If This is a Man by Primo Levi

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Sharon Dogar, April 2011 Guest Editor: "Clear your desk. Send the children away for the weekend. Create an untrammelled space in your life and then read this book. Primo Levi gives thought and words to an experience (life in Auschwitz) that over half a century later the human race is still struggling to come to terms with. In processing his experience Levi refuses to become a victim of it. The questions raised by this book are endless. Levi died from a fall down a stairwell. Was it suicide, and if so, did that mean the camps had finally been bigger than he was, and therefore defined him? Having read If this is a Man countless times, my own view is different. If you have lived (as Levi did) with death as a constant companion, as a card that can be dealt at any moment from the hands of your jailors, then perhaps it might feel like a form of freedom to finally reclaim it for yourself. There are no words that can describe the scale of his achievement with this book. You’ve either read it or you haven’t. Life-changing."


If This is a Man by Primo Levi

'With the moral stamina and intellectual pose of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, duitful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contempible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in The Periodic Table and The Wrench, his delight in what made the world exquisite to him. He was himself a magically endearing man, the most delicately forceful enchanter I've ever known' - Philip Roth


'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' - The Guardian

'A life-changing book.' - Daily Express


'One of the greatest human testaments of the era.' The Scotsman


'In describing Levi's account of his experiences in Nazi camps it is tempting to say that words are not enough, that language crumbles before this unforgettable testament. But the book's achievement is precisely to abjure such hyperbole to name the unnameable. Eschewing a desire for recrimination, Levi offers a lucid document of a descent into hell which is courageous and unflinching.' - Daily Telegraph

'Levi was imprisoned in Auschwitz from March 1944 to January 1945. Of the 650 Jews who entered the camp with him, 525 went to the gas chamber. He survived, and here describes his experience during those ten months. He explains the writing of this book as a need felt by all the survivors; 'the need to tell our story to 'the rest', to make the rest participate in it; the book has been written to satisfy this need: first and foremost, therefore, as an interior liberation. He writes simply, elegantly, precisely about his experience. It is utterly matter-of-fact - not a hint of sensation, self-indulgence, or self pity. And the effect upon the reader is exactly that which he sought for himself in telling the tale; an interior liberation. To look at the worst that man can do, and know that the best cannot be destroyed by it.' - Jane Rogers, whose novels include Island - Kirkus UK

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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Primo Levi
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Publication date

30th November 1999




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