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 A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories of Primo Levi is a sampling of seventeen stories written between 1949 and 1986 that tackle a variety of subjects, largely outside Levi’s experiences in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.