She gave the impression of never having been young, although she was certainly not more than thirty, and of having been born there, in the shadows, in that vague odor of mildew and stale air.”. Levi wrote his memoir, originally titled Se questo è un uomo (in English, If this is a man), in 1946, about a year after being set free from the camp. Paglietta, poor woman, was little less than a lusus naturae: she was small, without breasts or hips, waxen, wilted, and monstrously myopic; she wore glasses so thick and concave that, looking at her head-on, her eyes, light blue, almost white, seemed very far away, stuck at the back of her cranium. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”. Primo Levi does a great job describing in emotional detail of what his arrival was like. May your children turn their faces from you. And it does so by bringing to light the existence of a distinct oppositional pair much less evident in ordinary life: the drowned (i sommersi) and the saved (i salvati). ... What does this quote means to you? It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one.”, “I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.”, “Our ignorance allowed us to live, as you are in the mountains, and your rope is frayed and about to break, but you don't know it and feel safe.”, “... how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once...”, “If it is true that there is no greater sorrow than to remember a, “We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Primo Levi is describing his arrival at Auschwitz. Goodreads helps you follow your favorite authors. “For human nature is such that grief and pain - even simultaneously suffered - do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective. Levi writes that his one conscious purpose in life has been “to make my voice heard by the German people, to ‘talk back’ to the SS.” Go through these quotes by Primo Levi which reflects his pains, miseries and positive approach towards life. Hij was ook scheikundige en een van de overlevenden van Auschwitz Leven. It is thus an admonition that we (“You who live safe/In your warm houses”) not avert our gaze. 310 quotes from Primo Levi: 'Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. Quotes. Because of this insight, Primo maintains his friendship with Alberto, and the pair share equally everything they get. Levi was afkomstig uit een Joods middenklassengezin. “An enemy who sees the error of his ways ceases to be an enemy.”, “Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. Primo Levi — Italian Scientist born on July 31, 1919, died on April 11, 1987 Primo Michele Levi was an Italian Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor. “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. What does primo mean? It is the original title of Levi’s book that in truth gives expression to what will be his principal concern. In fact it is not a question of a human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but of an ever-insufficient knowledge of the complex nature of the state of unhappiness; so that the single name of the major cause is given to all its causes, which are composite and set out in an order of urgency. Everyone dreamed past and future dreams, of slavery and redemption, of improbable paradises, of equally mythical and improbable enemies; cosmic enemies, perverse and subtle, who pervade everything like the air.”, “In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities of impurities in the soil, too, as is known, if it is to be fertile. Levi was sent to the detention camp at Fossoli after his capture. Source. Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans. A simple man, accustomed not to ask questions of himself, was beyond the reach of the useless torment of asking himself why. Tags: Levi, Primo. – Primo Levi Rate it: The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in general it is understood completely only when it is broken: by exile or emigration in the case of one's country, … These were the prisoners who, for whatever reason (and the reasons were many), never adjusted to the brutal regimen of life in the camp; whose time in the camp was thus consequently very brief; yet whose number was apparently endless. - quote by Primo Levi on YourDictionary. Read about his courageous journey and subsequent literary achievements at Biography.com 32199 of 42574. He calls this his first “literary dream”. Or may your house fall apart, Though socially withdrawn, Levi excelled academically, and was among the last Jews to receive academic degrees before racial laws made it illegal for Jews to study in universities.While his mother and sister hid during the Holocaust, Levi joined a partisan group. His subject may be humanity in extremis, but it is still humanity Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. In Auschwitz, all the ritual humiliations appeared as if designed to hasten the prisoner’s descent to what Levi termed “the bottom”. Send … As a child, he was frail and sickly, and was mocked for his small frame and timid disposition. Primo Levi. “Logic and morality made it impossible to accept an illogical and immoral reality; they engendered a rejection of reality which as a rule led the cultivated man rapidly to despair. And if the most immediate cause of stress comes to an end, you are grievously amazed to see that another one lies behind; and in reality a whole series of others. The imperative issued by Levi’s If This is a Man is that one bear must witness to the inhuman in the human. “Consider if this is a man…”: the imperative issued by Levi’s text is thus not that one should persist in seeing the human in the inhuman. But since Levi, remarkably, includes even himself in this category, it functions also as a kind of self-admonition. Primo admits that the reason he's still alive is because of Lorenzo. He was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. More often than not, this entailed the renunciation of at least a part of the moral universe that existed outside the camp. Fabio ... outspoken words. Primo Levi was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. Yet, by no means did it consist of the best, and certainly not of the elect. Primo Levi. