Primo Levi, fully Primo Michele Levi

Levi, fully Primo Michele Levi

Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor

Author Quotes

If it is true that there is no greater sorrow than to remember a happy time in a state of misery, it is just as true that calling up a moment of anguish in a tranquil mood, seated quietly at one's desk, is a source of profound satisfaction.

Interviewer: Is it possible to abolish man's humanity? Levi: Unfortunately, yes. Unfortunately, yes; and that is really the characteristic of the Nazi lager [concentration camp]. About the others, I don't know, because I don't know them; perhaps in Russia the same thing happens. It's to abolish man's personality, inside and outside: not only of the prisoner, but also of the jailer. He too lost his personality in the lager. These are two different itineraries, but with the same result, and I would say that only a few had the good fortune of remaining aware during their imprisonment; some regained their awareness of the experience later, but during it, they had lost it; many forgot everything. They did not record their experiences in their mind. They didn't impress on their memory track. Thus it happened to all, a profound modification in their personality. Most of all, our sensibility lost sharpness, so that the memories of our home had fallen into second place; the memory of family had fallen into second place in face of urgent needs, of hunger, of the necessity to protect oneself against cold, beatings, fatigue... all of this brought about some reactions which we could call animal-like; we were like work animals.

It was this, the bear's meat: and now that many years have passed, I regret to have eaten little, because of all that life has given me good, nothing had, not even distantly, the flavor of the meat , which is the flavor of being strong and free, also free to make mistakes, and masters of their destiny.

Now, in pathological conditions is not uncommon for the paper, corporate secreted, reabsorbed is excessively, and fall asleep, paralyze, or even kill the organism from which it was exuded

She lived with the doctor on Via Po, in a gloomy, dark apartment, barely warmed in winter by just a small Franklin stove, and she no longer threw out anything, because everything might eventually come in handy: not even the cheese rinds or the foil on chocolates, with which she made silver balls to be sent to missions to free a little black boy.

The latrine is an oasis of peace.

There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred: it is hate that is not in us, it is outside of man.. We cannot understand it, but we must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard. If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Consciences can be seduced and obscured again - even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone duty to reflect on what happened. Everybody must know, or remember, that when Hitler and Mussolini spoke in public, they were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were charismatic leaders ; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the soundness of things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from their histrionic art, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently learned and practiced. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same and were, in general, aberrant or silly or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannas and followed to the death by millions of the faithful.

To the Jews who wanted a land of their own, where they could organize themselves and live according to their traditions, Stalin had offered a bleak territory in Eastern Siberia: Birobidzhan. Take it or leave it. Anyone who wanted to live as a Jew should go to Siberia; if anyone refused Siberia, that meant he preferred to be Russian. There was no third way. But if a Jew wanted to be Russian, what can, what should he do, if the Russians deny him access to the university, and call him a zhid, and turn the pogromists on him, and form an alliance with Hitler? He can't do anything- especially if he's a woman.

We must therefore certainly wash our faces without soap in dirty water, and dry off his jacket. We must polish our shoes, not 'cause he prescribes the rules, but for dignity' and properties'. We have to walk straight, without scuffing hooves, not already 'in homage to Prussian discipline but to remain alive, do not begin to die.

Did chemistry theorems exist? No: therefore you had to go further, not be satisfied with the quia, go back to the origins, to mathematics and physics. The origins of chemistry were ignoble, or at least equivocal: the dens of the alchemists, their abominable hodgepodge of ideas and language, their confessed interest in gold, their Levantine swindles typical of charlatans and magicians; instead, at the origin of physics lay the strenuous clarity of the West-Archimedes and Euclid.

Get up: the illusory barrier of the warm blankets, the thin armor of sleep, the nightly evasion with its very torments drops to pieces around us, and we find ourselves mercilessly awake, exposed to insult, atrociously naked and vulnerable.

I am persuaded that normal human beings are biologically built for an activity that is aimed toward a goal and that idleness, or aimless work (like Auschwitz's Arbeit), gives rise to suffering and to atrophy.

