100 Notable Books

italicsBy Daniela Gross

Although it was fairly predictable, it was nice to find The Complete Works of Primo Levi, edited by Ann Goldstein, in the prestigious list of “The 100 Notable Books of 2015” in this Sunday Book Review of the New York Times. “Twenty-eight years after Levi’s death, this collection of everything he published brings into focus the breadth and coherence of his genius,” reads the caption.

For a writer, to be or not to be in this roster is a turning point. Not by chance, a year ago, Ayelet Waldman – the Israeli-American author married to Michael Chabon – had a pathetic nervous breakdown on Twitter, because her last book Love & Treasure had been excluded. Obviously, the work of Primo Levi goes far beyond these aspirational and bestselling obsessions, as Edward Mendelson explained a week ago in the Book Review, in a cover story titled “Bearer of Witness”.

“[…] These three handsome volumes – he wrote – bring into focus the breadth and coherence of his genius, and make unexpectedly clear how deeply his work as a chemist shaped his unsettling work as a moralist and his unique vision of psychology and history.” This is to say, his value as a writer and as a witness is so wide and faceted that journalistic acknowledgements are redundant. However, the inclusion of The Complete Works of Primo Levi in the New York Times list is a powerful reminder that hopefully will help its circulation in the US.