Primo Levi, author of Survival in Auschwitz and The Periodic Table, wrote books that have been called the essential works of humankind. Yet he lived an unremarkable existence, remaining until his death in the house in which he'd been born; managing a paint and varnish factory for thirty years; and tending his invalid mother to the last. Now, in a matchless account, Ian Thomson unravels the strands of a life as improbable as it was influential, the story of the most modest of men who became a universal touchstone of conscience and humanism.
Drawing on exclusive access to family members and previously unseen correspondence, Thomson reconstructs the world of Levi's youth--the rhythms of Jewish life in Turin during the Mussolini years--as well as his experience in Auschwitz and difficult reintegration into postwar Italy. Thomson presents Levi in all his facets: his fondness for Louis Armstrong and fast cars, his insomnia and many near-catastrophic work accidents. Finally, he explores the controversy and isolation of Levi's later years, along with the increasing tensions in his life--between his private anguish and gift for friendship; his severe bouts of depression and passion for life and ideas; his pervasive dread and reasoned, pragmatic ethic.
Praised in Britain as "the best sort of history" and "a model of its kind," Primo Levi: A Life is certain to take its place as the standard biography and a necessary companion to the works themselves.