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If This Is a Man and The Truce Paperback – July 4, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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, ...Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In If This Is a Man Primo Levi describes his experience as a worker slave in one of the sub camps of Auschwitz, the one working for the German firm IG Farben. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Victor Gilinsky
Should be required reading for young people, so they can begin to understand the Holocaust and what ocured during WWIIPublished 13 days ago by D. J. Singer
I never felt too interested in this book. It was very encyclopedia like. It told stories . Story after monotonous story. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
An amazing book. Levi writes so clearly about his time in a German concentration camp. Really brings home the horror. An unforgettable book. Wish I had found and read it years ago.Published 4 months ago by tommy meehan
Intersting book. Not the easiest to read as it is more literary than many books. The second book, The Truce is different than anything I have read before. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ross
If there is a way to go on living after experiencing the horror and dehumanization of the Nazi death camps, Primo Levi's memoir is the road map.Published 6 months ago by Mark A Jacobson
I couldn't give it five stars because that would say that "I loved it.". One can't love a book like this. It is too uncomfortable, too thought provoking. Read morePublished 6 months ago by MTWC
could not get into this one,found it quite boring,Gave up after about 5th chapterPublished 8 months ago by Dixie Butler