If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again.

Is anything sadder than a train? That leaves when it's supposed to.That has only one voice, only one route? There's nothing sadder. Except perhaps a cart horse, shut between two shafts and unable even to look sideways.

Ka-Be From the music does not feel well: regular and monotonous comes pounding of the bass drum and dishes, but on this weft the musical phrases are drawn only at intervals, with the whim of the wind. We look at one another in our beds, because we all feel that this is infernal music. The reasons are few, a dozen, every day the same, morning and evening: marches and popular songs dear to every German. They lie etched in our minds will be the last thing that the Lager forget: they are the voice of the Lager, the sensitive expression of its geometrical madness of another resolution to nullify first as uomoni to kill us slowly. When this music plays, we know that the comrades, out in the fog, start marching like automatons; their souls are dead and the music drives them, like the wind the dead leaves, and is replaced to their will. There is no longer will; each pulse becomes a step, a rilflessa contraction of muscles unmade...But we do not know where we go. Maybe we can survive disease and escape the choices, perhaps even resist the work and the hunger that consumed us, and after? Here, far away momentarily from bestiemme and knocks, we can return to ourselves and meditate, and then it becomes clear that not return. We have traveled far in the sealed wagons; we saw starting to nothing our women and our children; we enslaved we marched downtown times back and forth to the suit fatigue, dull soul before the anonymous death. We will not return. No one should get out of here, that could lead to the world, together with the sign imprinted in the flesh, the bad news than to Auschwitz, it took courage to man to make man.

On the contrary, I believe it doesn't make much sense to say that one man is worth more than another. One man can be stronger than another but less wise. Or more educated but not so brave. Or more generous but also more stupid. So his value depends on what you want from him; a man can be very good at his job, and worthless if you set him to do some other job.

Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable.

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. 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. 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.

There 'where mirror, but our appearance is before us, reflected in a hundred livid faces, in a hundred miserable and sordid puppets. Here we are transformed into glimpsed phantoms last night.

Today I know that it is a hopeless task to try to dress a man in words, make him alive again on the printed page, especially a man like Sandro. He was not the sort of person you can tell stories about, nor to whom one erects monuments--he who laughed at monuments: he lived completely in his deeds, and when they were over nothing of him remains--nothing but words, precisely.

We need to be wary of about the same (sodium is almost equal to potassium, but with sodium nothing would happen), the same paranoid, of roughly, dell'oppure, of all surrogates and of all the patches. The differences may be small, but lead to radically different consequences, like the needles of trade; the chemical trade consists in good part in quadrassi from these differences, in knowing them closely, in predicting the effects. Not only the job of the chemical.

Does not ingenuity consist in the finding or creating of connections between apparently extraneous orders of ideas?)

He came to a sudden dissolution. The door was opened with a crash, the darkness eccheggio 'foreign orders, and of those barbaric barking of Germans when they command that seem to give the wind to a centuries-old anger.

I beg the reader not to go in search of messages. It is a term that I detest because it distresses me greatly, for it forces on me clothes that are not mine, which in fact belong to a human type that I distrust; the prophet, the soothsayer, the seer. I am none of these; I?m a normal man with a good memory who fell into a maelstrom and got out of it more by luck than by virtue, and who from that time on has preserved a certain curiosity about maelstroms large and small, metaphorical and actual.

If we could draw two conflicting philosophical consequences: the praise of purity, which protects from evil like a coat of mail; the praise of the impurity, which gives rise to the changes, that is, to life. I discarded the first, disgustingly moralistic, and I lingered to consider the second, I was more congenial. Because the wheel rotates, so that the living life, we want to impurities: even in the soil, as is known, if it has to be fertile. It takes the different, the different, grain of salt and mustard: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that's why you're not fascist; He wants all the same and you're not the same. But even the spotless virtue exists, or if there is a detestable thing.

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Levi, fully Primo Michele Levi
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Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor