Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “If Not Now, When?” as Want to Read:
If Not Now, When?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

If Not Now, When?

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  1,938 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Primo Levi was among the greatest witnesses to twentieth-century atrocity. In this gripping novel, based on a true story, he reveals the extraordinary lives of the Russian, Polish and Jewish partisans trapped behind enemy lines during the Second World War. Wracked by fear, hunger and fierce rivalries, they link up, fall apart, struggle to stay alive and to sabotage the ...more
Paperback, 331 pages
Published September 7th 2000 by Penguin Classics (first published 1982)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about If Not Now, When?, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

George Last year I read six books with war settings including Schindler's List, The English Patient, et al. By the last couple I was asking self "why so many…moreLast year I read six books with war settings including Schindler's List, The English Patient, et al. By the last couple I was asking self "why so many war books?", and telling self, "no more war books for at least a year". It was beginning to bring me down, so I understand your feeling.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 12, 2007 Sophie rated it liked it
Primo Levi is such an amazing writer. He has the ability to say so very much with so little in a way that is still intensely satisfying. While I didn't enjoy this book as much as Survival in Auschwitz, it was still an immensely satisfying read. However, if you have never read any Primo Levi, I would recommend starting with his nonfiction. Any of it.
This was in many ways a breath of fresh air in Holocaust literature; reflective of the horrors yet focusing more on WWII itself and all the other things that were happening to the Jews outside of the camps. It was nice learning about the partisans and the underground survivors, and how Italy drew all the Jews from everywhere in preparation for a new life. In a way, it was a period that I already knew a lot about from previous literature, but delivered in a different way, focusing on a different ...more
Aug 27, 2011 Kevin rated it it was amazing
"If I'm not for myself, who will be for me?

If not this way, how? And if not now, when?"

This is an amazing book, detailing the experiences and journey of a group of Jewish Partisans fighting behind the German Lines on the Russian Front. The book, written by Primo Levi, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, despite being a fictional work, is based around historical fact and that there were small groups or bands of Jewish Partisans who did disrupt the Nazis behind their lines, who worked independ
Lorenzo Berardi
"If not like this, how? And if not now, when?"
This line is said by Gedale, one of the main characters of the novel towards the end of the book, but its meaning is wider.

While reading many good and dramatic accounts from the Shoah there's a question that often comes to mind and mouth:
"Why did all these Jewish people let themselves being humiliated, robbed, prisoned and killed by Nazis and anti-semites without trying to resist?"
After all, most of the times, they had numbers on their side.

"Maybe -
Nov 20, 2008 C. rated it really liked it
What I learned from this book: the meaning of Israel.

"For the Russians, a longing for home was not an unreasonable hope, even probable: a yearning to go back, a call. For the Jews, the regret for their houses was not a hope but a despair, buried till then under more urgent and serious sorrows, but latent always. Their homes no longer existed: they had been swept away, burned by the war or by slaughter, bloodied by squads of hunters of men; tomb houses, of which it was best not to think, houses o
Sep 03, 2009 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Not Now, When offers a realistic fictional account of Jewish partisans operating in eastern Europe during World War Two. The author, Primo Levi, was a death camp survivor who actually met and interviewed the real people on whose lives the book is based.

That said, Levi also wrote a compelling story which engages the reader's heart as well as mind. Think, Doctor Zhivago meets All Quiet on the Western Front quality, though that over simplifies Levi's accomplishment.

As World War Two fades into th
Jan 29, 2016 Karel rated it it was amazing
No war book has managed to distill such beauty from it, and frame it with such great writing. It reads like Catch-22 without the pessimism and some semblance of coherency - the book grabs you by the hair and marches you through the quintessential adventure story, and shoots you in the belly every time you forget the horrors of war.
Emma Cook
Sep 22, 2016 Emma Cook rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary book. Given the countless books about WW2 I've read, this stood out for me, given it's different viewpoint on the events that lead up to the end of the war. Based on real events and real people interviewed by the author, a story about Russian, German, Polish and Ukranian Jewish partisans crossing Eastern Europe, their struggles, decisions and survival through adversity.
Aug 16, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing
Mid 5. A matchless and heart-rending portrait of the fight to overcome unimaginary hardships by a group of the disposessed, forced to rely on the basest survival instincts on the edge of humanity by the horror and devastation caused by the Nazi onslaught of the Second World War. This band of Jewish, Polish, and Russian partisans are peopled by unforgettable characters, such as Mendel, the watchmaker, who has survived the decimation of the Red Army, and whose wife, neighbours, and community have ...more
Dec 22, 2009 Leila rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books-list
Hmm. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It recounts a fascinating story of the life of Russian and Polish Jewish partisans during the Second World War. These are men and women who found themselves behind the front lines in a sort of no man's land and did their part to fight the Nazi's by use of trickery and sabotage. Ultimately the crew in Levi's book was trekking towards Palistine. Really interesting premise, but I didn't find there to be much in the way of character ...more
Rae Stoltenkamp
Mar 06, 2016 Rae Stoltenkamp rated it it was amazing
I have read only one other book written by Primo Levi: If This is A Man. That was when I was about 15 or 16 and I thought it outstanding. Ever since I’ve meant to read his other works but for some reason or another didn’t round to it. Why have I wasted so much time?
Never before have I read a book and felt the need to have post-it notes constantly at the ready. There are so many lines, phrases, brilliant insights. A superb read. Some tasters for you…
About two female partisans: “Sissl was like a
Jun 09, 2008 Liz is currently reading it
Not the sort of book I would usually choose - I feel very ignorant about the background (Russian, Polish and Jewish partisans trying to survive in the 2nd World War) but it's very readable because the main character is so human and believable.
Apr 29, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing
Primo Levi rarely disappoints. This novel is no exception.

