Primo Levi: Significance of Account

One of the reasons my blog is almost late (but not late) is because Survival in Auschwitz is difficult to analyze. It’s written really well and simply. In one sense, ┬áit was the easiest book to read so far just because it is written a bit more like a traditional novel, rather than the philosophical text type things we been looking at lately. In the sense that it was linear it was easy to read. In terms of subject matter it was definitely not a ‘light romp’, and this is one of the most important subjects of our time to try and understand. That being said, there are so many pieces of Holocaust literature and WW2 is so drilled into our brains from grade 3 onwards that it can seem tired. I understand how horrible that is to say, but often the way we learn about the Holocaust involves numbers that are supposed to shock us, and memorization of certain camps, etc. But when you are forced to memorize numbers, that is just what they become, just numbers. The Holocaust is the tradgedy of human history, and is hard to understand in just numbers. So here is what i’m trying to say: Primo Levi’s story is hard to write about because it is an account, a story. This happens , then this happens. There are no big allegories for me to notice and feel clever about. I can’t break apart metaphors in my blog. That being said, Survival in Auschwitz did a really good job of tapping into the humanness of the Holocaust, which I think is what our brains sometimes miss. It takes something so hugely awful and makes it personal and close. It’s sad, but it’s not just numbers anymore. I’d guess Primo Levi was one of the first people to do this so well, and that makes this book very very important. The Holocaust itself seems so very inhuman, like one big scary machine of our past. But the most important thing to remember about it is that people did it. People did the murdering, made machines of genocide, and people were the ones murdered. It seems like a simple concept but in history class it can be missed. REAL PEOPLE, like us.

Concerning the actual text: Levi presents to us a deconstruction. I get the feeling of a human soul being deconstructed. Taken apart kind of like a machine. And this seems to be separate from the physical body. The death comes afterwards, but first your soul is destroyed. Levi’s writing gives me this impression.

Towards the end we are left with the questions of significance. Yes, we need to remember such a horrible act, but time keeps moving on, and I can only imagine the massive philosophical void that these survivors were left with. ‘All these people died, I have been through hell, but now I will get old and die in a normal world’ Did it really mean anything? What can history do with such an event? It’s a serious question that’s for sure.

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