27 March, 2008

Today's Review

If This is a Man
Primo Levi

This ought to be required on every reading list in every school in Europe, in the whole Western World, in fact. It is too easy to allow, even for those who accept the fullness of all the reports and historicity of the Holocaust, the numbers and figures and descriptions to swill over and blur the fact that the victims were actually human beings. Reading the narration of one man's experience must surely remind even the most jaded of readers that Levi, and the other six million, were people, not numbers, not cyphers. I am reminded, and horrified. Of course one reads it and thinks, “How could such a thing happen? How could anyone permit such treatment?” Yet still, it is too easy to forget that the Gulags lasted fortyfive years after Auschwitz, that the Middle Kingdom still treats people as disposable in the cause of its progress, and that Guantanamo Bay hosts a camp (even the same word!) where people are purposefully by government policy made into less than human beings. Levi's writing must be passed on, understood, taken to heart by all men, and renewed each generation, so that the evil can be prevented from recurring. Of course, this is a blindly optimistic thing to write, because we can be absolutely certain that the evil will continue, until the end of time. The book itself, disregarding the subject matter, is very easily read; i shall recommend it to Abigail, who is seventeen, and even JAG, eleven, as an excellent introduction to the Holocaust, because it is so simple and facile. I wonder if it was that way in the Italian, or if it is the translator's skill triumphing; certainly, the very ease of the writing is a benefit to the subject matter, by not distracting a whit from it. (Except for the small matter of the title, which niggles me: Why is it not If This Be a Man?)

1 comment:

Jolene said...

We are having another boy! And I am going to start homeschooling this fall! YIKES!