A realistic tale of resistance against the Nazis.

I read it long ago, but one or two scenes still remain etched in my memory.
Sónia  Teixeira
Mar 23, 2015 Sónia Teixeira rated it it was amazing
Dos melhores autores a ler sobre a temática da II grande guerra
Frantisek Trapl
Dec 02, 2016 Frantisek Trapl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neuvěřitelně uvěřitelná pouť skupiny židovských bytostí (skorem váhám, zda na protagonisty ještě platí označení člověk) evropským územím v časech vrcholné fáze 2. světové války, a to ze západní části SSSR, přes Polsko, Německo až do Itálie. Četba je skličující a věřím, že nejednoho čtenáře přepadne neskonalý pocit vděčnosti za dobu, v které se naše životy doslova tetelí. Krásný sloh, hrozná doba, silný příběh a úklona (až se čelem bouchám o zem) všem, kteří "ve válce zdrsněli, ale nepokořili ...more
I discovered this book on the reading list 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. This historical fiction, published first in Italian in 1982 (Se non ora, quando?), draws on the life experiences of the author, an Auschwitz-survivor, conversations he had with others like his main character Mendel, and written first-hand accounts. Levi does an excellent job of creating believable characters and recreating these less-discussed events of World War II.

The story is told through the eyes of Mendel Na
Malvika Katarya
Aug 25, 2016 Malvika Katarya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On my Penguin edition, the blurbs on the back are: "In Levi's writing, nothing is superfluous and everything is essential" - Saul Bellow, and "One of the most important and gifted writers of our time" - Italo Calvino.

Very high praise from such prolific authors, which pretty much summarises what I feel about the book myself. Reading it is effortless, Levi takes you straight into the scene, into the dialogs and actions and seamlessly blends the thoughts and ideologies of his characters.

I just fi
Oct 05, 2016 Carlo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fra dodici mesi compirà trent’anni il primo libro della sua produzione che Levi ha voluto etichettare come romanzo, anche se comunque basato su una storia vera e costruito facendo riferimento a un’ampia documentazione riguardante l’ebraismo dell’Europa Orientale. Il volume racconta la piccola epopea di un gruppo di partigiani appunto ebrei che, originari di Russia e Polonia, percorrono un lungo viaggio – all’inizio spesso a piedi, poi con l’aiuto di qualche mezzo di fortuna – che li porta fino ...more
Aug 10, 2014 Bookguide rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1001-book-list
This book tells another side of the Jewish experience during WWII, that of the partisans caught behind enemy lines. It wasn't entirely clear to me where this was set, as it moves around in Central Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Russia?). I was rather hoping that Book Drum would have had a profile, but alas it doesn't (yet). Unfortunately I got caught up in trying to find out where it was set, then forgot to write a review. However, several months later, I was going to take this book with me to release ...more
J Puntillo
Aug 11, 2016 J Puntillo rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa McClintock
I was looking forward to this book because I am an avid consumer of Holocaust information. (why evil?)

The writer in the introduction pointed out that there are good books written by holocaust survivors that are good to read simply because of the subject and survivor.

However, survivors aren't necessarily writers, and the fact that THIS book is written by a "Writer" with a capital W, sets it apart from other books in that genre.

I agree with this! To the point that I want to consume everything
Chiara Tinelli
Aug 12, 2016 Chiara Tinelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un avventuroso viaggio dall'Unione Sovietica fino al nord Italia nel tentativo di ostacolare l'avanzata dei tedeschi e supportare la controffensiva degli Alleati: si potrebbe riassumere così la trama del romanzo storico di Primo Levi Se non ora, quando?, vincitore di numerosi riconoscimenti tra cui il Premio Campiello ed il Premio Viareggio. Protagonista è Mendel, un orologiaio ebreo che ha perso la moglie nel rastrellamento del suo villaggio e decide, non ancora trentenne, di unirsi ai partigia ...more
Auntie Pam
Mar 13, 2013 Auntie Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abc, xx-secolo, regioni, 2013
La guerra separa ma allo stesso tempo unisce, unisce i disperati. E' questa è proprio la storia di un gruppo variegato di partigiani che cercano in tutti i modi di passare il fronte russo e arrivare in Italia, unico trampolino verso la terra promessa. Ecco che allora ognuno porta dietro di se un passato scomodo, chi è scappato dall'Armata Russa e dichiarato disertore, chi è nato in terra sovietica ed è cresciuto su a forza di Stalin e bolscevimo, chi è nato ebreo e chi è semplicemente un polacco ...more
May 01, 2013 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that should be read more than once. Levi is an amazing writer and knowing his background makes this book all the more poignant. When he tells of the French Jewish woman saving the crumbs of bread in her pocket, I know he is telling of himself. When he tells of the survivor guilt, I know he knows of what he speaks. He shows how war changes people into something they wouldn't have ever been, something they don't really want to be but have no choice. He is a beautiful writer.

