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Italy

More Than A Witness: Revisiting Primo Levi 100 Years Since His Birth

The Italian writer's work is best known for his role recounting the horror of concentration camps. He was that man, and so much more.

Levi at his desk in 1981
Levi at his desk in 1981
Ernesto Ferrero

TURIN — Primo Levi is currently the most widely read and translated Italian author in the world. The Complete Works of Primo Levi,edited in the U.S., has significantly increased the author's global reach, with his teachings continuing to rise in the collective consciousness. Yet it took many years to understand that Levi was one of the world's greatest writers of the 20th century, not just in Italy.

He was already a writer before leaving the internment camp of Fossoli, in central Italy, on the cargo train for Auschwitz. He had written poems and short stories, and had tucked away the idea for what years later became the brilliant story Carbon, which seals The Periodic Table (in 2006 The Guardian called it the most beautiful science book of all time).

It happened, so it could happen again.

He had a writer's selective eye, knowing how to choose revealing details among the confusion of everyday events, which then come in handy to make sense of what doesn't have to make any sense at all. Having failed his Italian secondary school exams, Levi had metabolized Dante in depth. As an omnivorous reader, he had built an impressive vocabulary, both in extension and variety (now, with the help of powerful digital media, the time has come to map it in its entirety). Levi was able to create — like with his literary brother Italo Calvino, who was a little younger — that perfect bond between science and literature that fixes the divide that would otherwise render our culture anemic.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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