A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories by Primo Levi

By Primo Levi

Primo Levi used to be the most brilliant voices to emerge from the 20 th century. This landmark number of his brief tales opens up a global of ask yourself, love, cruelty and curious twists of destiny, the place not anything is because it turns out. In 'The Fugitive' an place of work employee composes the main attractive poem ever with unexpected outcomes, whereas 'Magic Paint' sees a gaggle of researchers improve a paint that mysteriously protects them from misfortune. 'Gladiators' and 'The Knall' are chilling explorations of mass violence, and in 'The Tranquil Star' an easy tale of stargazing turns into a meditation on language, mind's eye and infinity.

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T h at. I think, was why fo r years he refused to go away on holiday, even at a time when union organizations and tourist agencies sent people flocking to seaside resorts. His opposition betrayed an odd anxiety, a fear o f being disillu­ sioned, as if a close encounter with the sea m ight destroy the distant vision that had dazzled him on A p ril 28, 19 3 5 , when fo r the first time in his life he glim psed, from afar, at d aybreak, the glorious blue o f the Adriatic. All the excuses he invented to postpone that encounter with the sea w ere som ehow unconvincing: he d id n ’t want to • 52 • spend his summers like a vulgar tourist, he couldn’t spare the money (which was not far from the truth), he had a low tolerance for the sun (though he had spent his life in the most blistering heat), and would we please leave him in peace, he was just fine in Belgrade behind closed blinds.

T h e next p aragrap h tells o f his dep artu re fo r Uzicka Pozega in 19 3 3 , in M ay. T ra v elin g with him on the train, second class, is the un fortun ate Gerasim ov, the em igre’s son. It is their first assignm ent: they are to survey the terrain o f Serbia, m ake cadastral and cartographic sketches. T h e y take turns carryin g the leveling rod and the theodolite; protecting their heads with straw hats— it is sum m er by now, and the sun is beating dow n— they climb hills, call, shout back and forth to each other; the autum n rains begin; pigs start grubbing, the cattle start getting restless; the theodolite has to be kept sheltered: it attracts lightning.

It is 19 2 8 ; the youn g m an is w earin g a cap with a final-year insignia on it and has grow n a m ustache. (H e will have it fo r the rest o f his life. O nce, fairly recently, his razor slipped and he shaved it o ff com pletely. W hen I saw him, I burst into tears: he was som ebody else. ) N ow here he is in fron t o f the C afe Central, then at a cinem a, w here a piano plays while Voyage to the Moon un folds on the screen. L ater we find him looking over newly posted an ­ nouncem ents on the notice board in Jelacic Square, one o f which— and I m ention it only as a curiosity— announces a lecture by K rleza.

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