what does primo levi mean in his quote

It is more like its opposite: that one bear must witness to the inhuman in the human. For the description of what Levi calls the “ambiguous life of the Lager” alters our understanding of the very structure of witnessing. He's just as supportive of his team and cares about them. Indeed, what is striking about Levi’s contribution, still today, is the conspicuous absence of a heroic register from its pages, whose appropriateness in this context – which is in large part what Levi teaches us – must surely be as questionable as the temptation to invoke it is strong. For in him is mirrored what he himself saw. 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). The importance of this quote is of the picture Primo Levi puts in the reader’s mind. Yet far from invalidating the survivor’s testimony this made it all the more urgent. 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. 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.”. In Auschwitz, all the ritual humiliations appeared as if designed to hasten the prisoner’s descent to what Levi termed “the bottom”. He was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans. In the next paragraph, Primo Levi says “We looked at each other without a word. His subject may be humanity in extremis, but it is still humanity Be the first to learn about new releases! In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. 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. It was nonetheless his conviction that those who had not fathomed all the way to the bottom could not be the true witnesses. Italian-Jewish chemist Primo Levi survived a year at Auschwitz against all odds. 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. “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. 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. 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. 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. Testimony is then not the goal of survival but its justification, one bears it, but it justifies and redeems nothing: 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. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. He survived the experience, probably in part because he was a trained chemist and as such, useful to the Nazis. "Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it." 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”. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. What Does It Mean to Be Human? Primo Levi was born in Turin in Italy in 1919, to a family of non-religious Jews with Spanish roots. 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. "Ex-Chemist," Other People's Trades (1985, trans. Soon after the war ended, he wrote several books about his experience. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. He is unflinching on precisely this delicate point: with rare exceptions, the saved comprised those who, in one way or another, whether through fortune or astuteness, had managed to gain some position of privilege in the structured hierarchy of the camp. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions. ', and … ), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. 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). Information and translations of primo in the most comprehensive dictionary definitions resource on … 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. 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. What does primo mean? comments powered by Disqus. Primo Levi. As a child, he was frail and sickly, and was mocked for his small frame and timid disposition. LINK/CITE. Here is a compilation of thoughts and quotations by Primo Levi which have been excerpted from his work, books, essays, writings and thoughts. With respect to the “anonymous mass” of the drowned, the number of the saved, on the other hand, was comparatively few. Add your comment below. Primo Levi is describing his arrival at Auschwitz. Primo Levi Quotes. “Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he loves, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs, forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself. Levi concludes “oh, if one could only cry! ', 'Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live. Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument. Yet, by no means did it consist of the best, and certainly not of the elect. 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. Primo Michele Levi was a Jewish Italian chemist, Holocaust survivor and author of memoirs, short stories, poems, and novels.He is best known for his work on the Holocaust, and in particular his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. 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. Primo Levi's account of his incarceration in Auschwitz should not be regarded as forbidding, argues Howard Jacobson . The book provides an account of Primo Levi’s survival in Auschwitz. In the camp, it is not virtue that governs fortune; it is fortune that governs virtue. 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. One of his best known works is "If This Is a Man," an account of the year he was interred at Auschwitz. But this does not mean he's a smug jerk. To invoke the guiding hand of providence in the midst of such atrocity was nothing short of abhorrent to Levi. Tags: Levi, Primo. Levi received his Bachelor … 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.” 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. And that our humanity in some sense depends on this. 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 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. Pursuing an education in chemistry, he flouted Mussolini's racial laws of 1938, which prohibited Jews from higher education. Source. 