A laudable, monumental effort to gather the work of a crucial writer of the 20th century in one voluminous package.

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF PRIMO LEVI

A publishing production years in the making rounds up all of the remarkably diverse works of a writer known up to now, in English, at least, principally as a writer of the Holocaust.

Gathered here in three volumes, Levi’s books—which, yes, feature some of the most detailed and incisive writing that exists about the Holocaust (Levi survived a year at Auschwitz)—present a much fuller portrait of the Italian writer than many readers have encountered before. The volumes are arranged in chronological order of his publishing career, so Volume 1 includes If This Is a Man and The Truce, in which Levi writes evocatively about his post-Auschwitz search for a home, but it also gathers his lesser-known stories (“The Mnemagogs” is particularly memorable). Volumes 2 and 3 are where Levi fans will rejoice, though, finding more previously untranslated material in those books. Ten translators (including FSG publisher Jonathan Galassi) contribute their work here; anthology editor Goldstein notes in an introduction that she employed a “uniform editorial standard” across the many pages. In fact, the variance in translators isn’t noticeable. It’s amazing how often Levi stared down the most awful aspects of humanity: slaughter, genocide, and racism, to name a few. “No justice system absolves a murderer because there are other murderers in the house across the street,” he wrote in 1987. Levi was aware of all the murderers and yet always wrote about them with clarity and insight. Levi died in 1987 and we see him (in Volume 3) thinking, among other topics, about Chernobyl, eugenics, and spiders (about which he has “strongly ambivalent feelings”). Levi, a scientist and deep humanist, vividly comes alive in this boxed set.

A laudable, monumental effort to gather the work of a crucial writer of the 20th century in one voluminous package.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-87140-456-5

Page Count: 2912

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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