Talk:Primo Levi

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I have mildly reshaped the death section, having looked closely at the Gambetta article. I think a more equivocal view is justified - i.e. looking somewhat askance at the conventional suicide interpretation. Jmanooch 20:20, 20 April 2007 (UTC)

I would say that you have shifted the balance of opinion from suicide to accident, which in my view is ignoring the vast bulk of factual evidence. The reason that both Angier and Thomson believe he committed suicide was because of that evidence. Interviews with Levi's closest friends detail a progressive worsening of the depression that first appeared in 1963. This evidence shows that the depression was not due to Auschwitz, but a medical condition worsened by the intolerable living conditions at the time. Levi's mother was both the love of his life and also an intolerable burden, which each day wore him down. He had thought about suicide, and ensured that he never had enough medication around during his dark periods to kill himself. This undermines David Mendel's statement that he could easily have overdosed. Mendel is speculating with little evidence and was not a close friend of Levi. When not depressed he wanted to live, but there would have been a temptation to commit suicide in the depths of a depressive episode during which time he would not have acted logically. I plan to revise this section to make it more balanced with the available evidence. To be clear, no one will ever be able to definitively state whether or not his death was accident or suicide, but the balance of evidence clearly falls on the side of suicide. I suggest you read Angier which is far more authoritative than the Gambetta article.

--Recyclotron 16:57, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

I just thought it might be interesting to quote from the Gambetta article, which seems to support the suicide theory.

But an unpremeditated act does not have to be the result of a clear-headed decision: perhaps Levi was simply overtaken by depression. In 1987, Cesare Musatti, the most famous Italian psychoanalyst, said: "Levi did not decide to take his life lucidly. It was a raptus [a mental seizure] due to a melancholic depression of a psychotic type. It was a sudden folly that brought him to self-destruction. Auschwitz has nothing to do with it. The truth is that Levi was ill, because depression is a serious illness." William Styron, who also suffered from severe depression, put forward a similar explanation in a searing little book called Darkness Visible. He was "appalled" by the "many worldly writers and scholars" who vented the view that Levi's suicide had "demonstrated a frailty, a crumbling of character they were loath to accept." Depression, Styron argued, is a very serious and largely unacknowledged illness that affects millions and "kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne." Rather than a product of the faculty of thought, Levi's death would be the result of its collapse.

Recent research suggests that in a lifetime, 15 percent of patients with major depression will eventually die of suicide—a staggering fifteen to twenty times the corresponding population rates. There is also evidence that suicide is more likely to occur after "having been treated for a medical or psychiatric condition" and that "the typical suicide completers [as opposed to suicide attempters] are older men," and that "sometimes [they do it] seemingly out of the blue." Finally, "like depression suicide is familial, with relatives of suicides having roughly ten times higher risk of suicide than that of the population." Levi's grandfather committed suicide. Levi does indeed appear to have been a subject at risk.

--Recyclotron 17:11, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Recyc, I consulted with Gambetta before doing the edits, and he is in favour. The essential balance is I think there, and if there is an edit it is to remove the word 'clear' before circumstantial evidence. Your statement beginning "there would have been, etc etc" is just speculation, and it is this that I think is not useful grounding for comment. I think something very weak suggesting lack of certain can be included, other than that it's speculation. I think the important material to retain is the comment on why how he died is important. Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jmanooch (talkcontribs) 14:01, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

A Tranquil Star[edit]

Nedrutland has added another biographical line for "A Tranquil Star". This is just an early warning to say that I plan to remove this entry. The reason is that there is already an entry for this translation under the item "Lilit". When Moments of Reprieve was published it was not made clear that only a small proportion - only about a third - of the stories in Lilit were included on MoR. A second third has been published this year under the title "A Tranquil Star" and a further third remain unpublished. There are hopes to translate the final third, as well as for a "Complete Works" to be published in English, though I doubt if this will contain any of the chapters Levi wrote under the working title of "The Double Bond". --Recyclotron 11:47, 17 April 2007 (UTC)
When I made this comment I had not read the book, but was relying upon the press release issued by Penguin on their website. Having now read the book, the situation is more complex. Whilst the bulk of the stories are indeed from Lilit, some were untranslated stories from Vizio di Forma, and a couple were only published in newspapers. I have therefore edited the bibliography section to reflect this new information.
During Levi's life he was very protective about the translation process, for example he was scathing about a French translation of Is This a Man. We do not have Levi's seal of authority about these translations, and whilst the spirit of the stories are consistent with his earlier works I got the feeling that a more limited vocabulary was being used. I'd be interested in other people's views.--Recyclotron 20:03, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

The Wrench - A Correction[edit]

I plan to maka a correction replacing the text;
"His best-known short stories are found in The Monkey's Wrench (1978), a collection of stories about work and workers told by a narrator resembling Levi himself." with;
"His best known novel The Wrench takes the form of a series of story telling sessions with a rigger by the name of Libertino Faussone told to a narrator that clearly resembles Levi himself."
Will make this change in the next week or so if no objections are forthcoming. --Recyclotron 12:45, 17 April 2007 (UTC)



I put back in some of the questions surrounding his suicide. According to references on the internet, there were several prominent people who questioned the suicide verdict, so I think it's worth mentioning. If someone has details explaining why we can be certain that it was suicide please add them. --User:Chinasaur

Clearly we cannot know for certain that Levi's death was suicide. This was the coroner's verdict. I personally believe this and think the article gives too much weight to the accident theory. I do not want to get into any sort of revert wars, but would like to discuss a revision of the suicide section. I would like it mentioned that his death is officially recorded as suicide. More importantly, delete the reference to no suicide note. According to Thomson, his major biographer in English, only a quarter of suicides do leave a note. So this fact is irrelevant. I propose deleting this spurious fact; The last sentence in the text as it stands.