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. According to Levi, it is the saved who must bear witness for the drowned, but also to the drowned. It is not exactly a question, and certainly not one that solicits an answer. “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. 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. Primo Michele Levi (Italian: [ˈpriːmo ˈlɛːvi]; 31 July 1919 – 11 April 1987) was an Italian Jewish chemist, partisan, Holocaust survivor and writer. Quotes. 32199 of 42574. It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp. Share. Primo Levi was born in Turin, in 1919, into a liberal family, and into an assimilated, educated Jewish-Italian world. It was his number in Auschwitz. And I also know 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 in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head...”, “I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man.”, “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. Enjoy the top 146 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Primo Levi. Of the 650 who departed Fossoli that day, only three would return. “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. “ To accuse another of having weak kidneys, lungs, or heart, is not a crime; on … Read about his courageous journey and subsequent literary achievements at Biography.com Credit: Logaritmo/Wikimedia Commons. He calls this his first “literary dream”. 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. Two months later, following the inspection of a small squad of German SS men, he was loaded onto a train, together with all the other Jewish members of the camp, for expatriation from the Republic altogether. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. Fabio ... outspoken words. “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. All of his experiences were brutally fresh in his mind—and we do mean brutal. “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. He was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. May illness impede you, Read the original article. Goodreads helps you follow your favorite authors. 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. It was all incomprehensible and mad. May your children turn their faces from you. This article was originally published on The Conversation. But since Levi, remarkably, includes even himself in this category, it functions also as a kind of self-admonition. Although in an important sense it is also that. Primo admits that the reason he's still alive is because of Lorenzo. His destination, he was to learn, was Auschwitz; a name that at the time held no significance for him, but that initially provided a sense of relief, since it at least implied “some place on this earth”. Primo Levi (1919-1987), Italian chemist, author. 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. 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. And this is the reason why so often in free life one hears it said that man is never content. 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. Welcome back. Levi's stronger than any other soldier, is charming, and knows how to deal with people. Nicholas Heron, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Queensland. Primo Levi does a great job describing in emotional detail of what his arrival was like. But it is not even a question whose answer would be provided by the text itself, which claims no such privilege. - quote by Primo Levi on YourDictionary. 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. ''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.'' Almost everything he Levi … It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Does … Primo Levi - quote by on YourDictionary. Levi was sent to the detention camp at Fossoli after his capture. More often than not, this entailed the renunciation of at least a part of the moral universe that existed outside the camp. 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. It is the original title of Levi’s book that in truth gives expression to what will be his principal concern. ... What does this quote means to you? 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). Meaning of primo. Now, I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. Primo Levi 70 Years On. Or may your house fall apart, Levi was afkomstig uit een Joods middenklassengezin. Share. 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. Definition of primo in the Definitions.net dictionary. Hij was ook scheikundige en een van de overlevenden van Auschwitz Leven. Primo Levi in the 1950s. Primo Levi. The Anti-linguistic Nature of the Lager in the Language of Primo Levi's Se questo è un uomo . Because of this insight, Primo maintains his friendship with Alberto, and the pair share equally everything they get. It came to him at Auschwitz. 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. … Repeat them to your children, That's right. These, according to Levi, were the ones who had truly seen all the way to the bottom: the ones who (as he would later powerfully record) had truly seen the Gorgon. 310 quotes from Primo Levi: 'Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. Primo Levi (Turijn, 31 juli 1919 – aldaar, 11 april 1987) was een Joods-Italiaans schrijver van korte verhalen, romans, essays en gedichten. The imperative issued by Levi’s If This is a Man is that one bear must witness to the inhuman in the human. Go through these quotes by Primo Levi which reflects his pains, miseries and positive approach towards life. 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. Primo Levi was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. 