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Primo Levi

(1919 - 1987 / Turin / Italy)

Primo Levi
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Primo Levi was born in Turin in Italy in 1919, to a family of non-religious Jews with Spanish roots. Pursuing an education in chemistry, he flouted Mussolini's racial laws of 1938, which prohibited Jews from higher education. Levi received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Turin in 1941. He eventually landed a position in a pharmaceutical laboratory where he worked until 1943, when the Germans invaded Northern Italy.

Leaving his job, the young chemist traded his glassware for a pistol, joining a band of partisans devoted to fighting Germans and Italian fascists. After being betrayed by one of their own number, Levi was handed over to the Germans and deported ... more »

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Quotations

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  • ''Anyone who has obeyed nature by transmitting a piece of gossip experiences the explosive relief that accompanies the satisfying of a primary need.''
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. repr. In The Mirror Maker (1989). "About Gossip," La Stampa (Turin, Italy, June 24, 1986).
  • The butterfly's attractiveness derives not only from colors and symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it. We would not think them so beautiful if they did not fly, or if they flew straight and briskl...
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. "Butterflies," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
  • After the planet becomes theirs, many millions of years will have to pass before a beetle particularly loved by God, at the end of its calculations will find written on a sheet of paper in letters of ...
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. "Beetles," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
  • The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in general it is understood completely only when it is broken: ...
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. "Ex-Chemist," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
  • For me chemistry represented an indefinite cloud of future potentialities which enveloped my life to come in black volutes torn by fiery flashes, like those which had hidden Mount Sinai. Like Moses, f...
    Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. "Hydrogen," The Periodic Table (1975, trans. 1984).
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