Analysis Of Survival In Auschwitz By Primo Levi

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“Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man.” In the annals of history, the Holocaust registers as one of mankind’s most “unspeakable” offenses. And yet, over the past seventy years, survivors have strived nonetheless to transform torture into language—to verbalize the violence against man’s body and spirit that occurred at the hands of the Nazis. Primo Levi was one of these survivors. In Survival in Auschwitz, Levi struggles to articulate the atrocities that occurred in Auschwitz while simultaneously admitting the impossibility of such an undertaking. As he confesses in his book, “…our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man.” A scientist by trade, Levi speaks of his time in Auschwitz in bare, almost clinical terms. Two popular critiques have arisen from this approach: the first, that Levi does not explore his emotions, and the second, that he does not court readers. I’d argue, however, that it is this very boundary built between author and reader that makes Levi’s testimony so effective. By using the first-person present tense—I am here; you are not—and guarding specific scenes and emotions, Levi actively distances readers from his narrative. This, the book tells its readers, is not your narrative; you are not characters in this story. As readers, we are forced to recognize that we do not speak Levi’s language; we do not know what it truly means to be “cold,”
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