If This Is A Man



Italy, United States


Two attempts to publish If This Is A Man in America precede the first Italian edition of the volume. In 1946, while the book was still unfinished, Levi sent ten chapters to his cousin Anna Foa in Cambridge, Massachussets. Foa translated immediately the Canto of Ulysses, and proposed it to Little, Brown & Company, but the writer Joshua L. Liebeman, an editor for the publishing house, refused to publish the typescript because of the alleged lack of interest for the Nazi concentration camps in the American market.

In 1947, similar reasons convinced Cesare Pavese to reject the book for the publishing house Einaudi. After some chapters were published on a magazine between March and May (L'amico del popolo, based in Vercelli), If This Is A Man appeared in volume in October for a small publishing house directed by Franco Antonicelli (De Silva). A new attempt to disseminate the book in America, perhaps only sketched out, preceded the edition: to be in charge of the translation was in this case Laura Capon, who interrupted the work after turning two chapters into English.

Republished in 1958 among the Einaudi's «Saggi» thanks to Paolo Boringhieri (who had proposed it since 1952), If This Is A Man was read among the others by a doctoral student visiting Turin from Oxford, Stuart J. Woolf. Later a famous translator and a professor of Contemporary History in Venice, Woolf had met Levi at Leonardo De Benedetti's home, and undertook the translation assisted by the author himself, who checked the results of the work weekly. When the translation was completed, a small publishing house with an office in Italy, Orion Press, agreed to publish it: If This Is A Man thus appeared on the English and American market in 1959.

Two years later Collier Books acquired the rights. With an ingenious and unscupulous publishing operation, Collier changed the title in Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. Similar fate would be met by The Truce, released in Italy in 1961 (Einaudi) and published in Cold War America under the title The Reawakening, lifted from the last chapter of the book (Little, Brown & Company, 1965). Levi's mixed fortunes in America, which would later be due to the translation of The Periodic Table (Schocken Books, 1984), are now sanctioned by a publishing unicum in the U.S. market, the three-volume boxed set of Complete Works (Norton-Liveright, 2015), which re-publishes Woolf's translation of If This Is A Man, restoring the original title.

Related Vectors

Cesare Pavese

Writer, translator, literary critic

Giulio Einaudi editore

publishing house


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Author Gioele Cristofari