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If This Is a Man and The Truce Paperback – July 4, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The death of Primo Levi robs Italy of one of its finest writers...One of the few survivors of the Holocaust to speak of his experiences with a gentle voice GUARDIAN A life-changing book. Daily Express THE TRUCE: 'One of the century's truly necessary books.' Philip Roth 'One of the greatest human testaments of the era.'

About the Author

Primo Levi was born in Turin in 1919 and trained as chemist. Arrested a member of the anti-fascist resistance during the war, he was deported to Auschwitz. His experiences there are described in his two classic autobiographical works, IF THIS IS A MAN and THE TRUCE.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (July 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349100136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349100135
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A truly amazing book - I cannot promise that you will enjoy it, in fact I can almost guarantee that you will find most of it heart-breaking and painful.

It is a little like watching Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing - on many levels you do not enjoy it but it enthrals you. The subject matter is so important and it is so beautifully made and eloquent that you feel compelled to watch (or read in the case of Levi).

Levi tells the story of his own internment in Auschwitz - he concentrates on the details of everyday life slowing building a vivid picture of how the Nazis were intent on not just killing them but breaking their spirit, humiliating them, degrading them. He captures many moments so well that they live on in the mind, for example when he describes how the terrible regime made Jew turn on Jew. He even manages to raise a guilty smile occasionally. For example, he describes the second worst thing that could happen at night was to take out the toilet bucket as it was always full to overflowing and would spill on your feet. The worst thing was when your bunkmate took it out as they shared bunks sleeping head to toe.

Levi is a fantastic writer (try the Periodic Table if you want to read something easier and more enjoyable) with a light touch. He describes his time in Auschwitz calmly, clearly, with great compassion but remarkably objectively; he gives the reader space to think and understand.

A work of heart-breaking genius
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Primo Levi is the most insightful, pragmatic realist of all holocaust authors. I have read more than 50 books on the subject, and his insights into what happened, human nature, the (bad) luck of the draw, and the tragedy of his experience are brilliant and by far the most articulate. Somehow, perhaps with his scientific mind, Levi was able to maintain his awareness through an experience that is utterly beyond the scope of imagination. He somehow emerges from the ashes of this horrific epoch like a literary phoenix. He doesn't dwell on the inhuman acts and suffering, although he has a perfect right to do so, but instead offers his account almost from an omniscient perspective. This book contains the best of Primo Levi, but his other writings demand to be read as well. And, if you haven't seen The Truce, starring John Turturro, you should do so. It's not a hundred percent historically accurate, but it is a great presentation.
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Format: Paperback
Primo Levi's "If This is a Man" and "The Truce" remain one of the most horrifyingly realistic depictions of life in Auschwitz. Primo Levi recounts the daily ordeals of life in Auschwitz with a stirring and poignant narration, concentrating on not only the physical and emotional hardship but on another level questioning plainly what it is to be human. Both books present an illuminating view into life in a prison camp, and Primo Levi's narration ensure that no suffering remains untold. An illuminating read.
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A truly wonderful book by a great author. In this volume you get Levi's If This Is a Man, his story of his trials in one of the satellite camps of Auschwitz, and The Truce, the story of his long journey from Auschwitz back home to Turin. In the "Afterword" included with this edition (Abacus edition of 1987) you also have Levi's answers to the questions his readers had posed to him over the years. These are also revealing.

I've read many books about the Holocaust and WWII. I could not put this one down. I picked this up after reading Levi's The Periodic Table (also excellent). Here, Levi bears witness to the horrors of the Lager system of Nazi Germany. He is very specific about bearing witness. This is not a history or a commentary, though he does give his opinions. You can't call this a memoir really: it is testimony. In The Truce, he describes the long, strange journey he took back to Italy, through Poland, Russia, Bjelorus, Ukraine, Rumania, Hungary, Austria, and Germany, in the care of, mostly, the Russians. This is also a fascinating tale and follows on naturally: If This Is a Man ends with the arrival of the Russians to liberate the Auschwitz Lager and you want to know how he gets home and gets on with his life.

Levi was a master story teller. You just want to keep reading and hear what will happen next. He was obviously a very intelligent man. These books are very restrained and humane, towards all the people in them, even the evil-doing Germans. Levi states that he does not want revenge and doesn't hate the Germans. His concern was that civilized people everywhere do not allow this to happen again. (We've let him down there: Cambodia, Myanmar, Rwanda, The Balkans, Darfur, ...
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Format: Paperback
It's been a while since I read this book. My girlfriend pulled it off my shelf of her own accord, and she's reading it now. It's one of those books that every thinking person should read. Other reviewers have conveyed its gist very well. It's not really like other Holocaust literature, as important as that school is. It's more concerned with the capability of human beings to absolutely degrade one another. Auschwitz is a stewpot in which the worst of human nature bubbles to the top and sets the bar.

One would think the average camp prisoner would have put his head down numbly and hoped to get out alive. Levi somehow was able to observe and work through the ramifications of nearly every aspect of camp life, not with numbness, but with serene clarity (at least as he writes it later). Everything related in this book is literal and symbolic, mundane and profound, degraded yet fundamental. Levi doesn't spare himself, either. As he put it, to die in Auschwitz, all one had to do was play by the rules. He cheated, stole, and turned his back on his fellows in order to stay alive, and no fellow prisoner who knew the rules of Auschwitz would have held it against him. So much for uniting against one's oppressors.

I should add that "The Truce" tells the story of Levi's very circuitous journey home from Poland to Italy, through a post-war Europe that was barely functional on any level. It is less bleak by far than "If This Is A Man", but the insights into human nature are similiarly profound and essential.
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