Primo Levi

After reading “Survival in Auschwitz”, I can easily say that it’s my favorite of all the books I’ve read so far this year. While the subject matter Levi was writing about was horrifying and tragic, the way in which he writes it all is beautiful. His writing reflects the bleak tone prevalent throughout the events, yet certain descriptions are so vivid that Levi brings this now dead world back to life. One of my favorite passages has to be the one in which he describes the rest siren of the camp:

“And at last, like a celestial meteor, superhuman and impersonal like a sign from heaven, the midday siren explodes, granting a brief respite to our anonymous and concord tiredness and hunger.”

And it’s not just this small passage which is so vividly described, every memorable instance Levi lived through in the camp is meticulously described. Reading the book, it was a constant experience of not wanting to read on (due to the tragic nature of everything written), but having a drive to know more about what had happened. Part of this is also due to the way the book is put together, while it is constantly fairly depressing, certain sections are thrown in (like the chapter entitled A Good Day) which give a sort of break to what could become monotonous and bleak descriptions of a horrible existence.

What I found incredibly interesting (after having read the book) is that Levi wasn’t a writer by profession. He was a chemist, who after these dark experiences in Auschwitz began telling stories of what he’d been through. Little by little, he began to write more, and using the years of suffering he’d been through, he channeled that into his poetry and other works. While this bit of biographical history might seem fairly uninteresting or not useful, I feel like it really shows the importance of writing.

I got this sense from reading “The Yellow Wallpaper”, and especially the small explanation Charlotte Perkins Gilman included with the story about her writing it. Writing truly seems like one of the few outlets for our mind. The way we cope with certain things is to write, probably because talking to yourself out loud seems like a fairly strange method. It’s something we have in common as a species which is becoming more literate, as it’s our way to communicate, share, reveal, and express what we feel. It seems like that’s a very important part of how Levi managed to write these amazing works, as it was his only outlet.

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