Primo Levi’s Liverpool Christmas

According to Ian Thomson’s biography of him, the Italian writer Primo Levi visited Liverpool just before Christmas 1971. He went with Maurilio Tambini, the sales manager at the Turin chemical factory where he worked, to buy some enamalled conductors. Levi, who stayed at the Adelphi Hotel, was saddened to see rough sleepers on the Metropolitan Cathedral steps and much of the city still not rebuilt after wartime bombing. But the weather, as now, was unseasonably mild and in the sunshine Levi, who had been suffering from depression, cheered up. He passed on the chance to see Norman Wisdom playing in the panto Robinson Crusoe at the Liverpool Empire, but he did go to the Cavern Club, and on the waterfront he watched Liverpool’s last transatlantic liner, the Empress of Canada, leave on its last voyage to Tilbury docks, with other boats on the Mersey hooting a melancholy farewell.

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