Share via Email Wit and endurance … Primo Levi. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find our strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains. My name is But it also required stubborn resistance.
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The writing is beautiful and also brutal. I feel this is the gold standard for all memoirs about surviving the unsurvivable. A must-read if you truly want to attempt to understand what happened in the camps and how hard it was to come back afterwards. This volume consists, in fact, of two books otherwise titled Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening when sold separately. The first book, If This Is A Man is the harrowing story of his capture, the journey to Auschwitz, his life in the camp and how he survived until the Liberation of 29 January by the Russians.
It is all described with a detached humanism, never flinching at the violence, but with a gift of description and analogy. Primo Levy arrived at Auschwitz and was transferred by truck to a worksite, Buna-Monowitz. This is no order, no regulation: it is obvious that it is a small private initiative of our Charon.
The matter stirs us to anger and laughter and brings relief. We have learnt, on the other hand, that everything can be stolen, in fact, is automatically stolen as soon as attention is relaxed; and to avoid this, we had to learn the art of sleeping with our head on a bundle made up of our jacket and containing all our belongings, from the bowl to the shoes.
We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last - the power to refuse our consent. I found this one of the most powerful passages of this remarkable book. He describes the endless nights of terror thus: The dream of Tantalus and the dream of the story are woven into a texture of more indistinct images: the suffering of the day, composed of hunger, blows, cold, exhaustion, fear and promiscuity, turns at night-time into shapeless nightmares of unheard-of violence, which in free life would only occur during a fever.
One wakes up at every moment, frozen with terror, shaking in every limb, under the impression of an order shouted out by a voice full of anger in a language not understood. One wishes that this was fiction, but, of course, it is the real, lived experience of Primo described with such startling realism, written in the year following his return to Italy.
One of the most piquant chapters which lent its name to another book by Primo Levy, The Drowned and the Saved describes those like Primo that survive but also the vast majority of inmates who did not.
The name in camp for the endless masses of people that were visibly unable to cope and were certain to die was "musselman" or literally "muslim": On their entry into the camp, through basic incapacity, or by misfortune, or through some banal incident, they are overcome before they can adapt themselves; they are beaten by time, they do not begin to learn German, to disentangle the infernal knot of laws and prohibitions until their body is already in decay, and nothing can save them from selections or from death by exhaustion.
One hesitates to call them living: one hesitates to call their death death, in the face of which they have no fear, as they are too tired to understand. They crowd my memory with their faceless presences, and if I could enclose all the evil of our time in one image, I would choose this image which is familiar to me: an emaciated man, with head dropped and shoulders curved, on whose face and in whose eyes not a trace of thought is to be seen.
The Truce: how Primo Levi rediscovered humanity after Auschwitz
Note: the national borders are the current ones. Here people and landscapes come vividly alive in a bizarre, often comical series of events and human encounters; a truly remarkable tale. You remember Mordo Nahum? I had mixed feelings toward him. I admired him as a man fit for every situation. But of course he was very cruel to me. He despised me because I was not able to manage.
If This Is a Man • The Truce
[PDF] If This Is a Man / The Truce Book by Primo Levi Free Download (419 pages)