Primo Levi

A chemist by training, Primo Levi (1919–1987) was arrested as an anti-fascist partisan during World War II, and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. His books include The Drowned and the Saved, If This Is a Man and The Periodic Table. He died in 1987. Norton will publish The Complete Works of Primo Levi in 2010.

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  • Holocaust Memorial Day: A Reading List

    To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a day of commemoration dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in The Holocaust under Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur and elsewhere, we present the following reading list. The books explore the multi-faceted nature of the European catastrophe that was the Holocaust and its diffuse and ongoing effects in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere, as well as books that examine conflicts leading to the persecution and genocide of peoples in Turkey, Darfur, Rwanda and elsewhere.  


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  • Auschwitz Report: An Extract

    In his theorising of collective memory, Maurice Halbwachs writes 'it is in society that people normally acquire their memories. It is also in society that people recall, recognise and localise their memories'. The Holocaust, like the Rwandan genocide, or the atrocities committed in the Congo under King Leopold II, exceeds the bounds of traditional historical archives and methodologies. Even gathering information about numbers dead has proven difficult.

    As Halbwachs demonstrates, our understanding of the scope of the atrocities of the Holocaust is informed by cultural documents, such as Primo Levi's Auschwitz Report. Levi's book narrativises the intergenerational exchange of personal, collective, and cultural trauma, prompting a dialogic engagement with the war. Articles such as the Auschwitz Report have laid the groundwork for events such as Holocaust Memorial Day.

    The following extract is from the introduction to the Auschwitz Report and written with Leonardo De Benedetti, an Italian Jew interred with Levi at Aushwitz. To quote De Benedetti, the extract demonstrates how 'every story of survival in Auschwitz is a story of extraordinary circumstance', by revealing the minutiae of how the camps functioned, Levi and De Benedetti provide empiricist detail that legitimates the narrative accounts of Holocaust survivors to chilling effect.


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