David Cesarani

Reading with Primo

The Search for Roots: A Personal Anthology


Allen Lane The Penguin Press 234pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

If you are like me, when you visit someone’s home for the first time you look at the bookshelves to see what the selection of books can tell you about your host. Primo Levi had ‘a habit of placing [his] favourite books on the same shelf, independently of their theme and their age’. They were all densely marked and annotated, which made it easy for him to choose thirty extracts in response to a publisher’s invitation to assemble a personal anthology. As a result of this initiative we can now peruse at least part of that precious row of books, and try to figure out what they tell us about the man who cherished them.

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