Navigate to News section

Suicide and Forgiveness: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers about Primo Levi’s death and the Traveler’s Prayer

October 02, 2015

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, we publish a selection of letters our readers have sent in regarding articles and podcasts published the week prior on Tablet.

In response to Adam Kirsch’s “Primo Levi’s Unlikely Suicide Haunts His Lasting Work“:

I have my doubts about Levi’s death being a “suicide.” He could have fallen, as antidepressants are associated with dizziness and cardiac arrhythmias. And there was no suicide note. I think this should be investigated before it becomes embedded into his “story” as a fact.

By the way, I am not one who believes in conspiracy theories nor am I suggesting that this is a conspiracy. I just think the forensic information made available to the public (see: Levi’s biography by Myriam Anissimov) is not compelling enough to conclude suicide as the cause of death.

— Thomas Zipp M.D., Cleveland, Ohio

* * * *

I enjoyed Adam Kirsch’s piece on Primo Levi and the new edition of his collected works, but I wonder about the title of the article itself. As Mr. Kirsch shows at the very end of the piece, there is at least as much evidence that Primo Levi did not kill himself as there is that he did. So why choose this title?

Also, when Mr. Kirsch listed the reasons Levi survived Auschwitz he left out the most important one, according to Levi himself: the brave kindness of an Italian brick layer named Lorenzo Perrone. A contract worker not a prisoner, Perrone gave some of his ration of soup and bread to Levi every day for six months, and he also gave Levi his vest to wear under the camp uniform. In the author’s own words: “I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today; and not so much for his material aid, as for his having constantly reminded me by his presence, by his natural and plain manner of being good, that there still existed a just world outside our own… Thanks to Lorenzo, I managed not to forget that I myself was a man.” Levi even named both of his children after Lorenzo Perrone.

— Nat Krieger, San Diego, California

In Response to Miriam Mandel Levi’s “The Traveler’s Prayer“:

Kudos to Ms. Levi. I was glued to the computer screen reading about her experience. I so related to her anger, as well as her embarrassment. The Rabbi, sending an emissary to apologize, was wonderful, although, it still does not excuse the dreadful behavior of the driver or other “religious” men ensconced in this scenario.

— Barbara Bloch, Charleston, South Carolina