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The Chronicle of Higher Education. Primo Levi’s Invaluable Voice, in Full

Steven G. Kellman

What would Primo Levi say?

Though he died in 1987, the question persists. Last year, in a New York Times column recounting shock and revulsion over ISIS’s beheading American journalists and a British aid worker, Roger Cohen recalled a passage in If

“A binge reader of The Complete Works of Primo Levi will encounter science fiction, natural histories, and accounts of young love. Levi not only plunders chemical terminology for metaphors describing human affairs (his memoir The Periodic Table is a brilliant example) but also holds up precise, restrained scientific analysis as a model for prose…As heir to the Italian Renaissance [Levi asks]: What is it to be human?…Amid the bluster and bilge of the violent moment, we need that kind of voice more than ever.”

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