A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories of Primo Levi

Overview

A Tranquil Star, the first new American collection of Primo Levi previously untranslated fiction to appear since 1990, affirms his position as one of the twentieth century's most enduring writers.
These seventeen stories, first published in Italian between 1949 and 1986, demonstrate Levi's extraordinary range, taking the reader from the primal resistance of a captured partisan fighter to a middle-aged chemist experimenting with a new paint that wards off evil, to the lustful ...

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Overview

A Tranquil Star, the first new American collection of Primo Levi previously untranslated fiction to appear since 1990, affirms his position as one of the twentieth century's most enduring writers.
These seventeen stories, first published in Italian between 1949 and 1986, demonstrate Levi's extraordinary range, taking the reader from the primal resistance of a captured partisan fighter to a middle-aged chemist experimenting with a new paint that wards off evil, to the lustful thoughts of an older man obsessed with a mysterious woman in a seaside villa. In the title story, Levi demonstrates his unerringly tragic understanding of the fragility of the universe through the tale of a pensive astronomer, terrified by the possibility that a long-dormant star might explode and reduce the entire planet to vapor. This remarkable new collection affirms Italo Calvino's conviction that Levi was "one of the most important and gifted writers of our time."

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Rosen
Levi, in these ingenious and disquieting stories as in the rest of his writing, held up a mirror to his own mind, and in so doing performed a lasting service. After the barbarisms of the last century — which have followed us into this one — reading Levi remains an indispensable way of readapting ourselves to the complexity of being human.
— The New York Times
Dara Horn
… the most poignant stories here are those that deal with the act of writing itself, and in particular its failure to meet the expectation of immortality. As the narrator relates in "The Fugitive," about a poem that physically eludes its author's grasp, "To compose a poem that is worth reading and remembering is a gift of destiny: it happens to only a few people, without regard for rules or intentions, and to them it happens only a few times in their lives." Levi has been granted this gift of destiny, and American readers now have the gift of rediscovering it.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Holocaust memoirist Levi (1919-1987) also wrote small fiction sketches, reminiscent of contemporaries Dino Buzzatti and Italo Calvino, for periodicals, collected here and introduced by Goldstein. Of two realistic pieces that recall The Periodic Table and Survival in Auschwitz, one concerns the last minute in the life of a resistance fighter whose act against his German captors would today be called a suicide bombing. Transparent political allegories, of the kind that were fashionable in the Cold War period up to the late '60s, predominate. In the slighter of the 17 works, a miraculous paint is developed to replace lucky charms, and a Mad Max-like look at sports of the future describes tourneys conducted between men armed with hammers and cars. "The Molecule's Defiance" concerns the inexplicable spoiling of a batch of synthetic chemical, eerie in its description of a monstrous, gelatinizing mass expanding rapidly in a reactor, as though revolting against its human makers. While these pieces (published in Italian from 1949 to 1986) don't really stand on their own, they shed further light on Levi's life and work. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A passel of Levi's stories, all of them stars and none previously appearing in English. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393064681
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/11/2007
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

Ann Goldstein, an editor at The New Yorker, won the PEN Prize for Italian translation in 1993.

Alessandra Bastagli is the translator of Primo Levi's stories in A Tranquil Star and his essays in The Complete Works. She lives in New York.

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