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The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi
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The Drowned and the Saved (1986)

by Primo Levi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,537106,984 (4.34)40
Recently added byR_Foster14, oscarpi, annelari, wirehead, malbru, private library, lesliesconnor, dmojoman, ajapt
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose
  1. 10
    Primo Levi : Oeuvres by Primo Levi (Eustrabirbeonne)
    Eustrabirbeonne: Cette oeuvre essentielle de Primo Levi, qui peut être considérée comme son testament (il s'agit de l'avant-dernier ouvrage publié de son vivant), n'a malheureusement pas été retenue par l'édition Bouquins.
  2. 00
    At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities by Jean Améry (ShaneTierney)
  3. 00
    The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir by Chil Rajchman (2810michael)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi
4 stars
The Drowned and the Saved was Primo Levi’s last book, published shortly before his death. The book is comprised of 8 chapters that read like short essays or meditations. The book explores the rationale behind the concentration camps during World War II and attempts to explain the mindset behind both the oppressors and the oppressed. Levi draws on his own experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz. There are chapters on memory, shame, gray zone (e.g. blurred lines between “us vs. them,” the situation of the intellectual prisoner, communication, and useless violence.

This was a wonderfully written and smart book. Levi’s speculations about various aspects central to the existence and consequences of extermination camps are fascinating. He writes in a way that is passionate, yet at the same time, he is able to reflect on what was a traumatic time in his life in a way that is intellectual rather than emotional.

I particularly appreciated the chapter on shame. He links this sense of shame to rates of suicide following liberation. I am a psychologist and I’ve worked with military Veterans including a few from WWII. I will never forget one WWII vet that I worked with who had witnessed and experienced many traumatic events during his service, but what he was most affected by was his experience of liberating one of the extermination camps. Like Levi, he talked about the differences between the movie versions of liberation as being joyful and big celebrations and his own experience seeing prisoners when he arrived at the camp. He talked about the pervasive sense of shame and anguish that preceded the immediate liberation.

The last chapter of the book is a series of excerpts from letters between Levi and German readers who responded to the first published German translation of “Survival in Auschwitz.” It is a powerful chapter that explores some of the perspectives of Germans citizens living during the time of the Holocaust.

Quotes:
The World into which one was precipitated was terrible, yes, but also indecipherable: it did not conform to any model; the enemy was all around but also inside, the “we” lost its limits, the contenders were not two, one could not discern a single frontier but rather many confused, perhaps innumerable frontiers, which stretched between each of us.
Thus the Lager, on a small scale but with amplified characteristics, reproduced the hierarchical structure of the totalitarian state, in which all power is invested from above and control from below is almost impossible.
Conceiving and organizing the squads was National Socialism’s most demonic crime. Behind the pragmatic aspect other more subtle aspects can be perceived. This institution represented an attempt to shift onto others – specifically the victims – the burden of guilt, so that they were deprived of even the solace of innocence.

A single Anne Frank excites more emotion than the myriads who suffered as she did but whose image has remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is necessary that it can be so. If we had to and were able to suffer the sufferings of everyone, we could not live.

( )
1 vote JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Primo Levi's "The Drowned and the Saved" is a collection of essays focused on his life as a Polish Jew who survived interment at Auschwitz and went on to write a series of books about his experiences.

Levi's essays are thought provoking as he attempts to understand why he survived and others did not; the reasons that much of a country allowed this to happen and how a traumatic event can form and individual but not define them.

