If This Is a Man / The Truce Paperback – 1 Jan 1991
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One of the century's truly necessary books (Philip Roth)
One of the greatest human testaments of the era (Scotsman)
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)
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.’)
Primo Levi's classic memoir of The Camps.See all Product description
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Segregation - 'How old? Healthy or ill? - Thus, in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared.'
'Indifferent SS men with faces of stone behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. A man staying an instant too long to say goodbye to his fiancée was knocked with a single blow to the ground. It was their everyday duty ............'
And so it began. They arrive at the camp. A brightly lit sign over the door reads Arbeit Macht Frei - work gives freedom.
Four days without water has given them a hideous thirst but a sign in the vast empty room, above the only tap reads Wassertrinken Verboten. He sees the sign as a joke for 'they' know we are dying of thirst - so he drinks but the water is tepid and sweetish with the smell of a swamp.
'This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this. ......... a huge empty room with a tap which drips while we cannot drink the water, and we wait for something which will certainly be terrible, and nothing happens and nothing continues to happen. What can one think about? One cannot think any more, is like being already dead. .......... The time passes drop by drop.
Later. Naked, shorn, stripped and tattooed he says - 'Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he love, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs,
forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself. He will be a man whose life or death can be lightly decided with no sense of human affinity, in the most unfortunate of cases, on the basis of a pure judgement of utility. It is in this way that one can understand the double sense of the term 'extermination camp', and it is now clear what we seek to express with the phrase: 'to lie on the bottom'.
I have not used my own words but those of Primo Levi to describe his manuscript, for that is what this book is - it would be insulting to his erudition, his dignity and courage. He survived the hell of the holocaust, living to tell the tale that the world must never forget.
I urge you to read this book and then read it again to make quite sure it is seared in your memory. It is the very least we can all do to honour Primo Levi.
'This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this ...... we are tired, standing on our feet, with a tap which drips
'If this is a man' is a journey into the very heart of darkness, yet it is written without anger or reprisal inherent. This is just how it happened. This is how far the race can fall.
By contrast, 'The Truce' is a return journey into the light, peopled with odd characters and odder events. True, most of us may well have buckled under such events, but Levi's light touch and fundamental humanity turn this into a picaresques odyssey in which generous action and a better version of humanity is possible and apparent.
But one is reminded that Levi will always carry Auschwitz with him.
'This needs to be read' is a phrase which shouts out 'worthiness' and may therefore turn off many. Don't be put off. Learn why these events must never be forgotten nor conveniently marginalised.
The man who was Primo Levi died in Auschwitz and Auschwitz claimed his life four decades later. It's easy to feel very disconnected to the holocaust as we feel it occurred so many decades ago, but this book brings it right back home.