This year is the 100th anniversary of Primo Levi’s birth, and we never tire of reading and re-reading his work. Everyone rightly knows him as an immensely important writer of the Holocaust, but Levi had a wide range of interests and was also a superb science fiction writer. His collection Natural Histories, published in the 1960s,is a book full of pioneering sci-fi stories, where Levi’s scientific background meets a vivid and prophetic imagination. The last story of the book, ‘Retirement Fund’, centres around a character presenting to a potential buyer the Torec, a helmet that works as a virtual reality recorder by connecting directly to the brain: back in the 1960s, Primo Levi was imagining an early version of the devices later popularised by films like Strange Daysor by several episodes of Black Mirror.
First published in Storie naturali, Einaudi, 1966. Collected in The Complete Works of Primo Levi, edited by Ann Goldstein, introduced by Toni Morrison, Liveright 2015