Thomson discovered that PL's grandfather committed suicide in the same way, throwing himself from a height, and goes on far too long about this. So unfortunatly, though I believe Thomson to be correct, his journalstic coup in finding this fact makes him seem less balanced in his dismissal of the accident theory.

--Paw42 19:15, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I agree on omitting the "no suicide note" comment. It doesn't mean anything. --Tony SidawayTalk 19:34, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
Overall, I think further emphasizing that suicide is the majority opinion is fine. But it's nice to keep the point that this biographical question has interested a lot of literary scholars due to the perception that if Levi did kill himself it bears on the message of his literary work. I wouldn't say I agree with the idea, but it's interesting that it has concerned people so much. I think that "no suicide note" is an interesting piece of information, although I agree it doesn't bear significantly on the accident/suicide debate. That's why I put it as a short sentence at the end: strictly informational. I think once you expand the paragraph to include the coroner's verdict, it will be more clear that "no suicide note" is not supposed to be an argument for "accident". --Chinasaur 16:22, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

I think that people who want him to have had an accidental death becasue it might diminish their view of his writing have a problem. I reinstated alink to the article that advocated the accident theory. It is long and there are some internal contradictions.

The 'no suicide note is a spurious fact', if Thomson is right that only a quarter of suicides leave notes. He left no will but put his financial affairs in order. In Ian Thomson's work there are plenty of suggestions that his state of mind led him to consider suicide a lot in his last months. I believe that Levi is one of the great writers of the 20th C and that he committed suicide. Some folk have a problem with thinking both these things at the same time. I do not know why. So I've reverted to leaving the 'fact' in for the moment. Best to work on the whole para. Perhaps better if the article ends on a positive note; his reputation etc. --Paw42 20:00, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

You are tending to oversimplify the point, which I think is partly why you don't like it. It's not just an issue of people "wanting him to have had an accidental death" because otherwise he can't be a great writer. The issue is more whether or not you want to interpret the author's literary work from a biographical perspective. In this case, because of the introspective clarity autobiographical emphasis in Levi's writing, his ultimate suicide is a very charged issue for literary interpreters, in addition to the general biographical interest that you would expect over the death of any celebrity. That's why I think it's worthwhile to point out the interest of literary critics in the question of whether his death could have been an accident.
The 25% suicides leave notes statistic is generally accurate from what I know, although I don't know how demographically specific that might get for Levi's case. But again, I intentially put that point after the suicide versus accident sentence because it is a separately interesting biographical note, not a solid piece of evidence in the suicide/accident non-argument.
Anyway, I don't disagree with you for the facts, only for whether it's worth discussing the limited controversy. I don't think we do the subject justice by glossing over the controversy altogether. And if we will note the controversy, I think it's worth also noting that many of the people interested in the accident hypothesis are literary critics, not serious biographers. I'm going to go ahead and change things a bit; see what you think. --Chinasaur 02:29, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

Chinosaur, well done. I think your ammendment says what is needed. I have started re-reading Thomson's biography of PL. I think what is missing now is his role in keeping the issue of what we now call the Holocaust alive, despite various forms of revisionism and "Holocaust denial".

Also the biography makes it clear that he was clinically depressed in the months before hios death. I'm still ploughing through the biography!

--Paw42 20:08, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

I remember hearing about the depression stuff, but couldn't get any details. I'd like to read the Thomson bio but I don't think the time is going to open up soon, so I look forward to seeing your additional info. Did you ever read Levi's early (I think maybe his first published collection of stories, at least in English translation) short story about lemmings? It's a science fiction kind of story where they determine that the lemmings kill themselves because they are missing a particular gene. A lot of those early stories are kind of tentative, but I thought he did a good job with this one. Definitely gives you a different perspective from anyone who thinks his work is all about optimism... --Chinasaur 21:34, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
The lemmings story is "Westward" in Tranquil Star --Recyclotron 20:08, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
To be honest, I find the suicide questionable based on the contrary accounts I have read; has anyone really refuted what Gambetta wrote? There's no question that people's love of Levi's work, and their sense that it was 'ultimately optimistic' has influenced discussion. Similarly, as Gambetta mentioned, there were rhetorical reasons to call it suicide and editorialize on its meaning. I think we ought to separate biography from literary criticism here; his death is, based on what I've read, a question mark. I can imagine Levi (in common with a great many people) choosing to end their life; but why down the chancy, narrow space he fell? Even if he'd wanted to leap to his death there was a courtyard available.
Forget about the note, the telephone call, and attribute the odd choice of methods to family history - and even then it's hard to construct a rational theory of the event that explains why the narrow stairwell, 3 feet wide at the narrowest part.
The remark above about people "needing" his death to be an accident suggests to me that a subtle reverse bias be at work against the accident theory, dismissing it as literary sentimentality rather than a legitimate interpretation of the existing evidence. FWIW I love the guy either way, and his message stands admirably whether he chose to end his life or not, but it's not an inconsequential point if someone may, or may not, have killed themselves.
The existing article seems fine, btw, I just thought I'd respond to the talk discussion. 21:21, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
From Thomson's biography it is indisputable that PL was suffering from bouts of clinical depression that were getting progressively more and more serious. I believe that in those circumstances his suicide would have been inevitable. During such severe depressions the urge to kill oneself can become so great as to overcome any rational thought. Whilst we may wish to think of his suicide as important in his life, I suspect that this was simply the result of an illness that is very prevalent. --Recyclotron 12:13, 20 February 2007 (GMT)
I hate to point out something that has been said over and over again in the editing of Wikipedia articles, but it is not for us to decide whether or not Levi committed suicide. A sentence such as this one is therefore unacceptable: "Wiesel's interpretation has to date been accepted: whether this is factually based or a romanticised premise requires further research." The first part of this is clearly untrue, in that Wiesel's interpretation has clearly not been "accepted" in the same way that it is accepted by everyone bar a very, very small bunch of people that the earth goes round the sun. The question of Levi's suicide is still a matter for debate - the debate itself continues on this very page - and accordingly I am going to delete this sentence. The rest of the article seems to me to need careful scrutiny and judicious pruning by a decent editor with plenty of time on his or her hands. Lexo (talk) 23:27, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