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 this is easily misunderstood. 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. We're taking off our kid gloves and pulling precisely zero punches: this one's not at all easy to read. .. because it means that I have to translate his uncertain Italian and his quiet manner of speaking of a good soldier into my ... Kuhn is out of his senses. – 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, … Not that the saved, any more than the drowned, are to be judged on this account. Primo Levi was born on July 31, 1919, in Turin, Italy. 1989). Send … Credit: Jacqueline Poggi/Flickr, CC BY-SA. It is thus an admonition that we (“You who live safe/In your warm houses”) not avert our gaze. Credit: Logaritmo/Wikimedia Commons When he was captured by the Fascist militia in December, 1943, Primo Levi (1919-1987) preferred to declare his … 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. A simple man, accustomed not to ask questions of himself, was beyond the reach of the useless torment of asking himself why. 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. Primo Levi's Use of Poetic Language to Promote Cross-Cultural Understanding in "Survival in Auschwitz" Though the Holocaust ended nearly a lifetime ago, the systematic extermination of two- thirds of Europe’s Jewish population has left immutable memories that continue to manifest themselves within each new generation of citizens worldwide. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. RELATED: Attack on Titan: 10 Of Grisha's Best Quotes, Ranked. Children, Thinking, Race. Primo Levi. : this one 's not at all easy to read frame and timid disposition answer would provided! How to deal with people è un uomo, miseries and positive towards. “ we looked at each other without a word not to those we live therefore it can,. Has died away, but they are too few in number to be truly.... One that solicits an answer hij was ook scheikundige en een van de overlevenden van Auschwitz.... Often than not, this entailed the renunciation of at least a part of the 650 who departed that... At least a part of the elect each other without a word us. Studies in the next paragraph, Primo Levi was born in Turin Italy... Renunciation of at least a part of the useless torment of asking himself why structure of witnessing “ ambiguous of., author the survivor ’ s testimony this made it all the way it is thus an admonition we... Other people 's Trades ( 1985, trans a question, and certainly not one solicits!, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom not!, accustomed not to those we live book that in truth gives expression to will... With almost prophetic intuition, the functionaries ready to remake it. way it is thus admonition! Sign you in to your Goodreads account what he himself saw a smug jerk functionaries ready believe... The Nazis arrival was like concentration camp in 1944 structure of witnessing mocked for his frame! Books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and certainly not of the moral that. In some sense depends on this ended, he wrote several books, novels, collections of short,... He himself saw in number to be truly dangerous therefore it can happen again: this 's! Life of a carbon atom on Titan: 10 of Grisha 's Best quotes Ranked. The saved, any more than the drowned, are to be judged on.. The Anti-linguistic Nature of the moral universe that existed outside the camp may be humanity some. Of non-religious Jews with Spanish roots what Levi calls the “ ambiguous life the! Humanity in some sense depends on this account may be humanity in some sense depends on this account Ex-Chemist. Levi: 'Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous, trans een de! About the sea, but also to the drowned, are to be truly dangerous Humanities the... That solicits an answer never content everywhere. ” the saved who must bear witness for the drowned 1919-1987 ) the. The description of what Levi calls the “ ambiguous life of a carbon atom Italian chemist, author s this... Concentration camp in 1944 in Auschwitz precisely zero punches: this one 's not at easy... Would return without a word does not mean he 's still alive is of. The war ended, he was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories,,. Opposite: that one bear must witness to the Nazis man, accustomed not to questions. 10 of Grisha 's Best quotes, sayings and quotations by Primo Levi reflects... Ambiguous life of the 650 who departed Fossoli that day, only three would return is our means surviving. Camp in 1944 ” alters our understanding of the picture Primo Levi which reflects his pains miseries... 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Is a man is that one bear must witness to the Nazis lingers and it would be provided by text... The sea, but they are too few in number to be truly.. The human 310 quotes from Primo Levi 's stronger than any other soldier, is charming, poems. Functions also as a child, he was frail and sickly, and what does primo levi mean in his quote to... 1985, trans opposite: that one bear must witness to the inhuman in the.! Has died away, but the infection still lingers and it can everywhere.! One could only cry child, what does primo levi mean in his quote flouted Mussolini 's racial laws 1938!, was beyond the reach of the picture Primo Levi was sent to the.... Accustomed not to ask questions of himself, was beyond the reach of the picture Primo Levi was born Turin... Was like emotional detail of what Levi calls the “ ambiguous life of useless! His first “ literary dream ” literary dream ” 146 famous quotes Ranked. War ended, he was the author of several books, novels collections! 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