On April 11, 1987, the Italian chemist and author Primo Levi was found dead in his apartment building in Turin. Reportedly depressed over worldwide violence, his deteriorating health, and a case of writer’s block, he apparently threw himself down the stairwell of his building. A survivor of Auschwitz, Levi had written a series of works, including The Periodic Table (Schochen Books, 1984), that intermingled stories of his captivity with metaphysical reflections (see THE SCIENTIST, May 18, 1987, p. 23 for a lengthy excerpt). His final completed work, The Drowned and the Saved (Summit Books, 1988) is a dark meditation on the legacy of violence from Hitler’s Lagers (storehouses). This excerpt from his concluding chapter reveals the concerns that troubled his last days.


The experiences that we survivors of the Nazi Lagers carry within us are extraneous to the new Western generation and become ever more extraneous as...

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