Primo Levi's horoscope and suicide[edit]

Did Primo Levi commit suicide? According to his Vedic/Hindu horoscope probably he did. Mode of one’s death in the horoscope is ruled the 8th house, the house of death. Suicide is death by one’s hands and one’s self will. In the horoscope self and one's will is generally represented by the personal planets Sun and Moon, the 1st house and its ruler and the 10th house and its ruler. One’s hands (self’s instruments of action) are represented by the 3rd house (right arm) and the 11th house (left arm) and their rulers. In Primo Levi’s horoscope (born 31 July 1919, at 4:00 a.m., Torino, Italy; source:,_Primo), the 8th house in the sign of Capricorn (symbolizing heights: he fell from a staircase) is aspected by the Sun (linked to his self and the ruler of the 3rd house, right arm), Jupiter the ruler of 10th house (self), and brutal Mars (the 11th ruler and indicator of a violent, quick death). On the other hand, Saturn the ruler of the 8th house is in the 3rd house (right arm) conjoining Mercury ruler of the 1st! Plenty of indicators that the native’s death was linked to his will and self action…-Ana Bruta (talk) 14:11, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

Copying of material across from Nazism in relation to other concepts[edit]

--Sam Spade has copied across a considerable amount of material from another section of Wikipedia relating to Fascism and other forms of totalitarian regime. I am not quite sure why, when a link would have been better. This material does, however, bring up the issue of Levi's contribution to the debate about the nature of Fascism, much of it in public life and publications outside the bibliography. However I think this section should be reduced to the references to Levi alone- with link to the page from which these materials have been copied.

--Paw42 16:48, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

(copied from User_talk:Sam_Spade#Primo_Levi-) Additional material from Nazism in relation to other concepts Hi Sam Spade, You have copied across material from Nazism in relation to other concepts - to Primo Levi. From your contribution to the Nazism in relation to other concepts discussion, you seem not to like this material where it was (is?). I do not think copying across is the way do deal with it. Some is irrelevant to Primo Levi. I think the PL article needs more about his attitude to Germany and Nazism, however as there is no reference for this material it is hard to check. Would you like toi ammend your contribution to Primo Levi? --Paw42 19:15, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

Primo Levi argued that there was an important distinction between the policies of Nazi Germany and those of the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China: while they were all arguably totalitarian, and all had their idea of what kind of parasitic classes or races society ought to be rid of, Levi saw the Nazis assigning a place given by birth (since one is born into a certain race), while the Soviets and Chinese determined their enemies according to their social position (which people may change within their life). Therefore, in Levi's view, revolutionary communists would accept the son of a wealthy capitalist as a productive member of society if he agreed to change his original social position and oppose capitalism; but to the Nazis, one born a Jew will always remain a Jew, and he is a parasite who must be disposed of. A counterexample to this distinction may be found in Maoism in China, where at times during the Cultural Revolution the relatives of a "capitalist", even generations removed, were beaten, killed, or, at best, sent to a re-education camp. Collective punishment is another way of describing this phenomenon. In support of Levi's contention, however, the Chinese Communists have had some members with "bourgeois" social origin, some of whom, such as Soong Ching-ling, achieved prominent positions in the People's Republic of China. Similarly there were a number of prominent Bolsheviks who came from wealthy backgrounds and were accepted in the movement despite this.

Look, I can't take credit for this content, I didn't write it. When I found it I saw it as in the way, and over focused on this Primo Levi guy, who I never heard of. It was a HUGE block of text, and I kept an excerpt of it @ Nazism in relation to other concepts. Primo Levi and his opinions are addressed there. This level of detail would seem suited for the page on the man himself, eh?

As far as what to do w all of this, if you don't like some, even most of it, you can trim it, or find a home for it elsewhere. I'm sure at least some of it is useful here? I'm perfectly happy to try to edit it w you, but I can only address certain aspects, not having studied this guy and his thoughts. Sam Spade 21:32, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

This article appears to be in the hands of folk who know or care little about Primo Levi. User:Sam Spade dumped a whole lot of stuff from Nazism in relation to other concepts - a pile of ore with a few gems. I commented on this. Now Sam spade's entry has been reverted by Simonides.

