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“By February 1944, nearly every one of these twentysomethings was in Auschwitz.” The clash between the inane journalistic usage (still!) of the title format of an outdated sitcom and Auschwitz, for God’s sake: I cannot believe this sentence was published.

Jeff Norman

Milwaukee, WI

Dec 19 2013 - 11:01pm

Primo Levi: the suicide hypothesis

In her article about Primo Levi, which is at least in part a review of Berel Lang’s new biography, Vivian Gornick cites Lang’s explanation that the widely held belief that Levi committed suicide is no more than “an inference,” as there were no witnesses—nor any other actual evidence. And yet she begins her essay by asserting his suicide as a fact, and later describes him as having “leaped” to his death. Although her theory of the causes of his death are certainly interesting, it is no less speculative and thus presumptuous than the certainties of those for whom accepting Levi’s suicide would entail the negation of his life’s work and its supposed message of hope. Instead, let us consider the possibility that his writings are profound enough to withstand any particular interpretation of his life’s abrupt end, and indeed that the exquisite humanity evinced by his character and work should allow him the dignity of having had thoughts and motivations that we will never understand, or even know.

H. Gold


Dec 9 2013 - 1:59pm

The Holocaust was neither undescribable nor unique

There was not a single outrage perpetrated against the Jews by the Nazis that had not been committed against countless other equally innocent human beings even in modern times. This is not to minimize the importance of the Holocaust. Rather, it is to universalize its significance. It was in many ways an emblematic event, symbolizing the terrible human price that has been paid to build the modern world. I think Jewish writers like Ms. Gornick do the subject (and themselves) when they describe it as a unique and indescribable event. Much better to describe it in graphic detail—as has been done countless times, by Levi among others—and to emphasize its universal human significance. In my judgment, anyway.

Luke Lea

Walden, TN

Dec 4 2013 - 11:01am

Case closed?

I am not a Primo Levi scholar, but based on the reports I have read, I am not convinced that his death was a suicide as opposed to an accident. (He was on an anti-depressant that can cause dizziness.)


Cleveland, OH

Dec 3 2013 - 8:55am

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