Primo Levi's account of his experiences during one of the twentieth century's most defining atrocities is a compelling and all-consuming read. Written with dignity and compassion, it depicts the horrors of life in the concentration camps with an unflinching honesty and unerring eye.
Never judgemental, Levi seeks to systematically convey and disseminate the insanity of the moral vacuum that he found himself in. In doing so, he addresses the essence of humanity, morality and the nature of good and evil. More than an account of the holocaust it is a study of humanity and is vital reading. Primo Levi's conviction that the events he witnessed should neither be forgotten nor repeated gives his writing a strength of purpose that adds a potency to his words. His ability to convey the tragedy that he witnessed lucidly and dispassionately is a testament not only to his talent as a writer but also to the strength of his character.
In the horrors of the concentration camps, Levi exposes man's capacity for harm and annihilation. Humanity is displayed in its composite form in Auschwitz; the strong oppress the weak and only a few maintain their integrity. Levi is sickened by the efficiency of the camp's deprivation of man's identity. Perpetually seeking answers, he tries to make sense of the horror and brutality that surround him. An acute observer, he analytically recounts all that he sees, systematically detailing the daily existence of camp life with a rare clarity and objectivity. In the inhumanity of the camps, he never once lost sight of what it is to be a man. A depiction of degradation, of madness and immense suffering but also of extraordinary kindness, it is a story of the triumph of the human spirit and the survival of joy amid despair.
Levi's prose is forceful and flows lyrically. His words remain with you long after they have been read, re-read and read again. If This is a Man affects you as all good writing should, in the depths of your being. As a testimonial of the holocaust and as a work of literature his voice stands alone. His prose is succinct, concise and alive. Humour, humility and a sense of wonder never leave him. Eternally relevant, this book is above all a life-affirming account and a lasting legacy of the importance of dignity and compassion.
Sunday Telegraph: By the end of this short book one is left with a monument to human dignity.
Daily Mail: This masterpiece is not merely terrifying but also endlessly readable. It is, ultimately, about moral as well as physical endurance, about hope, and about the survival of man's unquenchable human spirit.
Philip Roth: With the moral stamina and intellectual pose of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contempible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in THE PERIODIC TABLE and THE WRENCH, his delight in what made the world exquisite to him. He was himself a magically endearing man, the most delicately forceful enchanter I've ever known.