I thought you were supposed to discuss ammendments in this place. Also, I'd have though that someone who has read all the major works of Primo Levi as well as possessing the most important biog. by Thomson, might have more say than people who have never heard of him.

--Paw42 21:20, 14 November 2005 (UTC)

[Adding additional material from the Thomson Autobiography[edit]

I am re-reading the Thomson biography. I intend to expand the entry to include; 1. factors which led to Levi's survival in Auschwitz. 2. clarification about the publication of "If this is a man" and "The Truce" 3. general statement about his status as a concentrationscamp survivor, witnees, and finally bastion against holocaust denial 4. anything else I come across that seems worth adding.

I shall not touch the bit about his suicide, as there is too much there already. I'll be doing in short spurts oiver the next few weeks. Please discuss things there before editing anything I add. Thanks --Paw42 18:15, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

Survival factor - the SS had sick prisoners put in the hospital?? "death march" - I have read that leaving with the SS or staying for Russian rescue was the prisoners' option?? ashes for paths - any paths been analyzed forensically??

Nazi Germany versus Communism section[edit]

Primo Levi wrote a lot of interesting and important things in the course of his literary career. I find this section somewhat out of place (especially when reading the table of contents); while his views on the comparison between racist Nazi totalitarianism and non-racist Soviet totalitarianism are not devoid of interest, they hardly deserve to be the one topic that gets this level of treatment. In the absence of a full exposition of Levi's views this should be pared down to a sentence or so, if not completely deleted. Palmiro | Talk 18:13, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Literary Fortunes[edit]

Thanks to Palmiro for adding a contribution about "If not Now, When?".

I added a section of Literary fortunes, which was a device to clear up the mess about his works and life being badly written about by others.

Slimvirgin spotted this and has put all the material about his writing together, so now it has the problems it had before! Somehow he has lost Palmiro's contribution about the novel "If not now, When", So I'll put that back.

Really this section needs sorting. I'll attempt to do this, but may end up with a literary fortunes section again!

That section about Nazism and Communism was originally dumped there from another article in Wikipedia altogether, see my notes above. The dumper did not even know who Levi was! I cannot find a source for these views, so Slimvirgin's request for sources is a good one. I'd love to get rid of this overlong, unsubstantiated section.

I am a Sunday Wikipedian, with few ambitions. However one is that the article on Levi should be be pretty good, as he deserves it. It would be helpful if you'd comment here.

--Paw42 09:35, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

I've tried to put the material about Levi's works and literary career into a clearer order, and I've reinserted the deleted information about Se non ora, quando; for Levi himself at least, this was one of his principal works, and deserves reasonably full treatment, if anything more than included here. Unfortunately I'm not in Italy at the moment, and therefore don't have access to any works of criticism or even to copies of Levi's own books.
The section about Levi's early life is a translation from the Italian Wikipedia, and that article cites "Carole Angier, Il doppio legame. Vita di Primo Levi, Mondadori, 2004, ISBN 8804522488", but doesn't make it clear what precise information her book was used as a source for. If I find the energy I may try and get someone from the Italian wikipedia to clarify this. Palmiro | Talk 14:01, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

Cesare Pavese did not teach Levi Italian![edit]

Pavese was a supply teacher at the school but did not teach Levi. This from Ian Thomson's biography. I shall change the text accordingly. --Paw42 08:23, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

Fair enough. Palmiro | Talk 11:58, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

lager vs. "lager" vs Lager[edit]

Levi appears to have used 'Lager' (with the capitalization) to refer to the camp. Would that be a good compromise? I'm trying to find a way to make it clear that we aren't mis-spelling and misusing 'laager', but (sic) doesn't seem appropriate. MilesVorkosigan 16:28, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Fine, I also asked User:SlimVirgin for her view. I don't have any copies of Levi's works with me here, so I can't tell. I wonder did the capitalisation vary between editions? I take it you're talking about English translations. Palmiro | Talk 16:21, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Hi, Palmiro. I am working from Levi's Italian texts. You are right. Levi writes 'Lager' invariably. I'll change that in the text. Thanks for your intervention here - also for tidying up and improving my contributions. --Paw42 16:24, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Vabbe', grazie. Forse potresti anche spiegarmi una cosa, quando scrivi in inglese "scholastic edition", vuoi dire un'edizione fatta per l'istruzione pubblica? In inglese non si usa dire "scholastic edition" (o cosi' mi pare) e mi chiedevo di che cosa esattamente si trattava! Palmiro | Talk 16:31, 12 April 2006 (UTC)
Yes, sorry, I went and looked at one of the English editions listed on Amazon. I don't know how it looks in other languages.MilesVorkosigan 16:40, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

edizione scolastica![edit]

Sorry, Palmiro, that was a straight translation from Levi's words 'Ho scritto questa appendice nel 1976 per l'edizione scolastica di ""Se questo è un uomo""...' . I assume that this was an edition to be used in schools. I suppose "schools' edition" might be better, but I don't have a problem with the text as it stands. You can decide; you seem to be pretty much bi-lingual. I envy you that. --Paw42 16:53, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Okay, I now can't think of how exactly best to put it in English... sara' per un altro giorno... Palmiro | Talk 17:01, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Link to Nazi extermination camp[edit]

By way of clarification of ""Lager"", I tried to link to this article in Wikipedia, but failed. Odd! --Paw42 16:53, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

his views section[edit]

currently it is worded as if his views are actual facts, take for instance "The death rate in the gulags was estimated at 30% at worst, he claimed, while in the Lager he claims it was 90-98%"

I placed a {{Fact}} tag there but it was removed, because supposedly accusations and numbers dont need to be corroborated if we put it in a section about a person's views. If the numbers were in fact that high then a link or reference should be easy to find and cite, but as I've never seen that number elsewhere it looks to be just his viewpoint, and it should be mentioned that his view in no way is an authority on the subject, as he took part in one event, he cant claim to be an authority on all. He was never in the Gulags, and so it is just natural to say "bah, i had it worse" in order to bring the holocaust back into the forefront, to eclipse other atrocities that were going on.

