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A Tranquil Star: Stories Paperback – April 17, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Ann Goldstein, the translator of all of Elena Ferrante’s novels, is an editor at The New Yorker and a recipient of a PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Alessandra Bastagli is the translator of Primo Levi's stories in A Tranquil Star and his essays in The Complete Works. She lives in New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
This thin anthology gathers seventeen short tales--not all of them are full-fledged stories. They range from a park full of figures from literature who survive there as long as they are remembered (a conceit that has another twist in Kevin Brockmeier's recent novel "A Brief History of the Dead," also reviewed by me on Amazon) to a deadly little weapon called a "knall" to a gladiator fight pitting cars against hammer-throwing humans. Some are more fantastic, recalling Italo Calvino's fables but with more of an edgy or jaundiced view towards human weakness and unpredictable foibles. These, of the magic paint "tantalum" that works great until the user's bath time, or a kangaroo in "Buffet Dinner," or the Kafkaesque "Bureau of Vital Statistics," remind me of similar reflections collected in the earlier volume "The Mirror Maker." Tales in "A Tranquil Star" like "The Fugitive," "The TV Fans," or "The Molecule's Defiance" (great title admittedly) fall into this mode. But these, in my opinion, are not as gripping as those closer to reality, or at least allegory!
If you have come to "A Tranquil Star" without having read Levi's earlier pieces in this mode, the subject matter may seem light and inconsequential compared to the Holocaust narratives for which he is most known in English today.Read more ›
Divided into his earlier and later stories, the book divides pretty cleanly along those lines into classic Primo Levi and newer stuff that could easily have remained unpublished. I was especially looking forward to Bear Meat which is an elaboration of some stories he includes in the Periodic Table; it did not dissappoint. A few of the other stories were also great - the one about the captured partisan, for example. In general, however, I was not pleased with most of the stories, some of which veer off into genres that Levi does not seem at home in.
I can reccommend a few of the stories in this book that Levi fans would love to read because they complement earlier works. However, this is not a good introduction to Primo Levi and I would generally steer away from this book and towards his beautiful book The Periodic Table, or one of his many books about his time in Aushwitz.
Considerable then is the debt readers owe Goldstein and Bastagli, translators of the new Levi collection, "A Tranquil Star." The stories here run the range of Levi's work, from brief tales taken from his own life, such as a story of a captured partisan ("The Death of Marinese") or a tale within a tale of mountain climbers ("Bear Meat"). Other stories show a humorous, fantastical bend, like "Censorship in Bitinia" in which a nation's censor office discovers that the "essential" process can be deleterious to health, and seek to find an animal that can carry it out and "Gladiator" about a sporting event in which pedestrians duel with cars. In "Knall" Levi offers a Calvinoesque scifi comment on society, discussing the rage for a new gadget which allows people to murder one another silently, albeit only at close range.Read more ›
One nitpick: someone at W.W. Norton doesn't understand the English language, calling these unpublished works when they clearly meant uncollected (in English or any other language) -- all have been previously published as the credits and copyrights in the book make clear.
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Seventeen short `unpublished' stories, collected and translated from various magazines and other sources. Read morePublished on September 11, 2011 by Trevor Kettlewell