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If This Is a Man / The Truce Paperback – 1 Jan 1991

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (1 Jan. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349100136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349100135
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 13.3 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Primo Levi was born into a Jewish family in Turin, Italy, in 1919. He spent time in Auschwitz and his novel If This Is a Man is a harrowing account of his ordeal. Levi died in 1987.


Product Description

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.')

Book Description

Primo Levi's classic memoir of The Camps.

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IN 1943 Primo Levi, a young chemist from Turin, helped to form a partisan band which he and his comrades hoped would eventually be affiliated with the Resistance movement 'Justice and Liberty'. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Sokol on 26 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a compilation of two books, initially published separately, namely "If this is a man" and "The truce". The first book is an autobiographical account of the approximately 11 months he spent at a concentration camp in Auschwitz. The second book is an account of his long journey home, administered by the russians, which takes him on several detours around Russia and Europe before returning to his home in Turin, Italy.

In "If this is a man", Levi describes the conditions at Auschwitz, right from his arrival, at which point he has no idea what a concentration camp is, let alone that such things exist, until his departure 11 months later by the hands of the russians. The conditions are, obviously, horrendous. Levi describes this unemotionally and soberly, and the lack of hyperbole makes the account all the more eerie and unpleasant. The most notable property of the account is his description of the effect of the camp on himself and his fellow prisoners. He analyzes what traits make people liable to die quickly, what traits make people liable to degenerate to animals, and what traits make it possible for people to survive Auschwitz without losing their humanity. In this sense, Levi turns the story of Auschwitz into a profound parable of the basest and the noblest in human nature.

The second book, "The truce", describes Levi's journey home. The conditions are not as dire as those encountered in the camp. What makes the book very interesting is the description of the breakdown of society after the war. The russian administration appears to have very little coordination as regards their transportation of the concentration camp victims. The small societies which Levi and his companions pass through are often ravaged by war and abandoned.
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113 of 117 people found the following review helpful By gaelforce10 on 12 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
If this book is not on the national curriculum as essential reading for the European History module, then it should be. Before I bought this book, I asked myself "did I want to read another book on the Holocaust"? This isn't neccessarily about the Holocaust, in fact, a small portion of the book takes place in Auschwitz, it's more about one mans survival through hell, uncertainty and the unknown. Yet, because it is beautifully written, it uplifts, rather than depresses the reader. Levis' gentle prose style and almost photographic memory make this book a must read. It's a book that I will read many times throughout my life. Buy it!
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
I approached If This Is A Man with a certain amount of weariness. There have been countless films and books and TV programmes about the Holocaust, so what would one more book on the subject present? The answer to that is that If This Is a Man brings a real sense of the horror of Auschwitz to the reader. The figure of 6 million dead almost de-humanises the de-humanised: it is easy to rattle off that figure without actually thinking about the impact of separation, suffering and murder on an individual human being. This book hits the reader with the stark realities of day to day existence within the concentration camp.
Levi describes the nearest thing to Hell. Working to exhaustion in the freezing cold of winter, the beatings to which prisoners have become accustomed, lice and dirt, perpetual hunger and having to go to the 'toilet' several times during the night because of the heavily watered down soup. This latter task involves a hobble through the snow in a pair of wooden shoes (one pair per hut) to use a bucket which, if full, must be emptied by the unfortunate prisoner, who will try in vain not to spill the contents on his feet. Levi puts everything of our lives into the perspective of his as a prisoner. As prisoners slept head to foot next to each other, it was always better to empty the pail than to sleep next to someone who has just emptied it.
Levi deatils the average life expectancy of a healthy human being who does not find himself a niche or with something unique to offer. It is a shocking read, and while desperate to reach the end and find something to be optimistic about, the book held my attention from cover to cover.
At the end of the book are several questions put to the author by his readers (for instance, why did the prisoners not revolt against the Nazis?). The two titles are best read together, but of the two, If This Is Man is the more profound. An essential read for anyone interested in the subject.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bezza on 29 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
Where do you start with a book like this? It's brilliantly written, and compelling reading - for the quality of the narrative as much (more?) than the subject matter. But, of course, the subject matter makes it virtually unreadable. How much do you really want to know about the experience of drawing breath in one of the Auschwitz camps? How little imagination do you need to have, to need the monstrosity spelt out in all its tiny, obsessive detail? It appalled me to find myself turning the pages, unable to put it down without the expedient of falling asleep. It was like some twisted snuff porn on one level, as Levi led me through the minutiae of violence and death, like I was rubber-necking into the mangled driver's seat of a road fatality, and running my fingers through the spilled brains. Too much; all too much. Yet the book is an utterly compelling discussion of what defines 'man'; where the boundaries lie; what morality is; what language is; what judgement is. Like a single, extended essay on the big questions. Levi does not judge, he observes, with withering clarity, and leaves the reader to pick up the pieces. Along with All Quiet on the Western Front and one or two others, it's one of those books I felt immediately that I should go on to study in depth, while knowing that I will struggle ever to read so much as a line of it again. Levi observes that the experience of Auschwitz was like taking part in some social and psychological experiment of the most monstrous and preposterous scale, that only the most insane combination of events and people could have facilitated. Reading this book felt a lot like being allowed to peep into a world of unique atrocity; to share the thoughts of someone who had not only touched the depths, but had spent months grovelling around on the bottom.Read more ›
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