--Jadger 19:54, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

Hello there; Jadger, Slimvirgin and Palmiro. I see there's been a flurry of activity about this section; Levi's views on Nazism and Antisemitism. There is a great need for citation on some points in this section, I agree. I shall try to work out how to do footnotes. When I do, I'll start to add citations in this form. I have the sources for everything I wrote in this section. I may have to look some of them up again. Thanks, --Paw42 12:18, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

that source you gave is simply an interview with Levi, that is not what was being looked for. what was being looked for is a second source that can back up Levi's claims, as no one has ever heard of such wild claims as 98% of people died in the lagers. if 98% had died, then there certainly wouldn't of been so many left after the war.

--Jadger 13:33, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

Jadger, I see you have reverted my last edit. I am merely putting in my source for quoting Levi's opinion. You may not agree with his beliefs in 1976. If you look at the "shipment" figures given in the artilce, I make it just over 96% died of these Italian Jews. Levi gives a range which includes this percentage. I do not know his source for any of these figures. I shall state this in the text. --Paw42 18:01, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

Obviously sources for where Levi's views come from are desirable, but we also can presume that our readers are reasonably intelligent. If we are clearly discussing Levi's views, it is not necessary to put "allegedly" or "Levi claimed" or "according to Levi" or whatever in front of every single statement he made. Palmiro | Talk 18:06, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

we shouldnt presume that the reader's are "reasonably intelligent" as you call it. Remember that this encyclopedia is not for aficianados but laymen, those that know there stuff don't go reading about it on the publicly edited internet but in properly sourced documentation. Stating that his numbers are biased and unsources in the text is fine Paw42, that is all I ever desired to come of this argument. you are right Palmiro, If we are clearly discussing Levi's views, it is not necessary to place allegedly in each sentence, but as at the moment it is not clear, and it is phrased as if it were fact, then it needs to be properly cited.

The paragraph as it is, with his claims as they are, is like myself saying that since I have experienced the Toronto Maple Leafs playing hockey, they must be the best at it because I say so. I need not to have factual support, I experienced it for myself. but the facts point otherwise, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a horrible season and failed to make the playoffs.

--Jadger 19:46, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

popular culture[edit]

Is the poem reproduced here a copyright violation? --Cmdroverbite 07:28, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Probably. But in any case i have deleted the entire 'popular culture' section, which was essentially a collection of non-encyclopaedic trivia. Palmiro | Talk 00:17, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
I don't understand why you deleted it. Trivias are in many articles, it's intersting and it's encyclopedic. Bring it back... Amoruso 01:21, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

Levi and Israel[edit]

There is no reference in this page to Levi's views on Israel, which were, to say the least, ambivalent. I would suggest that something be added to counter the impression that Levi was a supporter of Israel due to the reference to the "Jewish national home" in the discussion of If Not Now, When? (which I suggest is POV, by the way). Such a suggestion would run substantially counter to Levi's actual views on Israel, which he made clear on a number of occasions.Larry Dunn 14:19, 2 October 2006 (UTC)

I disagree with your initial statement. Levi wasn't ambivalent about Israel, he simply wrote a couple of critical remarks of certain political aspects as the treatment of the Palestinian conflict and Lebanon's war at the time. He wasn't anti-zionist and he was a supporter of Israel in general. The criticizm over treatment with Palestinians is something common with most Israeli writers for instance and it's not notable enough in their articles usually, see A. B. Yehoshua. It's not notable enough here probably because he has many opinions over many issues. Amoruso 09:48, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
Levi heavily and frequently criticized Israel. Starting in 1967, Levi expressed his criticisms of Israel openly; in 1982, he flatly stated his anti-zionism, signing a petition to recognize the rights of all of the peoples of the region. He went on to say, famously, that "Everybody is somebody's Jew, and today the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis." He also said that the Israeli state had become morally unacceptable to anyone who had survived the Nazi genocide.
Levi may have had many opinions, but in all his writings I cannot think of one word he wrote approving the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel. I can, however, think of many in which he comdemned this treatment. This does not seem to have been an example of many differing opinions which would be impractical to set out in this article.
Levi's criticism of Israel was an important part of his later life, and the price he paid for it was to be subjected to a storm of condemnation. Anyone alive at the time remembers this. It is simply astonishing to see no reference to it whatsoever in his wiki aricle, and I would suggest that the fact that the article omits any reference to it demonstrates a strong POV bias. Larry Dunn 14:41, 3 October 2006 (UTC)
"in 1982, he flatly stated his anti-zionism, signing a petition to recognize the rights of all of the peoples of the region" -> this is not anti zionism. At all. It's a left political view common to most Israeli writers. I don't see how notable it is. Amoruso 18:24, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

I agree that there needs to be something about his views on Israel. I am not sure that this ommission means what you suggest. Many readers of his two best known works are unaware of his continuing interest in the issues which arise in them, that the Holocaust is not his only theme; that he kept himself up to date with regard to Israel. I think it's time to put this right - with verifiable references. I am reading his biog. by Thomson again and hope to contribute such material.

