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If This Is a Man / The Truce - Primo Levi, Stuart Woolf, Paul Bailey This isn't really a book that can be rated. However, since that's how we catalogue our books here on Good Reads, I'm giving it 4 stars - not 5, but just because I wouldn't want to read it again and I can't honestly say it's one of my favourite ever books. Otherwise it's 10 stars. I was going to start this review with quotes from the book. However, after telling my Mother how good it was when she called round this afternoon, she appears to have left with it. I text her that its like living in Auschwitz, not being able to put anything down without it being stolen. Obviously a direct comparison with life in the camp. So how do you review a book like this? If you pick it up, or think of picking it up, or even decide not to try it, I think that decision is based on the content. A book about a concentration camp survivor is never going to be light reading and some people don't want to tackle such heavy topics. Understandably so. If you choose to read this, then you know what sort of book you're getting into from the outset. You're reading because you want to learn more. Yet what if it doesn't interest you? The introduction of my edition said something along the lines of there being a danger that people not only forget, but become complacent when talking about the holocaust. Everyone in this day and age knows what occurred and so much has been said about the war and concentration camps, that I think we become immune to the horror. We know what happened, we know that many died, we know it was horrific. So why read about it? In Primo Levi's words - “It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow, could overwhelm us and our children. One is tempted to turn away with a grimace and close one's mind: this is a temptation one must resist"Yes this book is one man's memoir of 11 months spent in Auschwitz and the follow up story of his long journey home, but it is more than this. Primo Levi purposely wrote with an impassioned voice, so that he could document a true account of conditions, without seeming emotionally biased. He wrote 'If This is Man' within the first year of returning home. Why he decided to write and how he was able to do this, is amazing in every sense of the word. He was not a writer, but a chemist, yet the writing style in this book is extraordinarily beautiful and eloquent. If you have read it, I suspect that you found it tough going at times, it's not a book that can be skipped through in one sitting. If you haven't read it, for whatever reason. Here's some points that I hope encourage you to pick it up- The chapters are nice small bite sized chunks- While harrowing in content, it is not gratuitously graphic- The writing style is beautiful- There are interesting facts about camp life, not usually documented - Characters are well written and fascinatingThe second part of the book, Levi's return journey, is an aspect that I had not read about before. I knew that many people were stranded in camps after the war, but the journey home, documented in The Truce, was of a more mammoth undertaking than I had considered. In fact for many of the miraculous survivors, this next stage was even more hellish than the camps. This book was gruelling to read at times. It was also fascinating, educating, heartbreaking and absorbing, to name but a few adjectives. I would recommend the first story - If This is Man - to everyone who is human. To those who want to know more, continue by reading The Truce. I want to end with my favourite and most thought provoking passage from the book. I found the quote on GoodReads and 'liked' it, which doesn't seem to quite do it justice - “It is lucky that it is not windy today. Strange, how in some way one always has the impression of being fortunate, how some chance happening, perhaps infinitesimal, stops us crossing the threshold of despair and allows us to live. It is raining, but it is not windy. Or else, it is raining and it is also windy: but you know that this evening it is your turn for the supplement of soup, so that even today you find the strength to reach the evening. Or it is raining, windy and you have the usual hunger, and then you think that if you really had to, if you really felt nothing in your heart but suffering and tedium - as sometimes happens, when you really seem to lie on the bottom - well, even in that case, at any moment you want you could always go and touch the electric wire-fence, or throw yourself under the shunting trains, and then it would stop raining.” ― Primo Levi, If This Is a Man / The Truce