If This Is A Man (Primo Levi)

On Thursday 4th March, 2010, World Book Day, we asked teachers to talk to their classes about their favourite books or books they are currently enjoying.

Mr Cale introduced Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is A Man’ to his classes on Thursday and he says:   “… not everyone’s cup of tea I understand, but some very powerful words nonetheless.”

This book is Levi’s autobiography and tells of the horrors, both sights and sounds, and experiences that he endured during World War II.  As Philip Roth describes it:

“‘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 contemptible. 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.”

Is an interesting pattern developing here?  It’s fascinating that people are reading various texts by different authors around a similar subject.  Join the discussion!


Author: Berkhamsted School Library

Main aims for Berkhamsted School Library • to provide a central resource for the whole school curriculum • to encourage an ethos of enquiry and discovery • to assist pupils in becoming confident and independent learners • to develop research and information skills throughout the school • to offer resources which enrich cultural values and experiences for pupils, as well as have a role in their recreational life and promote reading for pleasure as a lifelong activity

One thought on “If This Is A Man (Primo Levi)”

  1. Amazing autobiography. Now you need to read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. Perhaps if Levi had encountered Frankl in Auschwitz, he would not have committed suicide in the 1980s?

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