Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Survival in Auschwitz (1958)

Author: Primo Levi | Page Count: 187
At that time I had not yet been taught the doctrine... that man is bound to pursue his own ends by all possible means, while he who errs but once pays dearly.
Survival in Auschwitz first appeared in English as If This Is A Man. Translated from its original italian, it tells the story of the author Primo Levi's capture, transfer to Auschwitz and subsequent liberation from it. He describes the inhuman treatment of the "haftlings"( the word for prisoner) by not only the nazis, but also fellow prisoners either out of the same racist views of the time, to possibly gain favor and privilege or just as a means to help themselves. The latter of which he didn't seem to hold against them given the circumstances and as it was a behavior he also participated in.

Levi actually doesn't beat the reader over the head with how it was horrible and how the reader should feel. He simply states clearly the events that transpired and lets the reader think about it as if he doesn't want pity or sympathy, but rather just to tell the story. There is even a running theme about how the physical stress, as bad as it was with disease, malnutrition and inadequate...everything, wasn't as bad as the dehumanization. Being told they were less than human and then forced to prove them right by having to embrace it for survival by stealing from fellow prisoners, loss of compassion for a struggling worker because it only slows down their work and other moments that he felt nothing for at the time and only much later remembered clearly enough to feel regret.
His prose is clear and concise, but still affecting and insightful. A very good read.

4 Soup and bread rations out of 5

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