Primo Levi was born on July 31, 1919 in Turin, Italy. He pursued a career in chemistry, and spent the early years World War II as a research chemist in Milan. Upon the German invasion of northern Italy, Levi, an Italian Jew, joined an anti-fascist group and was captured and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He was able to survive the camp, due in part to his value to the Nazis as a chemist. After the war ended, Levi did chemistry work in a Turin paint factory while beginning his writing career. His first book, If This Is a Man (title later was changed to Survival in Auschwitz) was published in 1947 and its sequel, The Truce (later retitled The Reawakening) came out in 1958. These two books recount Levi's story of surviving concentration camp life. Levi also published poetry, short stories, and novels, some under the pen name Damianos Malabaila. His 1985, largely autobiographical work, The Periodic Table, cemented his world fame. Awards in tribute to his writing included the Kenneth B. Smilen fiction award, presented by the Jewish Museum in New York. Ironically, despite his surviving Auschwitz, Primo Levi appears to have died by suicide, in Turin on April 11, 1987.
William Weaver was born on July 24, 1923. During World War II, he joined the American Field Service and was sent to Africa and then to Italy as an ambulance driver. As a senior at Princeton University, he had a short story published in Harper's Bazaar. After graduation, he taught at the University of Virginia for a year before returning to Italy. He was a translator of modern Italian literature into English. He translated the works of numerous authors including Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Giorgio Bassani and Primo Levi. He also studied opera and wrote several books on the subject including The Golden Century of Italian Opera from Rossini to Puccini. He taught at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York in the 1990s. He died on November 12, 2013 at the age of 90.