Hilary's Reviews > The Reawakening

The Reawakening by Primo Levi
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's review
Jun 11, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: my-teachers, community

In The Reawakening, Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi describes his epic journey home to Italy after the Russians liberated the camps. It's a worthy sequel to Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, but also stands on its own as a picaresque, and poignant, adventure. Levi's emphasis on language as necessity to survival carries over from his earlier book, and you learn the words he learns as he makes his way across Poland and into Russia and through Hungary and Romania. You learn as he learns the black market value of a shirt in eggs, hard-boiled or uncooked. You learn the supreme importance of shoes, and of mechanical and psychological ingenuity. Above all, you learn the stories he learns from his fellow displaced people -- deportees, camp survivors, POWs, soldiers.

Of course, you don't learn just as he learns. Although he describes it very well, it is difficult to fully realize the destruction of Europe after WWII. There has been no war inside my country for 140 years. So it's hard to imagine the full effects of the breakdown of infrastructure, regular economy, and government that results from war. It took Levi something like 10 months to get to Italy from Poland. In most places, currency was useless, so people had to find other ways to get food and clothing. There was enormous migration as people who had been displaced or deported tried to get home -- at one point, because it was the only language they shared, Levi tried to describe the concentration camps in Latin to a priest. Oh, it's an amazing book, and I imagine, in certain ways, it has illustrations for things happening in Iraq right now. But you can also check out the video podcast of Alive in Baghdad to see some stories of how people are dealing with daily life under occupation.

This book is also sometimes called The Truce, and was made into a movie of the same name. I haven't seen that movie, for two reasons: 1. John Turturro stars as Primo Levi. I just can't get over the fact that John Turturro is tall and physically imposing. How can he be the great listener that Levi was? 2. I want to make a movie of the Reawakening, and I have lots of big ideas about it that I guess probably won't be in the Truce, but I don't want to spoil them until I really know that I'm never going to make the movie.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2002 – Finished Reading
June 11, 2007 – Shelved
April 9, 2008 – Shelved as: my-teachers
April 9, 2008 – Shelved as: community

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