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Levi’s inferno

As German Jews held to the culture of Goethe, so Primo Levi summoned Dante in Auschwitz. His struggle was with literature as well as testimony

By Joseph Farrell   April 2002

‘The Double Bond: Primo Levi’ & ‘Primo Levi’

Carole Angier (Viking, ?25) & Ian Thomson (Hutchinson, ?20) 

All his life, Primo Levi craved recognition as a writer. According to Ian Thomson’s biography, the description “witness” irked him. After Levi’s death the balance shifted. Those who now speak of Levi as one of the central writers of the 20th century are sometimes accused of downplaying his role as an Auschwitz witness. In the last year of his life he was even attacked for being insufficiently Jewish in his response to the Holocaust.

During his more tranquil moments-of which there…

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