An Excess of Self Scrutiny?

Reading Richard Eder's review of Primo Levi's "The Drowned and the Saved" (The Book Review, Dec. 27) moved me to write concerning my own reactions to Levi's suicide. None of the many articles and reviews I have read touched upon my own immediate conclusion: "Becoming a full-time professional writer and celebrity accomplished what the Nazi's failed to do." It seems to me that Levi's precarious tightrope walk across the abyss rested on the chemical, as it were, balance between survival, work, family and the need to witness and report. First enduring Auschwitz, later stealing hours from professional and family obligations, Levi slowly distilled an elixir of clarity and understanding.

What was different in the months before his death? Only that he had resigned his job as a research chemist in order to devote himself totally to writing, that is, to 24 hours a day of self-scrutiny, interviews, and listening to other people tell him how important he was. It is a great tragedy for all admirers of one of the finest 20th-Century writers, whose limited but impeccable body of work illuminates the darkest corner of our age.


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