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Primo Levi

Episode 8 of 9

Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, chooses Primo Levi, the Italian writer who survived and documented Auschwitz.

Edmund de Waal chooses a writer he believes is one of the greatest of the modern age - Primo Levi, author of the Periodic Table. Born in 1919 in Turin, Levi was an Italian Jew, one of the few deported to Auschwitz who would escape alive.

Primo Levi's account of his time in the camp, If This Is a Man, made him one of the first writers to document the Holocaust and it established his name around the world. But Levi was not just a writer. He was a chemist, which gave him the skills that helped save his life in Auschwitz. It was also a day job he never gave up, and his passion for science remained a life-long pursuit.

After the War, Levi returned to Turin, married, had a family and wrote books in his spare time. He also became an enthusiastic letter-writer, corresponding with a new generation of Germans, to help them better understand the effects of the Nazi regime. Yet from his youth, Levi suffered from depression. In 1987 he took his own life, throwing himself down the stairwell in the house where he'd been born.

Ceramicist and author Edmund de Waal joins Matthew Parris to discuss how Levi's work inspired The Hare With Amber Eyes - his own memoir of his family's history as Jews in 19th and 20th century Europe. And biographer Ian Thomson, one of the last to interview Levi, explains why we shouldn't confuse Levi the writer with Levi the man.

Producer: Lizz Pearson.

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30 minutes


Role Contributor
Presenter Matthew Parris
Interviewed Guest Edmund de Waal
Producer Lizz Pearson


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