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If This Is a Man / The Truce [Paperback]

Primo Levi , Stuart Woolf
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 Jan 1991 Abacus Books
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

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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: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,514 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


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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
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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104 of 107 people found the following review helpful
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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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review 28 Feb 2006
By A Customer
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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I've bought this book about 6 times now and each time read it again and given it away to friends to read. The other reviews make it sound rather a depressing read. I disagree. The descent into the hell of Buna told in 'if this is a man' is harrowing but the truce is the lyrical and uplifting story of the return of human spirit during levi's odyssey home. This tale of humanity recovered deserves to be read by all. More insight into the nature of humanity here than in a thousand angst-ridden fictions. (His beautiful book the periodic table is another required read)
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 9 Jan 2004
By T
I cannot praise this book highly enough.
Levi describes his time in Auschwitz with such clarity and objectivity it's as if he wanted to report the facts and let the world make it's own mind up. Having said that this is not a cold, clinical account, as with reportage, as Levi describes great compassion in friendships he makes and horror he sees.
His story is similar to many others (obviously as they all shared an experience) but I felt as though I was given a different perspective with this book.
This becomes clearer at the back of the book when Levi sets out a series of questions that he has been asked since he wrote the first edition. Here he gives answers to letters asking "Do you hate the Germans" and so on. I won't spoil the book by revealing any of his answers but they show why Levi is so respected as a writer of the Holocaust.
Since reading this I have read many of Levi's works and would suggest reading the 'Drowned and the Saved' which goes deeper into the people he met and contains an excellent chapter on how he survived while his friend was sent on the Death March when the camp was liquidated.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars great book
good quality
Published 12 days ago by bjm0151
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truce
I have not yet read this book but the reviews are excellent and I am looking forward to it. I believe Primo Levi was an excellent author.
Published 3 months ago by Sonya Levene
5.0 out of 5 stars my favorite book of all time
this my favorite book ever, and Primo Levi, is one of my super hero too, I love him and I feel like he is my family. Primo in Portuguese means cousin, so he is my family. Read more
Published 3 months ago by peter gallagher
5.0 out of 5 stars A very moving account.
I gave 5 stars because it was a real man's experience of a shared human situation so clearly portrayed. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christina Gonzalez
4.0 out of 5 stars A biography that everyone should read as a lesson for the Holocaust...
This book is a haunting diary of what life was in a concentration camp. What struck me personally is his considered judgement that the Nazis were able to transform a modern... Read more
Published 3 months ago by D. Leoni
5.0 out of 5 stars Holocaust without sentiment
Levi lets the horrors speak for itself. He tells his tale of survival and the considerable part luck played, or fate.
Published 4 months ago by R. M. Ravitz
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Makes difficult reading sometimes....but then it was intended to I'm sure, although Levi remains very non judgmental throughout. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. Edward Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Difficult To Review
For obvious reasons, this is very difficult to review.
Levi writes in a way that is plain and simple for anybody to understand, and carried over in his words, to the sensitive... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, inspirational
Italian Primo Levi's time in a German concentration camp and his journey back home.

Despite his ordeal at the hands of his captors, Levi writes with dignity and with no... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Miki J
3.0 out of 5 stars book
Saying its okay as I had to read for a book club, not great subject matter, not as uplifting as I was lead to believe, having said that glad I read it.
Published 5 months ago by debbie
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