Thursday, July 28, 2011
Primo Levi was a chemist by trade, and a Jew hiding in the Italian mountains when he was betrayed in 1943 and put on a train for Auschwitz. He remained in the camp until its liberation, becoming sick just before the Germans evacuated, and after his oppressors fled with most remaining prisoners, Levi remained at the camp helping other convalescents to survive until the Russians arrived.
Survival in Auschwitz is a remarkable document of a nightmare place. Levi eschews traditional linear narrative to focus on story/essays about characters encountered, hierarchical systems, the Nazi sense of humor, labor for labor's sake, the Babel-like nature of the camp, sickness and mortality, food, and theft. Reading it was a profoundly moving experience.