--Paw42 16:57, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Atheist category[edit]

I've noticed this entry is listed under the "atheists" category, yet no content in the entry relates to this (unless I did not read carefully enough?). Anyone have any info on this that could be added somewhere? Not sure if it's required for category inclusion, but it would make sense to explain and source that, yes? (Not an expert on Levi myself so I wouldn't know)--Bonesiii 03:36, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

His Capture[edit]

THe page says simply that "it was found he was jewish" when captured by the facist militia. In "If This Is A Man", he says that he confessed to being jewish under the impression that if he'd confessed to being a member of the resistance, he'd be killed immediately. Not worth working into the article, but clarifying here. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 10:43, 9 December 2006 (UTC).

why not worth working into article?--Jrm2007 (talk) 06:14, 25 February 2009 (UTC)


A clear article. The section on Auschwitz and survival could be expanded a bit. Primo Levi really was interned in Monowitz, earlier known as Auschwitz III. This part was associated with a large chemical factory, Buna, a subsidiary of I.G.Farben, where he worked in a chemical laboratory. There really was some sort of hospital in Monowitz. What is normally known as Auschwitz corresponds to Auschwitz-Birkenau, or Auschwitz-I, which was an extermination camp. Survival chances were better in Monowitz, though - as Levi writes - there were transports from Monowitz to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I can add a sentence if that is useful RFB 17:39, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Should English be privileged language of titles of books written in Italian?[edit]

Seeing as Levi wrote in Italian, shouldn't the titles of his books be given in Italian first, with the titles of the English translations in brackets, instead of the other way round? Is it wikipedia policy to do it the way it is now, because if it is, it strikes me that it's a bad policy. Levi was an Italian writer who has been translated very well into English, but I'm sure his translators wouldn't want to support the slight impression that he actually wrote in English in the first place. Fine article otherwise, IMO. Lexo 16:46, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

I would think the English titles should be listed first simply because it is an English-language article, but the Italian titles should be right alongside them, as least when the titles are introduced. I don't see any problem if it is made clear in the article that he wrote in Italian first. --Bonesiii 22:58, 24 February 2007 (UTC)
There is a Wikipedia policy that covers which language to use in the title of the article. [1]
Unfortunately, I can't find a policy for what to do about foreign-language titles in the body of the article. The Manual of Style doesn't seem to help.[2]. Personally, I think the best policy would be to use what an English-language audience is most likely to be familiar with, which in this case would be English. It would be different for something like the Tao Te Ching. I don't think anyone will have the impression that he wrote in English. Both the Italian and English titles are listed at the bottom of an article if there is a question.GabrielF 18:25, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Additional Pages on Levi's Books[edit]

Only four of Levi's books have pages devoted to them. I would be happy to contribute pages for his other books, other than his poetry and science fiction which I have not read.

I think his collection of essays from La Stampa (other peoples trades) and The Wrench certainly deserve more coverage.

Please let me know via this page if you have any views.

Also, I am about to start Angier's biography (the Double Bond), has anyone any views on the comparative quality of the Thompson/Angier biographies.

--Recyclotron 12:29, 20 February 2007 (UTC)

I have now read Angier's biography and would suggest that it is somewhat better than Thomsons, although you should read both to get the best understanding of Levi and his life.

I have written a summary page for The Wrench, and will work my way through his other books over the next few weeks. --Recyclotron 12:35, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

General Improvements[edit]

The classification of this entry as a class 'B' biography has made me realise that the entry could benefit from further expansion. Having read everything by Levi published in English, plus the Thomson and Angier biographies, I feel able to add quite a lot of material, but do not want to upset any other Levi experts. So please let me know if you would like to collaborate. I'd like to get the entry upgraded to an 'A' as soon as possible.

My initial thoughts are to expand the Early Life section with details about his family, the Crocetta area where he lived, some additional material about school and University. His love of mountain walking. His writing in the school newspaper, his graduate thesis. Then later his first job at the quarry and his job in Milan. Then his flight into hiding with his family leading to him joining the partisans.

At this stage I'd plan to leave the Auschwitz section alone and add details about his work prior to joining SIVA, then some more material about his job at SIVA. How he disliked being a manager.

I'll write entries on all his books published in English (I have already submitted a couple) and say something about the unpublished "Double Bond" which he was writing at the time of his death. I'll also add a short review of the Anthony Sher film, which I can recommend.

Does anyone know if there would be an issue if I scanned some of the photos from the biographies in and used them in the entry? I'd be happy to try and make contact with Angier or Thomson to get their approval first.

Your thoughts ?

--Recyclotron 21:37, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

I have now done the early life edits. All the information has been sourced by the Angier and Thomson biographies. If anyone can add links it would be much appreciated.

