Tragedy of an Optimist
Myriam Anissimov's major biography of Primo Levi delves deeply into the life and mind of this controversial writer, philosopher, and Holocaust witness, exploring the complex nature of a man who was both a strong-spirited survivor and a sufferer of severe bouts of depression, a man who felt misunderstood. His experiences at Auschwitz resulted in some of this century's most remarkable literature, which includes The Periodic Table and Survival at Auschwitz. He was haunted not only by his own experiences, but by the fear that future generations would inevitably forget and even deny the Holocaust. On April 11, 1987, Levi committed suicide, throwing himself down the staircase of the building where he was born.
By bringing Levi's life into focus with material gathered from exhaustive research, interviews with his friends and relatives, and numerous unpublished texts and testimonies, Anissimov's biography is an invaluable contribution to Holocaust scholarship and a crucial companion to the writings of this tortured genius.