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If This Is a Man • The Truce

(Auschwitz Trilogy #1-2)

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4.56  ·  Rating details ·  13,608 ratings  ·  675 reviews
'With the moral stamina and intellectual poise of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, 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 ...more
Paperback, 453 pages
Published 1987 by Abacus (first published 1947)
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Average rating 4.56  · 
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BlackOxford
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Idolatry of Power

Levi reports a recurrent dream that he and many others had in the camp: He is at home among close family and friends to whom he is speaking about his life in the camp; but no one is listening. A realisation perhaps that his experiences, the intensity of his suffering, are not merely inhuman but ultimately uncommunicable or at best inexpressible. No one who hasn't been present could appreciate the extent of loss of oneself, the reduction of a person to a consciousness of
...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
“However this war may end, we have won the war against you. None of you will be left to bear witness, but even if someone were to survive, the world would not believe him. There will be perhaps suspicions, discussions, research by historians, but there will be no certainties, because we will destroy the evidence together with you. And even if some proof should remain and some of you survive, people will say that the events you describe are too monstrous to be believed – they will say they are ...more
Sofia
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Sofia by: André
Shelves: memoir, favorites
It is hard for me to translate my experience of this book to words. It's not that my feelings are ambiguous, or even that I can't find the right words; my problem is that it created such an emotional and intellectual response from me, that I'm finding it difficult to know where to start, or how much of it really belongs in a review.

This is actually two books in one: "If This is a Man" recounts Primo Levi's experience of entering and living on one of the Auschwitz concentration camps, and "The
...more
Jan-Maat
This pair of books are the Italian Primo Levi's autobiographical account of his time in the Auschwitz complex of camps in If this is a Man which was written soon after his return to Italy. It is as harrowing as The Truce, covering his liberation and roundabout return to Italy, is cheering. That journey undertaken at a time when Europe was covered in refuges and displaced persons. First task - find shoes you can walk in, second task - find a market.

Completely captivating and heart wrenching
...more
Elena
Jan 05, 2008 added it
This book is beyond any possible rating. It is, I believe, the book that says the definitive word about holocaust and about human cruelty. After this, nothing else can be said and no explanation can be given to what men can do to other men.
Ammara Abid
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sorrowful turmoil ......
Michael Finocchiaro
Primo Levi's first-hand account of the horrors of Auschwitz in 1944 and then the story of his return to Italy in 1945 are absolutely essential reading. The writing is beautiful and also brutal. I feel this is the gold standard for all memoirs about surviving the unsurvivable. A must-read if you truly want to attempt to understand what happened in the camps and how hard it was to come back afterwards.

This volume consists, in fact, of two books otherwise titled Survival in Auschwitz and The
...more
Pink
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This isn't really a book that can be rated. However, since that's how we catalogue our books here on Good Reads, I'm giving it 4 stars - not 5, but just because I wouldn't want to read it again and I can't honestly say it's one of my favourite ever books. Otherwise it's 10 stars.

I was going to start this review with quotes from the book. However, after telling my Mother how good it was when she called round this afternoon, she appears to have left with it. I text her that its like living in
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone - we all need to read this book
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Philip Roth called this "One of the century's truly necessary books". Primo Levi's description of surviving in the arbeitlager at Auschwitz-Buna is the story of human tenacity and the determination to find a way to survive in the face of incomprehensible and overwhelming odds. Reading this book and books such as Fateles by Imres Kerstz give an incomparable picture of the atrocities commited in Germany and Poland by the Nazis. These activities were facilitated in part by a Europe which couldn't ...more
Chrissie
This book includes the two books Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening by Primo Levi. The American and European publications have employed different titles. The book ends with an excellent "Afterword". This too is written by the author. I recommend this edition.

This book is quite different from other holocaust books, by its very lack of emotion. It is a clear statement of what exactly happened to the author, both in the camp (If This is a Man) and afterwards on his travels home to Turin,
...more
Arjen
Nov 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-dutch
Impressive recount of a Jewish prisoner's days in Auschwitz and his journey home. I liked the dry, observant style. The author does not show hate for his tortures, just describes the facts. The reader is the judge.

The passage which made the biggest impression on me is where Levi talks about the camp musicians, playing the same songs everyday when the slaves go out to and come back from work. Levi writes that even years later, hearing these innocent songs made the blood freeze in the bodies of
...more
Vicky "phenkos"
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the most important books in post-war literature. It's vital to keep in mind what happened in Auschwitz because Nazism is not dead and buried, far-right groups spring up everywhere nowadays. Unbelievable as this may seem, some people have either forgotten or never cared to find out. I read this in conjunction with Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism (which I haven't finished) where Arendt describes the reasons why Jews were singled out by the Nazis. Another important book!
Smiley
Oct 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Reading this epic-like memoir, his first-hand accounts as one of the prisoners-of-war detained in a camp at Auschwitz as a legacy of World War II by Primo Levi was stunningly descriptive, inhumane and hopeful. My background reading was that I nearly finished reading its first part, "If This is a Man," depicting his arrest in late 1943 and his life along the ruthless route to the notorious camp at Auschwitz where he survived because the authority there needed his expertise as a chemist. Then I ...more
Iris
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Vital reading for all humans.
Tom
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was bought this as a Christmas present from a friend and was told simply: "No one should go on without heaving read this book". Now, I've read a few books on concentration camps (and have also visited Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland) and wasn't convinced that another account of this atrocity should be on my 'to read' list.

I did, however, give it a go and I'm so glad I did. From start to finish Primo kept me drawn in by his fantastic use of language and the way he can put a very human face to
...more
Negin
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: holocaust
This is a powerful story of Primo Levi who was imprisoned in Auschwitz. I’m giving it 3 stars, since I felt that his writing style was confusing and tedious.

I believe that this is the first holocaust account that I have read that has been written from an objective, rather detached and unemotional point of view, or at least the first that I can remember. I know that if I had gone through all those horrors, there is no way in God’s green earth that I could have felt the same way. No way.

Some of
...more
Faith McLellan
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The second or third or fourth time I have read it. One of the most important works of the 20th century. Still stunned by how people keep on going, in the face of a bottomless abyss. Exhilarating, inspirational, full of an unfathomable spirit.
Julie Rylie
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the best books I’ve read so far, and every day you just want to get more and more involved with Levi. As he said, this book is not only a way of stating the atrocities committed by the nazis in the WWII but also to show us the life in the Lager and how to survive, or not, in it.
And the most interesting part is something that I’ve not seen so far in books about concentration camps… He tells us about how people, when faced with such difficulties, become animals.

First you
...more
Charlotte
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as an undergraduate in 1992, and in those days had the luxury of suiting myself timewise... I started in the morning and read through the day: I don't think I moved from my sagging armchair until it was too dark to read, and I had to get another loo roll for soaking up the copious weeping.

Nearly twenty years on, the narrative still haunts me: it's every bit as breathtaking in translation as in the original, which is truly rare. This is a desert island book that I would never
...more
David Thrale
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shoah, history
How can I even think that I can pass judgement on this in a literary sense? It would be wrong.

Quite simply the rawest and most moving book I have ever - and probably will ever - read. Not just because of the personal experiences that Primo describes, but also for the inconceivable way in which he rises above the inconceivable evil.

The end of the books contains a list of the questions he was often asked after writing the book and his answer that he doesn't hate Germans because that is the root of
...more
Claire McAlpine
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, classic
An extraordinary witness to events and sharing of observations of humankind without judgement or condemnation. An important narrative that reminds us to continue and perhaps forever pay close attention to whom we support, for it is not true that we learn from the mistakes of others, we must be wary of in whom we place our trust and bestow leadership.

