THE DROWNED AND THE SAVED by Primo Levi

THE DROWNED AND THE SAVED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Levi's last book--he committed suicide earlier this year--and one of resubstantiation, distinctions drawn, and unambiguous sadness bordering on despair. The book begins with an essay on privilege, the special position survivors of Hell--as Levi was--had and have: ""At a distance of years one can today definitely affirm that the history of the Lagers has been written almost exclusively by whose who, like myself, never fathomed them to the bottom. Those who did so did not return, or their capacity for observation was paralyzed by suffering and incomprehension."" This leads to a meditation on the treacherous if inevitable renovations of memory, and then--chillingly yet logically (Levi's special gift)--into mention of suicide itself, in an essay called ""Shame"": of the horror of the saved, and how that horror only increases, not decreases, as the years go by and the greater original Horror turns less distinct in consciousness. Levi writes too about the German reaction to his great Survival in Auschwitz and further addresses some of the Holocaust shibboleths now current, the naive (why didn't the Jews fight back?) as well as the sophisticated (inner spiritual reserve being a determinant to survival). But it is the brooding and scarily precise beginning of the book, from which Levi's exhaustion as witness pulses, that serves as the unforgettable coda to a remarkable writer's impossible life.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
ISBN: 067972186X
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster