levi was a young Jewish chemist from Turin when he was deported to Auschwitz; his incredible survival and long return journey home to Italy are documented in works such as If The is A Man and The Drowned and the Saved. His death in 1987 as a result of a fall from the staircase in the apartment building where he was born and continued to live has long been debated as suicide or accident. But Levi was not only a witness and documenter of the Holocaust; his writing was also intellectually and playfully curious, quixotic and strangely comforting, as his stories prove. As with his masterpiece The Periodic Table, Levi combines complex scientific fact with lyrical language to lovely effect, as in the mysterious, allegorical yet highly rigorous ‘A Tranquil Star’.
(From A Tranquil Star and Other Stories. Penguin Classics, 2007. Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein)