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Primo Levi was born in Turin in 1919. The son of an educated middle-class Jewish family, he graduated with a degree in chemistry and found a job as a research chemist in Milan. In December 1943, he was arrested as part of the anti-fascist resistance and deported to Auschwitz. After the war, Levi resumed his career as a chemist, retiring only in 1975. His graphic account of his time in Auschwitz, If This Is a Man, was published in 1947 and he went on to write many other books, including If Not Now, When? and The Periodic Table, emerging not only as one of the most profound and haunting commentators on the Holocaust, but as a great writer on many twentieth-century themes. In 1987, Primo Levi died in a fall that is widely believed to have been suicide.
Published simultaneously with the reissue of Levi's Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening (see above), this new memoir presents 15 additional portraits of unforgettable characters the author encountered at Auschwitz. In Levi's ``moments of reprieve''which he describes as ``bizarre, marginal moments of truce''he encountered Wolf, a Berlin pharmacist who had scabies but didn't scratch; Ezra, the cantor who insisted that his soup ration be saved while he fasted on Yom Kippur; Joel, a blond Jew with a German accent who crossed Europe without being harmed by the Gestapo but was imprisoned by the British in Palestine; Avrom, an innocent young soldier of fortune who became a hero of the Resistance; Grigo, a Gypsy who paid with bread for having an undeliverable letter written; and Rumkowski, chief of the Lodz ghetto, who rode to Auschwitz in a private car. First serial to New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Dissent and Moment. February