Primo Levi: “My Jewish identity took on a great importance following my deportation to Auschwitz. It is very likely that without Auschwitz I would never have written, and would have given only a little weight to my Jewish identity.”  He wrote in order to tell the world what happened. In time he would come to resent the literary world that regarded him not as an artist, only as witness. Photograph: Getty Images

It is an image not easily forgotten; a frail, elderly man sitting in a deep armchair. Strong sunlight fills the room. He holds up his arms as if to(...)

Some of the 600 children, who  survived Auschwitz II-Birkenau, show their tattooed identification numbers. Some 7,000 prisoners, including more than 600 children and youths below the age of 18, were alive when the camp was liberated. Photograph: Reuters

The Diary of Anne Frank (1947), Anne Frank Published by her father after the war, Anne Frank’s diary gives an account of her family’s hidden li(...)

Francesco Rosi, who has died aged 92, was a film-maker who was fascinated with power, poverty and politics and whose commitment to social issues made (...)

July 5, 1950. Italian and international press descend upon a courtyard where the bullet-riddled corpse of Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano has be(...)

Martin Amis: holding a mirror up to the death camps. Photograph: Alan Betson

In Experience, his unexpectedly tender memoir published in 2000, the English writer Martin Amis went some way towards explaining his life and, more im(...)

Peter Matthiessen: the award-winning novelist, naturalist, 1950s CIA operative and  ordained Zen monk  died just three days before ‘In Paradise’ was published. Photograph: Gordon M Grant/New York Times
In Paradise
  • Books
  • August 2, 2014, 01:00

Biography, as a subset of truth, can itself be as strange and rich as fiction. Take the recently deceased American writer Peter Matthiessen: award-(...)

Fleeing Nazism: Jews on a boat to Brazil from Hamburg in 1935. Photograph:  Roger Viollet / Getty Images

Shame, fear and the legacy of an appalling experience as lived by a father and grandfather long dead continue to haunt a man approaching middle(...)

Emma Donoghue’s Room was inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl, who was jailed for life for the rape and enslavement of his daughter in a cellar over 24 years and causing his son’s death. Photograph: Reuters

In the Forest by Edna O’Brien, 2002 Set in familiar O’Brien territory in the rural west of Ireland, In the Forest is based on the real-life trage(...)

Targeted: an anti-Sikh poster in 1985, in an area where Sikhs were killed after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Photograph: Sandro Tucci/Time Life/Getty

There is nothing nostalgic about Raj’s return home to India after an entirely voluntary 25-year absence. He has become a professor at Cornell and has (...)

The letters of Italo Calvino? Surely not, we might think, given this writer’s famous guardedness and privacy, his distrust of the biographical, of the(...)