--Recyclotron 13:14, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Good work. I'm glad to see that this article improve. Note that you don't need to use html tags for paragraph breaks. Our software, MediaWiki understands HTML but it doesn't need HTML to format pages - if you enter your text as separate paragraphs it will display them like that.
You can't upload copyrighted photos except in rare circumstances (see Wikipedia:Non-free content. Although it is admirable that you are willing to seek permission to use photos, I doubt that the two biographers actually own the copyrights themselves - they are most likely using them under permission from the photographers. If there is any material that is in the public domain (copyright has expired, for example) we'd love to have it.
Also, it would be very helpful if you could add some inline citations to the content that you added. Please see Wikipedia:Citing sources.
Again, great job. Forget about A class, lets aim to make this a Featured Article. GabrielF 17:27, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the encouragement. Today I am uploading an expanded listing for his post Auschwitz life. Once I have done this I will print off the whole entry and identify the citation entries from Angier and Thomson which I will add next week. I'll do some digging on the copyright to see if there are any images we could legally use. I'm fairly new to editing Wiki entries, so apologies for any wrong usage. After adding the citations I will look at what can be done to expand the Auschwitz section, though expect it to be really tough to summarise. --Recyclotron 14:16, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

I think that you're doing a good job, but please keep in mind that wikipedia can't include original research or original synthesis. I realize that you are using good sources, but wikipedia can't say things like "he must have been quite a sight" - we can describe his appearance factually or quote his biographer's opinion but we can't do our own analysis. Similarly, "There are several reasons why Levi’s semi-autobiographical work is admired so much. One of the reasons is that it is so readable... This did not undermine the authority of his work which is still one of the most accurate and chilling testimonies of a Jewish slave labourer under the Nazis.", I wholeheartedly agree with this analysis, but wikipedia can't state it as fact, it has to be attributed to someone. I don't really have the knowledge or the sources available to cite these things properly and I don't want to just delete them. However, they will eventually be deleted, or flagged with a citation needed template. I think that your writing is good and I don't want to see them happening, so I want to give you a chance to read through our policies and edit your contributions so that they have a more encyclopedic tone. GabrielF 14:50, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Removal of Auschwitz Section?[edit]

This diff ( shows that all real references to his life once interned were removed just for "zero references". Isn't it more standard to put "citation needed" in there? The page reads really weird now -- if you didn't know he had been in Auschwitz, you would read later on in the page about his memoirs and work regarding the Holocaust and wonder why it keeps saying he was in Auschwitz. If no one objects I am likely to revert that edit. R343L (talk) 19:02, 17 September 2008 (UTC)


How do you pronounce his name? perhaps a silly question, but all my english teachers pronounce it differently. I assumed Levi was pronounced like the jeans, and Primo = Pree-mo Can anyone help with the correct pronouciation??

My Italian fiend pronounces it something like /priːmoʊ ˈlɛviː/, with Levi pronounced like Levee - Wgsimon (talk) 19:22, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
We should put in the Italian IPA, but I don't know if it's ['primo 'levi] or ['lɛvi] in Italian - can anyone confirm? Lfh (talk) 10:56, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Irreligious or atheist[edit]

There has been some edit warring here about wether Levi was irreligious or an atheist. I have removed the whole subject of religion from the template, and suggest that would be a nice compromise. In any case, further edits in this regard without first coming to a consensus on this talk page, will be considered edit warring, and might lead to a block of the editor. Debresser (talk) 17:54, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

It has been pointed out to me, off Wikipedia, that by the same token I should have removed the two categories mentioning "atheist". I have commented them out. I would urge the start of a discussion here about whether "atheist" or "irreligious" is more correct. In addition, Wikipedia does not have "irreligious" categories, only "atheist". Perhaps it would be acceptable for both parties to keep the "atheist" categories, with the understanding that they contain both atheist and irreligious people? Debresser (talk) 21:20, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Keeping Primo Levi in both "atheist" categories is acceptable to me. I don't know where I'm supposed to post this information, but my thoughts on this issue can be found here: User_talk:Akulo#Primo_Levi. Akulo (talk) 22:12, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I've posted some further quotations and thoughts on this issue on my talk page, in particular the source for the "If there is an Auschwitz, there cannot be a [Gg]od." (actually, as translated, "There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God.") quote: User_talk:Akulo#Primo_Levi. If there's no response to this, I'll have to wikify the text and post it here. I'd rather not do that, however. Too messy. Akulo (talk) 20:36, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

Copyright problem[edit]


This article has been reverted by a bot to this version as part of a large-scale clean-up project of multiple article copyright infringement. (See the investigation subpage) This has been done to remove User:Accotink2's contributions as they have a history of extensive copyright violation and so it is assumed that all of their major contributions are copyright violations. Earlier text must not be restored, unless it can be verified to be free of infringement. For legal reasons, Wikipedia cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or printed material; such additions must be deleted. Contributors may use sources as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously. VWBot (talk) 05:52, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

Popular culture references[edit]

The lyrics to the Peter Hammill song "Primo on the Parapet" are confirmed on Peter Hammill's own website (, from his cd 'The Noise' 1993 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:36, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Possibly stupid question (re: photo)[edit]

I was just wondering why there's a photo of Elie Wiesel at Buchenwald on Primo Levi's page. Wiesel is mentioned in a nearby paragraph, but it still seems a bit incongruous. Dotdotdotatsignapostrophe (talk) 04:44, 24 February 2012 (UTC)

I agree. I have taken out the image. Wiesel does not show up in the article except for that little quote. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:55, 4 December 2013 (UTC)

I also agree with this. Debresser (talk) 14:12, 5 December 2013 (UTC)

Holocaust survivor[edit]

The fact that Levi is a famous holocaust survivor should be mentioned in the first sentence. Documenting the holocaust is the main thing he's famous for! Adjusting accordingly Goblinshark17 (talk) 01:13, 10 September 2014 (UTC)

Very well. Debresser (talk) 14:11, 10 September 2014 (UTC)

Not a race[edit]

His view was that the Nazi death camps and the attempted annihilation of the Jews was a horror unique in history because the goal was the complete destruction of a race by one that saw itself as superior.

Am I seeing things? Isn't it rather old-fashioned to refer to either Jews or Germans as a "race"? (talk) 09:47, 11 January 2015 (UTC)

Wiesel: "40 years earlier" or "40 years later"?[edit]

Our source and others quote Elie Wiesel, "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years earlier." But elsewhere (e.g., [3], and [4]) we see, “Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later.” At first glance, the former version ("40 years earlier") makes more sense, and for that reason I suspect it might be wrong. Is it possible that Wiesel wrote or said later and subsequent editors "corrected" it to earlier? Do we have the original document where he made the statement? Peter Chastain [¡habla!] 23:39, 22 September 2015 (UTC)


Levi's nationality is listed as "Jewish-Italian". No such nationality exists. Levi was Italian. He was sent to Auschwitz because he was Jewish. To list his nationality as "Jewish-Italian" implies that people of the Jewish faith are not true citizens of a given country, that a special category of nationality must be established for them. Peterrothstein (talk) 01:56, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

First of all I have a question for you. You thought this over and removed "Jewish". Why didn't you add the word "Jewish" back in the next line under "ethnicity"? That would have been the logical thing to do.
Secondly, what would you do with Category:Jewish Italian politicians, or any of the numerous "Jewish Americans" categories? Clearly your point of view is not the accepted point of view on Wikipedia. Debresser (talk) 08:50, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I did not add anything to "ethnicity" because the next line under nationality is "education". Your second point, about groupings does not deal with nationality.Peterrothstein (talk) 16:40, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I quote from the article:
| nationality   = [[Italian Jews|Jewish-Italian]]
| ethnicity     =
I see "ethnicity" there.
Why do you say those category names are not nationality-related. Last I checked, "American" is a nationality. Debresser (talk) 22:21, 2 November 2015 (UTC)

I am new to working on Wikipedia pages. I have found the "ethnicity" part. Thank you for pointing that out. That is now blank. Shouldn't it read "Jewish"? Thus, his nationality, shouldn't that be "Italian"? If you look at the wikipedia pages for Italian Nobel prize winners, Modigliani, Levi-Montalcini, their nationality is listed as Italian, not Jewish Italian. Jews have been excluded or discriminated against for centuries. My point is that by saying his nationality is "jewish-Italian" you are placing Levi in a different category than other Italians. Peterrothstein (talk) 01:28, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

If you are new, then "Welcome!" Your proposal sounds just fine with me, yes. Debresser (talk) 07:51, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

Done. Thanks for pointing me towards "ethnicity". Peterrothstein (talk) 22:00, 3 November 2015 (UTC)

Main page: cerium[edit]

Why, for goodness sake, does the "Auschwitz" paragraph say nothing about the fact evoked by the main page item "... that cerium saved the writer Primo Levi's life in Auschwitz"??? This is one of many instances, where the reader does not find any mention of things quoted on the main page in the related article. I, for one, am somewhat annoyed by this... --Terminally uncool (talk) 09:36, 19 November 2016 (UTC)


I looked way back and this article has always used American English ("story"). I noticed it had recently acquired some British English spellings as well ("storey"). WP:RETAIN would seem to apply here. Let me stress I do not care which dialect we use, but it needs to be one and not two. --John (talk) 22:57, 19 November 2016 (UTC)

Well there's "coloured", "labour" and "saviour" in there now. In 2015 we have an "ize". I don't care either. I know the policy and understand its logic, but really, the important thing is the content: I doubt any reader accustomed to either British or US spelling will have difficulty in understanding the alternative. Most anglophones must now be accustomed to consuming text in either variant. So I'm not averse to reading text in one or the other, or, heretically, a mixture.
If we had to settle on a single orthography then the most pleasing would be that of the majority of the English translations of the man's work. Not policy though. Mcewan (talk) 00:00, 20 November 2016 (UTC)
Incidentally, very nice copyedits on the death/suicide issue.Mcewan (talk) 00:05, 20 November 2016 (UTC)
Thanks, and well spotted on "saviour". It was added here in 2007. I think "story" was there a lot longer. But again, I don't care. --John (talk) 00:17, 20 November 2016 (UTC)
I don't care either way. But it think that adding a "Use American English" tag after you just changed a lot of words from British to American English, is imposing something that wasn't there. Especially since Primo Levy was Italian and the article uses the dmy format which is not American. Debresser (talk) 00:08, 20 November 2016 (UTC)
Shrug. I don't care either. But it should all be the same dialect. Look, you two are the top two editors of the article. It should be a lot better than it is, there are the sources to make it so. Aren't you interested in making it better? This would be a first step. Now, are we saying we prefer it in British English? If nobody objects in a day or two, I think we can just change it. It shouldn't be all that contentious I think. --John (talk) 00:17, 20 November 2016 (UTC)
Yes I would like to improve it, but it's not that bad. And my time and expertise are limited. I have no preference for the English variant. Mcewan (talk) 09:57, 20 November 2016 (UTC)