A Tran­quil Star: Unpub­lished Sto­ries of Pri­mo Levi

Pri­mo Levi; Ann Gold­stein and Alessan­dra Bastagli, trans.; Ann Gold­stein, ed.

  • Review
By – November 14, 2011

This engag­ing col­lec­tion presents a side of Pri­mo Levi’s pro­lif­ic lit­er­ary career that many read­ers may not be famil­iar with. A Tran­quil Star: Unpub­lished Sto­ries of Pri­mo Levi is a sam­pling of sev­en­teen sto­ries writ­ten between 1949 and 1986 that tack­le a vari­ety of sub­jects, large­ly out­side Levi’s expe­ri­ences in the Holo­caust. Many of the sto­ries include flights of the imag­i­na­tion, com­bin­ing ele­ments of real­ism, sci­ence fic­tion, fan­ta­sy, folk­tale, and parable.

Through­out most of these sto­ries, Levi explores both the comedic and trag­ic qual­i­ties that a chaot­ic uni­verse brings about. In Knall,” a pop­u­lar toy ends up killing those who play with it. In One Night,” a train arrives in an idyl­lic land­scape that lat­er shows itself to be rife with evil. The Girl in the Book” tells the tale of a man obsessed with a woman whom he believes he rec­og­nizes from a soldier’s memoir.

Although these sto­ries have not been trans­lat­ed from the orig­i­nal Ital­ian until now, they are by no means super­flu­ous— this aston­ish­ing col­lec­tion is a won­der­ful read for Levi’s still widen­ing Eng­lish-lan­guage audience.

Phil Sandick is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son. He has taught cours­es in lit­er­a­ture, com­po­si­tion, and cre­ative writ­ing since 2006. Phil is cur­rent­ly study­ing rhetoric and com­po­si­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na-Chapel Hill.

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