I probably would have given this an even higher rating had I read Levi's "Survival in Auschwitz" first, as it contains more thorough account of his experiences (apparently) and is referred to often in "The Drowned and the Saved." Even without knowing the background material, I still found these essays to be powerful and thought provoking. ( )
  amerynth | Apr 20, 2015 |
This is not a novel but more of an essay The Drowned and the Saved is an attempt at an analytical approach. The problem of the fallibility of memory, the techniques used by the Nazis to break the will of prisoners, the use of language in the camps and the nature of violence are all studied. It is written by Pimo Levi, an Italian Jew who was in Auschwitz. It is well written. My Levi is an agnostic. He makes reference and quotes many works of literature such as Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain and Mazoni's The Betrothed and especially Dante. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
C'est arrivé et tout cela peut arriver de nouveau : c'est le noyau de ce que nous avons à dire. ' Primo Levi (1919-1987) n'examine pas son expérience des camps nazis comme un accident de l'histoire, mais comme un événement exemplaire qui permet de comprendre jusqu'où peut aller l'homme dans le rôle du bourreau ou dans celui de la victime. Quelles sont les structures d'un système autoritaire et quelles sont les techniques pour anéantir la personnalité d'un individu ? Quel rapport sera créé entre les oppresseurs et les opprimés ? Comment se crée et se construit un monstre ? Est-il possible de comprendre de l'intérieur la logique de la machine de l'extermination ? Est-il possible de se révolter contre elle ? Primo Levi ne se borne pas à décrire les aspects des camps qui restaient obscurs jusqu'aujourd'hui, mais dresse un bilan pour lutter contre l'accoutumance à la dégradation de l'humain.
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
The Drowned and the Saved, by Primo Levi is quite the intense and thought-provoking book. It is the kind of writing that leaves one speechless long after reading it.

Memory is fallible through the years. And, often we choose to remember what we want. No matter, Levi believes that we must remember, in order to combat the disease that ran rampant within the Nazi culture, and the Jewish inmate population. Primo Levi remembers all too well, and does not lessen his participation in being part of the “saved”. He acknowledges his acts, and remembers all the demeaning events and situations, for the future of mankind, hoping that no similar events will occur again. ( )
  LorriMilli | May 20, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Primo Leviprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bidussa, DavidContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, RaymondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It is naive, absurd, and historically false to believe that an infernal system such as National Socialism sanctifies its victims: on the contrary, it degrades them, it makes them resemble itself, and this all the more when they are available, blank, and lacking a political or moral armature.
It is the duty of righteous men to make war on all undeserved privilege, but one must not forget that this is a war without end.
The "saved" of the Lager were not the best, those predestined to do good, the bearers of a message: what I had seen and lived through proved the exact contrary. Preferably the worst survived, the selfish, the violent, the insensitive, the collaborators of the "gray zone," the spies. It was not a certain rule (there were none, nor are there certain rules in human matters), but it was nevertheless a rule. I felt innocent, yes, but enrolled among the saved and therefore in permanent search of a justification in my own eyes and those of others. The worst survived, that is, the fittest; the best all died.
The ocean of pain, past and present, surrounded us, and its level rose from year to year until it almost submerged us. It was useless to close one's eyes or turn one's back to it because it was all around, in every direction, all the way to the horizon. It was not possible for us nor did we want to become islands; the just among us, neither more nor less numerous than in any other human group, felt remorse, shame, and pain for the misdeeds that others and not they had committed, and in which they felt involved, because they sensed that what had happened around them and in their presence, and in them, was irrevocable. Never again could it be cleansed; it would prove that man, the human species--we, in short--had the potential to construct an infinite enormity of pain, and that pain is the only force created from nothing, without cost and without effort. It is enough not to see, not to listen, not to act.
In what direction could they flee? To whom could they turn for shelter? They were outside the world, men and women made of air.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067972186X, Paperback)

This book, published months after Italian writer Primo Levi's suicide in 1987, is a small but powerful look at Auschwitz, the hell where Levi was imprisoned during World War II. The book was his third on the subject, following Survival in Auschwitz (1947) and The Reawakening (1963). Removed from the experience by time and age, Levi chose to serve more as an observer of the camp than the passionate young man of his previous work. He writes of "useless violence" inflicted by the guards on prisoners and then concludes the book with a discussion of the Germans who have written to him about their complicity in the event. In all, he tries to make sense of something that--as he knew--made no sense at all.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A meditation on the meaning of the Nazi exterminations after the passing of forty years reveals how memories of the Holocaust have been filtered and rearranged by both the oppressor and the victims.

» see all 2 descriptions

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