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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lilit e altri raccorti..., 17 Dec 2003
This review is from: Moments of Reprieve (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Well, it's hard to put into words what this book is about- Primo Levi is the man who did just that several great books and this very one. Moments of Reprieve is another of Levi's masterpieces, dealing once more with the experience of Survival in Auschwitz. Where a book like The Periodic Table tended to focus on the world around Auschwitz based on the elements of the periodic table, & The Drowned and the Saved took on the experience in a direct manner, here Levi focuses on stories of others in the camps.
Generally these tend to be people that he met in the camp, and these moments that appear to briefly remind Levi that he is human and perhaps manage to, again briefly, transcend the horrific world of the Lagers. Elements of this story will be familiar to people who've read Survival in Auschwitz-If This is a Man?/The Truce and know of characters like Cesare. But Levi's focus is from another angle, as he notes in the preface "With the passing of the years, writing has made a space for itself alongside my professional activity [Levi was a chemist] and I have ended up switching to it entirely. At the same time I realised that my experience of Auschwitz was far from exhausted. I had described its fundamental features, which today have a historical pertinence, in my first two books, but a host of details continued to surface in my memory and the idea of letting them fade away distressed me..."-
This is writing that was NECESSARY for Levi to write (I'm sure there's a quote from Bellow or Roth stating that on one of Levi's books), & despite its subject matter- which is pertinent in a world where the BNP, fascism and xenophobia are more than apparent- it is a beautiful and occasionlly funny book (Levi details a few semi-comic experiences, though it feels absurd against the backdrop of the camp, e.g. the idea of the two Italians with a stash of food & getting his top (with food in) pinched, or the way Levi tries to infect a Nazi-youth he's meant to teach...).
The stories are brief, perfectly written and to the point- 15 tales of Levi's life (with names changed to protect the survivors) and experience of the Nazi extermination camps. They are all brilliant, if we have to make a judgement about the life/lives depicted here. Towards the end there are other lives around the experience of the Shoah- The Story of Avrom, Tired of Imposture (which reminds me of the film Europa Europa- I think this was the same guy)- but the majority are set around Levi's life in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Last Christmas of the War should become a story that people read and reflect on in this merry approaching season, while many of the figures here died, or met uncertain ends. Levi always reminds us of human qualities in an inhuman world; Moments of Reprieve is an important book that personalises an experience of horror into timeless terms. A classic and the kind of book I would nominate as one of my favourite books and one that everyone ought to read...
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