I enjoy
Feb 23, 2013 Ned rated it liked it
No, Primo Levi is not a tax on high-grade marijuana.

Primo Levi was a Jewish/Italian writer and a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Like the characters in his story, he was also a partisan during World War II.

This is a very well written 1982 novelization of stories based in fact about Jewish partisans who went underground and went into the forests and took up arms and fought the Nazis in Eastern Europe during World War II. Taking up the collective life of the partisan. They lived a g
Jun 20, 2008 Shane rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it
Though the language is, at times, hard to follow, the characters are memorable and relatable. This is obviously Primo Levi's first novel. You can really get a sense of his "soon to emerge" voice as a writer and story teller, though he definetly does not develop his characters as memorably as in The Drowned and the Saved. This particular text does explore the multifaceted existance of Jews and Jewishness, as well as the quandry of the two. A memorable point in the tale is when Pavel (the former ...more
May 25, 2015 melbourne rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The documentation of the Holocaust is exhaustively represented in literature and with just cause. Primo Levi's, If Not Now, When?, represents a stark contrast to much of the already existing body of work, and is a refreshing narrative that steers clear of cliches. Perhaps the most striking element is the narrative of the Jewish partisans itself, and and the manner in which it portrays their ability to survive in such transient, and at times, grim conditions engaging in a campaign that sometimes ...more
Nov 17, 2011 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Based on an number of true events and stories that Levi has uncovered and been told, this book tells of the struggle for survival for a number of Russian, Polish and Jewish partisans trapped behind the German lines in World War II. It shows the difficulties they had to face, the decisions they were forced to make and the bonds they formed with each other as they travelled west in an effort to get to the apparant safety of Israel and Palestine (which is bitterly ironic given recent events in ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Rafael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-spanish
Una novela ejemplar sobre los partizanos, judios o rusos o polacos. todos aquellos que lucharon contra los nazis. Quiza por su procedencia judaica Levi se interioriza mas en los judios partizanos.
Todas sus visicitudes de una maldita guerra a la que fueron aventados. La masacre millones de personas, que sufrieron por la locura de Hitler.
Sin dudas es una novela que cuestiona con muchisimas preguntas al lector y toca profundamente la Identidad Judia. No me gusto la parte final donde se muestra Bene
Josh Trapani
Aug 18, 2014 Josh Trapani rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Primo Levi was an Italian scientist and writer who also survived the Holocaust. A few of his works, like "Survival in Auschwitz," are essential reading for those who want to understand the 20th century. "If Not Now, When?" is a fictional account of mostly Jewish partisans during WWII. Levi says the book is based on stories he heard from such people after the war, and while the book's plot-line of battle and survival is amazing - how could it not be? - the book does read more like a history or ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
  • Williwaw
  • The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman
  • Death of a Hero
  • The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8)
  • Covenant With Death
  • The Ship
  • Jakob the Liar
  • Confederates
  • La Débâcle (Les Rougon-Macquart, #19)
  • The Last of the Just
  • South Wind
  • Three Soldiers
  • To Each His Own
  • As a Man Grows Older
  • Day
  • Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters of Survivors
  • Anus Mundi
Primo Michele Levi (Italian: [ˈpriːmo ˈlɛːvi]; 31 July 1919 – 11 April 1987) was an Italian chemist and writer. He was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. His best-known works include If This Is a Man (1947), his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland; and his unique work, The Periodic ...more
More about Primo Levi...

Share This Book

“Not that he [Uzbek] rejected Mendel's proposals or rebelled against his decisions; but he exercised a subtle, passive abrasion against every active thrust: like dust in a watch, Mendel thought to himself. He's got dust in him, even though he is young. It's stupid to say the young are strong. You understand many things better at thirty than at twenty and you can also bear them better.” 9 likes
“The Gedalists were nearly run down by a Dodge truck on which two grand pianos had been loaded: two uniformed officers were playing, in unison, with gravity and commitment, the 1812 Overture of Tchaikowsky, while the driver wove among the wagons with brusque swerves, pressing the siren at full volume, heedless of the pedestrians in his way.” 6 likes
More quotes…