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are needed: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that's why you're not a Fascist; it wants everybody to be the same, and you are not. Read the original article. Levi will ask to use the latrine soon, and when he returns it will soon be 10:00 a.m., which means that the mid-day break is almost in sight. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions. According to Levi, it is the saved who must bear witness for the drowned, but also to the drowned. Yet far from invalidating the survivor’s testimony this made it all the more urgent. Primo Levi, (born July 31, 1919, Turin, Italy—died April 11, 1987, Turin), Italian-Jewish writer and chemist, noted for his restrained and moving autobiographical account of and reflections on survival in the Nazi concentration camps.. Levi was brought up in the small Jewish community in Turin, studied at the University of Turin, and graduated summa cum laude in chemistry in 1941. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we ill have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.”, “Dawn came on us like a betrayer; it seemed as though the new sun rose as an ally of our enemies to assist in our destruction.”, “He could hardly read or write but his heart spoke the language of the good”, “This is the most immediate fruit of exile, of uprooting: the prevalence of the unreal over the real. But this does not mean he's a smug jerk. It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp. In the camp, it is not virtue that governs fortune; it is fortune that governs virtue. One of his best known works is "If This Is a Man," an account of the year he was interred at Auschwitz. Italian Jewish chemist and writer Primo Levi, who died on this day in 1987, is the author of two novels and several collections of short stories. And that our humanity in some sense depends on this. It was nonetheless his conviction that those who had not fathomed all the way to the bottom could not be the true witnesses. ), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. Soon after the war ended, he wrote several books about his experience. This article was originally published on The Conversation. In the next paragraph, Primo Levi says “We looked at each other without a word. With respect to the “anonymous mass” of the drowned, the number of the saved, on the other hand, was comparatively few. The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or even increase by incorporating extraneous features. But this process was especially accelerated in the case of those he called the drowned: “they followed the slope down to the bottom, like streams that run down to the sea”. As we learn from the poem that opens the text, it must be understood instead to contain an implicit imperative: “Consider if this is man…” It is an order, a command (“I command these words to you”); one that is linked, moreover, to an imprecation: Carve them in your hearts Levi does not declare his position, but the meaning of his inability to agree with Steinlauf, an intuitive insight he keeps referring to, becomes ever clearer in his later work. And this is the reason why so often in free life one hears it said that man is never content. All of his experiences were brutally fresh in his mind—and we do mean brutal. RELATED: Attack on Titan: 10 Of Grisha's Best Quotes, Ranked. Credit: Jacqueline Poggi/Flickr, CC BY-SA. Primo Levi Quotes. Levi received his Bachelor … Credit: Logaritmo/Wikimedia Commons. Levi states that thus far he has only described the workings of life itself in the Lager, but now he would like to offer his own analysis.In his eyes, “the Lager was pre-eminently a gigantic biological and social experiment,” since many men of different languages and traditions have been thrust together, left to survive or die by their own means. "Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it." For the description of what Levi calls the “ambiguous life of the Lager” alters our understanding of the very structure of witnessing. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”, “Even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument. As Levi insists, words such as good and evil, just and unjust, quickly cease to have any meaning on this side of the barbed wire. That's right. Enjoy the top 146 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Primo Levi. The Anti-linguistic Nature of the Lager in the Language of Primo Levi's Se questo è un uomo . It was all incomprehensible and mad. Does … The book provides an account of Primo Levi’s survival in Auschwitz. It was his number in Auschwitz. Testimony is then not the goal of survival but its justification, one bears it, but it justifies and redeems nothing: When he was captured by the Fascist militia in December, 1943, Primo Levi (1919-1987) preferred to declare his status as an “Italian citizen of the Jewish race” than admit to the political activities of which he was suspected, which he supposed would have resulted in torture and certain death. For in him is mirrored what he himself saw. Primo Levi. He says that Lorenzo's "humanity was pure and uncontaminated" and that because of him he "managed not to forget that [he himself] was a man" (12.24). The importance of this quote is of the picture Primo Levi puts in the reader’s mind. Italian-Jewish chemist Primo Levi survived a year at Auschwitz against all odds. ', and … The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in general it is understood completely only when it is broken by exile or emigration in the case of ones country, by retirement in the case of a trade or profession. Meaning of primo. Levi's stronger than any other soldier, is charming, and knows how to deal with people. But immaculate virtue does not exist either, or if it exists it is detestable.”, “...he never asked nor accepted any reward, because he was good and simple and did not think that one did good for a reward.”, “We are not dissatisfied with our choices and with what life has, “The librarian, whom I had never seen before, presided over the library like a watchdog, one of those poor dogs who are deliberately made vicious by being chained up and given little to eat; ot better, like the old, toothless cobra, pale because of centuries of darkness, who guards the king's treasure in the Jungle Book. As a Jew, he was consequently sent to a detention camp at Fossoli, which assembled all the various categories of persons no longer welcome in the recently established Fascist Republic. In the jargon of the camp, these were the Muselmänner, the “Muslims”, whose tenuous existence, even prior to their imminent selection for the gas chamber, already hovered in an indistinct zone between life and death, human and non-human. Here is a compilation of thoughts and quotations by Primo Levi which have been excerpted from his work, books, essays, writings and thoughts. Information and translations of primo in the most comprehensive dictionary definitions resource on … We're taking off our kid gloves and pulling precisely zero punches: this one's not at all easy to read. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last — the power to refuse our consent.”, “Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.”, “A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.”, “I too entered the Lager as a nonbeliever, and as a nonbeliever I was liberated and have lived to this day.”, “This cell belongs to a brain, and it is my brain, the brain of me who is writing; and the cell in question, and within it the atom in question, is in charge of my writing, in a gigantic minuscule game which nobody has yet described. With characteristic, but unsettling irony, it is the word fortune that appears instead in the very first sentence of his text (“It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944…”) and that sets the tone for all that follows. LINK/CITE. Primo Levi was born in Turin in Italy in 1919, to a family of non-religious Jews with Spanish roots. Credit: Logaritmo/Wikimedia Commons When he was captured by the Fascist militia in December, 1943, Primo Levi (1919-1987) preferred to declare his … More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”, “Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live.”, “The aims of life are the best defense against death.”, “...the sea's only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Yet Levi’s magnificent testimony of the Lager, Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man) – which he would compose in the immediate aftermath of the resumption of his life in Turin, and which was first published 70 years ago in 1947, making it one of the earliest eyewitness accounts we have – is far from a heroic description of his “survival in Auschwitz” (as the American title given to his text would have it). … Repeat them to your children, Welcome back. But the varieties of the man-animal are innumerable, and I saw and have described men of refined culture, especially if young, throw all this overboard, simplify and barbarize themselves, and survive. 1989). He survived the experience, probably in part because he was a trained chemist and as such, useful to the Nazis. In fact, the existence of the death squads had a meaning, a message: 'We, the master race, are your destroyers, but you are no better than we are; if we so wish, and we do so wish, we can destroy not only your bodies, but also your souls, just as we have destroyed ours. comments powered by Disqus. But it is not even a question whose answer would be provided by the text itself, which claims no such privilege. Primo Levi - quote by on YourDictionary. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.”, “Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. Primo Levi in the 1950s. Although in an important sense it is also that. Of the 650 who departed Fossoli that day, only three would return. Yet this is easily misunderstood. "Ex-Chemist," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. 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