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A sober, unemotional account of concentration camp and post-war life,
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This review is from: If This Is a Man, and The Truce (Everyman's Library Classics) (Hardcover)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. This makes the book a very frightening story of what happens when society ceases to exist and anarchy is allowed to reign. Levi also meets some very colorful individuals along the way, which in themselves are interesting to observe.
Both books are well written. They are some of the most emotionally touching books I have read in a long time. I highly recommend them to anyone.