NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!

Lezlie



Saturday, March 28, 2009

SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ

by Primo Levi



"[B]ecause the Lager was a great machine to reduce us to beasts, we must not become beasts; that even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last - the power to refuse our consent." (p. 41)

Primo Levi was at the German death camp of Auschwitz for ten months, and that was the advice given to him from another prisoner when he was teetering on the brink of giving up hope. Survival In Auschwitz is the story of the survival of both his body and his humanity. It does not dwell on the deaths, the gas chambers and ovens. It shows the reader how he and a number of others endured sickness and deprivation, cheated "selections", and sometimes just through sheer "dumb luck" lived to tell their own stories.

I will let the quote stand alone as a testament to the heart, soul and courage you will find in the pages of this remarkable memoir.



19 comments:

Literate Housewife said...

Primo Levi is a treasure for human kind.

Lezlie said...

Literate Housewife ~ He is amazing. I will be reading more of his work.

Lezlie

Serena said...

This sounds like a great book for the WWII Reading Challenge. Thanks for the sparse, yet poignant review.

zetor said...

Sounds like a very thought provoking book.

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ It is perfect for that challenge! I know I kept my thoughts brief on this one, but, honestly, the quote from it says it all.

Zetor ~ That it is. I always have a hard time "reviewing" Holocaust literature. It's like I feel I have no right to pass any kind of judgement on it, only to learn from it.

Lezlie

Nymeth said...

The quote says it all. It breaks my heart that so many years later he took his own life.

Lezlie said...

Nymeth ~ He did? I haven't done any research on him outside of reading this, so I don't know anything about him at all. That's so sad!

Lezlie

Ladytink_534 said...

Oh we've got to make you read something cheerful before you put yourself in a reading slump! This does sound like an interesting memoir but even if it doesn't dwell on the horrible things, I'd probably still cry at the end.

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ Hmmm. My reading has been serious lately, hasn't it? I didn't notice that. At least they've been really good books! :-) No danger of a reading slump so far. Mostly I'm antsy for more time to read. Basketball and Peter's heath issues have slowed things down, but the Timberwolves only have eight games left and we're getting things stabilized with Peter. Things are looking brighter already! :-)

Lezlie

Lisa said...

I like the fact that this one is told from the perspective of hope and survival without focusing on the daily horrors. The quote pretty much sums it up.

Lezlie said...

Lisa ~ So did I. It was very different than what I was expecting, in a good way!

Lezlie

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

After looking at your review I went to my library's site to put this on hold and it said this was originally published as This is a Man. I've had that title on my list FOREVER but couldn't find a copy. So glad to find out that this is the same book1

Lezlie said...

Hi, Natasha! Yes, that was the original title. I should have mentioned that in my comments. I can't wait to see your thoughts on this one! I want to read the next one, too, about returning from the camp.

Lezlie

Trish said...

I read this in one of my history classes and was struck by Levi's voice--such a powerful read.

Lezlie said...

Trish ~ I agree. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.

Lezlie

Heather J. said...

That is a very powerful quote, and very true.

I recently watched an episode of THE TUDORS on HBO where Henry VII's daughter Mary was given the choice of almost certain death or signing a document that said her parents knowledge was unlawful and that she was a bastard child. She finally agreed to sign it.

Obviously the two situations are very different, but that quote applies to both - each person has only one decision, the decision to consent or not to consent. We ultimately cannot control anything else except that one decision.

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ The other thought that is related is that as long as you still live, you may have a chance to change things.

Lezlie

Anna & Serena said...

Lezlie: an excerpt from your review will appear here: http://warthroughthegenerations.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/reviews-survival-in-auschwitz-by-primo-levi/

late morning of Nov. 23.

Thanks for participating.

Lezlie said...

Thanks! And you're welcome. It was a great challenge!
Lezlie