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It would be easy to bluntly horrify the reader in a book about life in a death camp, but Levi is not content to appeal to the emotions. He has an intellectual fascination with details, and the psychology of genocide. By a dispassionate and careful treatment of the very difficult material, he manages to write a compelling book about a terrible subject. And the emotional effect does not suffer from this approach--because Levi does not manipulate them, the reader's feelings are deeper and more lasting. In one chapter, Levi describes how many of the prisoners, after fourteen hours of manual labor, would assemble in one corner of the camp in a market. They would trade rations and stolen goods. Levi describes how the market followed classical economic laws. Whenever I remember this I am freshly amazed at the resilience of life, and the ability of people to live and think and work in the most adverse conditions. It is remarkable that I finished a book about the Holocaust with a better opinion of mankind than I started with; I think the fact that the book affected me this way is the best recommendation
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I actually read this book over six years ago for a class I was taking on the Holocaust, I came upon this book on amazon while searching another and felt compelled to come in and put in my bit on it. Even after several years, the experience of reading this book is so deeply felt. If you want a vivid account on what it was like to be a Jew in Auschwitz, read this book. I won't go into a lot of detail, since it's been so long but what I remember most is: While reading it at one point I had to put the book down and remind myself..If I'm hungrey, I can just go to the fridge, If I'm thirsty, I can go to the kitchen for a glass of water, if I am cold, I can turn up the heat...and I felt I was living in pure luxury. In this book you learn that anything has value, a piece of paper can be stuck in your shoe to keep your feet warm, a button will serve some purpose, as will a piece of string. If you find anything, you pick it up. And at one point in the book as Primo Levi and other prisoners are standing near a barbed wire fence in the dead cold of winter he writes, (I am paraphasing) If at this time last year in this spot, any of us knew we'd be here through another winter, we would have touched the fence right then. But we don't, because of only one thing, hope.
This edition of Levi's book is an insult to the memory of a great writer. Not only is the translation inept, the editing sloppy (multiple typos), and the format kitschy, but--and this is unconscionable--the publishers have excised Levi's Introduction and his great poem which precede the text. This is a disgrace. Hayden White
This book from bnpublishing contains serious multiple errors, sometimes five per page, that disrespect the author and the Holocaust and force the reader to stop and try to figure out the author's real meaning. Book is full of incorrect or missing punctuation (such as periods), words and names spelled different ways from one sentence to the next, random capitalization, run-on sentences, grammatical and spelling errors in English, French, and German. "Figfit" is not a word. Neither are "infaticable," "aroupd," or "mochery." The phrase is "flash of intuition," not "flask." The sign over every concentration camp was "Arbeit Macht Frei," not "Fret." You say, "avec moi," which means "with me," not "avec mot" which means "with word." Phrases like "there were no dark cold air had the smell" (p. 107) stop the reader dead. Very disrespectful of the author and the subject. Levi was a brilliant man with astounding powers of observation and recall for his hellish experiences. His words deserve to be preserved better than this.
In a more perfect life, this book should be science fiction. Primo Levi deposits us in a world where the typical convivality that makes human society bearable has been eliminated and replaced by a horrible premise: humans may only live if they can do work useful to the state. "Survival in Auschwitz" plays the theme out. Those who are unable to work are immediately killed, using the most efficient means possible. Those who survive must find ways to maintain the illusion of usefulness with the least possible exertion. Instead of brotherhood, there is commerce, a black market where a stolen bar of soap is traded for a loaf of bread; the soap allows the owner to maintain a more healthy appearance while the bread feeds its owner for another day. We see property in its most base form. A spoon, a bowl, a few trinkets cleverly used, that is all a person can hold at a time. It's instructive to read this book as an insight into homelessness. What kind of place is this where we create humiliated zombies, shuffling behind their carts containing all their worldly possessions? How long can we let the State fight against the innate emotion that tells us that no-one should go hungry while we eat and no-one should be homeless while we have shelter?
What always amazes me about the Holocaust is the sheer improbability of the story of each of its survivors. This is the horror. For every shining genius of the stature of Primo Levi, there are thousands of other amazing people, gassed and murdered in the showers filled with Zyklon-B.