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Literary Criticism Italian

Primo Levi and the Identity of a Survivor

by (author) Nancy Harrowitz

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2017
Italian, Jewish Studies, General, Germany
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
    List Price

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Primo Levi (1919–1987) was an Italian chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor who used a combination of testimony, essays, and creative writing to explore crucial themes related to the Shoah. His voice is among the most important to emerge from this dark chapter in human history.


In Primo Levi and the Identity of a Survivor, Nancy Harrowitz examines the complex role that Levi’s Jewish identity played in his choices of how to portray his survival, as well as in his exposition of topics such as bystander complicity. Her analysis uncovers a survivor’s shame that deeply influenced the personas he created to recount his experiences. Exploring a range of Levi’s works, including Survival at Auschwitz and lesser-known works of fiction and poetry, she illustrates key issues within his development as a writer. At the heart of Levi’s discourse, Harrowitz argues, lies a complex interplay of narrative modes that reveals his brilliance as a theorist of testimony.

About the author

Nancy Harrowitz is an associate professor of Italian and Jewish studies at Boston University.

Nancy Harrowitz's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"…this groundbreaking work…brings new urgency and depth to our understanding of Levi’s testimonial achievement."

University of Toronto Quarterly, vol 87 3, Summer 2018


Choice Magazine vol 54:11:2017

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