My complete review here at Word by Word.
Aubrey
4.5/5
'Hier ist kein warum' (there is no why here)

It was a naïve hope, like all those that rest on too sharp a division between good and evil, between past and future, but it was on this that we were living.
For reasons obvious to those who have been paying attention, I've been focusing more on Jewish people in my reading than I had been previously. This particular dearth in the past has everything to do with my continued fumbling through the biases of my appetites when it comes to the written
...more
Colin
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
[Only read the first of the two books in this double-up]
Primo Levi's path through the camp system, and his perspective on it, seem set apart from most other accounts (Elie Wiesel for example) owing to his knowledge, which made him more valuable (in purely economic terms) to the system that used up labour as a prelude to destroying the labourers. It's interesting to compare and contrast, noticing how each survivor's account tells us a little more about the central crime of the twentieth century.
John
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first book discusses the harrowing experience Levi went through at Auschwitz and his survival. From his capture and journey to his time working, at the Ka-Be of Infirmary where he had a good wound in his words. The final months of the camp and the aftermath with his scarlet fever was ironic as if he had not had the disease he most likely would have died in the long march. Instead he survived and 'If this is man' was written. His dispassionate style of writing as a witness makes this a great ...more
Mimei
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Behind the barely-closed eyelids, dreams break out violently, the usual dreams. To be at home, in a wonderfully hot bath. To be at home, seated at a table. To be at home, and tell the story of this hopeless work of ours, of this never-ending hunger, of this slave's way of sleeping.


Excellent audiobook. This is a book that is impossible to rate or review, a deeply personal account written in almost-scientific prose. I have written and deleted so many thoughts already that I think I will have to
...more
Tom LA
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Italian classic. The chronicle of almost two years of internment at Auschwitz between 1943 and 1945 by one of the very few survivors. Nothing to say, except maybe for this: it helps to have my memory refreshed about those horrors, as I believe it would help most people. It helps me feel even more grateful for all the blessings I have. I say a prayer for the souls of the victims of Auschwitz, and of any other Lager, and for all the people for whom every day is deep and constant suffering, ...more
sevdah
Jul 24, 2017 added it
Only a small handful of books, if I had to choose a list of fundamental reads. This is one of them.
Ugh
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this for a number of reasons: because I thought The Periodic Table was superb, because I wanted to read about Levi's experiences in writing of that quality, because I wanted to see whether I could apply any of the wisdom Levi gleaned from his experiences to my own existence, because I wanted to see whether Levi did something similar, and because I wanted to read Levi's thoughts about the wider context of his and other people's treatment.

Some of those reasons were based on the
...more
Milena
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heart-on-sleeve
And in fact, as the dream proceeds, slowly or brutally, each time in a different way, everything collapses and disintegrates around me, the scenery, the walls, the people, while the anguish becomes more intense and more precise. Now everything has changed to chaos; I am alone in the centre of a grey and turbid nothing and know, I know what this thing means, and I also know that I have always known it; I am in Lager once more, and nothing is true outside the Lager.
Sahel
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this, I had read Night by Elie Wiesel. I love both of these novels as they are somehow one but on totally different perspctives.

The great thing was that, near the end of the novel when Wiesel was in the hospital and there was an order of camp evacuation Wiesel had gone along with the other camp prisoners and somehow regretted having done so because the hospital would have been found by the Russians. On the other hand, Levi here is exactly the person who has remained in the
...more
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1,076 followers
Primo Michele Levi (Italian: [ˈpriːmo ˈlɛːvi]) was a chemist and writer, the author of books, novels, short stories, essays, and poems. His unique 1975 work, The Periodic Table, linked to qualities of the elements, was named by the Royal Institution of Great Britain as the best science book ever written.

Levi spent eleven months imprisoned at Monowitz, one of the three main camps in the Auschwitz
...more

Other books in the series

Auschwitz Trilogy (3 books)
  • Survival in Auschwitz
  • The Reawakening
  • The Drowned and the Saved
“I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man.” 213 likes
“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.” 81 likes
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