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If This Is a Man and The Truce Paperback – July 4, 2003
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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
THE TRUCE:―'One of the century's truly necessary books.â??
Philip Roth―'One of the greatest human testaments of the era.â??
About the Author
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0349100136
- ISBN-13 : 978-0349100135
- Dimensions : 5.25 x 1.25 x 7.5 inches
- Publisher : Abacus; Reprint edition (July 4, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #54,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There are few books in life the legitimately change the way you look at the world or yourself but this is one of them. I have a background in WWII history so a great deal of the details were already known to me. What impacted me more was how the author wrote with true humanity and an absolute lack of apology. He presented what happened to him and others without trying to dramatize it and without holding back which is a difficult balance to achieve and maintain. An aspect that he addresses a lot is how the basics of what it is that makes us human continue to manifest even under the most inhumane circumstances.
If I were to recommend only one book to people, it would be this one. Even if you are not interested in in WWII history or are uncomfortable with the subject matter I suggest giving it a try anyway. The lessons this book has to offer stretch far beyond knowledge of one of the most atrocious acts in human history. As important as it is to learn about the devastation and cruelty of what happened during the Holocaust, and it is truly important in this day and age not to forget the depth humans can sink, this book also offers lessons into what unites us all and makes us human.
I have never read anything like Primo Levi’s writing; so it is hard for me to describe for you.
He writes almost poetic - but not. His words flow beautifully together - yet he is describing one of the most horrific events that occurred in our world.
He starts with his capture. Then the deportation. Then his arrival. Then the slave labor. His sickness. His means to survive. Losing friends he made in the camp. Then the emptying of the camp and the Nazi’s departing to save themselves.
The second book starts right where the first one ends. How him and a few survive the empty camp. They were not liberated and then given foods and meds the day after the Nazi soldiers took all able prisoners on the Death Marches. This part is not something I have learned much in - so it was new to me (and I have read many books from Survivors’ accounts). Imagine surviving the Nazi’s and their gas chambers; to then be deserted (while deathly sick & starved) in a camp; freezing temperatures; no food or water; no medicines; only the clothes on your back...& never knowing who is coming to the camp at any given time........
Mr. Levi then goes on to write about the numerous stops/camps the Soviets have Survivors stay - never knowing when they will reach what they have been yearning for, for all these years = home.
Knowing this was originally all written in Italian - I cannot imagine how it would read/sound even better; as some things are always lost in translation.
I am thankful for Mr. Levi for choosing to share this with us - to educate the future generations. I encourage you ALL to read; and to speak of it so someone else will read.
This should be required reading in all of our high schools.
Top reviews from other countries
Segregation - 'How old? Healthy or ill? - Thus, in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared.'
'Indifferent SS men with faces of stone behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. A man staying an instant too long to say goodbye to his fiancée was knocked with a single blow to the ground. It was their everyday duty ............'
And so it began. They arrive at the camp. A brightly lit sign over the door reads Arbeit Macht Frei - work gives freedom.
Four days without water has given them a hideous thirst but a sign in the vast empty room, above the only tap reads Wassertrinken Verboten. He sees the sign as a joke for 'they' know we are dying of thirst - so he drinks but the water is tepid and sweetish with the smell of a swamp.
'This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this. ......... a huge empty room with a tap which drips while we cannot drink the water, and we wait for something which will certainly be terrible, and nothing happens and nothing continues to happen. What can one think about? One cannot think any more, is like being already dead. .......... The time passes drop by drop.
Later. Naked, shorn, stripped and tattooed he says - 'Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he love, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs,
forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself. He will be a man whose life or death can be lightly decided with no sense of human affinity, in the most unfortunate of cases, on the basis of a pure judgement of utility. It is in this way that one can understand the double sense of the term 'extermination camp', and it is now clear what we seek to express with the phrase: 'to lie on the bottom'.
I have not used my own words but those of Primo Levi to describe his manuscript, for that is what this book is - it would be insulting to his erudition, his dignity and courage. He survived the hell of the holocaust, living to tell the tale that the world must never forget.
I urge you to read this book and then read it again to make quite sure it is seared in your memory. It is the very least we can all do to honour Primo Levi.
'This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this ...... we are tired, standing on our feet, with a tap which drips
My edition was paired with its sequel the somewhat longer The Truce, which details the author's lengthy enforced peregrinations across eastern and central Europe to eventually get home well into the autumn of 1945. This is less immediately memorable as a read, but does contain descriptions of the many colourful characters of different nationalities with whom he makes his itinerant life. Finally, the book ends with the author providing lengthy answers to some of the most common questions he was asked in the post-war period by audiences to whom he spoke about his books and his experiences, to ensure the events of the Holocaust remained alive in the minds of succeeding generations as: "Strong though the words of If This is a Man are, they are still weak before the will to deny or forget."
'If this is a man' is a journey into the very heart of darkness, yet it is written without anger or reprisal inherent. This is just how it happened. This is how far the race can fall.
By contrast, 'The Truce' is a return journey into the light, peopled with odd characters and odder events. True, most of us may well have buckled under such events, but Levi's light touch and fundamental humanity turn this into a picaresques odyssey in which generous action and a better version of humanity is possible and apparent.
But one is reminded that Levi will always carry Auschwitz with him.
'This needs to be read' is a phrase which shouts out 'worthiness' and may therefore turn off many. Don't be put off. Learn why these events must never be forgotten nor conveniently marginalised.
Levi wrote many books (not only on this subject) and in my humble opinion, all his written work is worthy of our attention.
This copy includes a second story: Levi's account of the long, protracted journey home amidst the chaotic, yet relative safety of post war Europe. Reading this part of the tale one cannot help but feel a mixture of relief, yet sadness for the recent past losses. Yet Levi stays true to his objective, and provides us with an entertaining and informative mixture of anecdotes, offering an insight into a most remarkable point in recent history.