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Se questo è un uomo by Primo Levi – Book Review

Is this a human? That’s the primary question that writer Primo Levi asks in this book. Levi is a holocaust survivor who was deported to Auschwitz and reports on his life in the concentration camp. It’s a powerful book which shows the inhumanity of the people who could built such a thing but also how the oppression stripped the prisoners away from what it is to be human.

            Because what is it to be human? Is it to exist? Well there are many things that exist, but they aren’t necessarily human. Is it to be a part of the human species? How can people then do such monstrosities, which we wouldn’t call human in the slightest.

            This book will make you uncomfortable when you’re reading it. And it should. The horrors that those people had to deal with every single day are just that: horrors. It’s something that shouldn’t have existed and now we know that it existed, we should try to make sure it never exists ever again.

            Though it will make you uncomfortable, it is definitely a book I would highly recommend. Levi has a special take on the events in the camps and the book isn’t only valuable historically speaking but also philosophically speaking. It will make you think about what it is to be a human being. When does one stop being a human being? This book asks many questions that are worth posing and we should all reflect on them now and again. A book like this can kindle that fire.

            The book is an account of the events in Auschwitz and tells the details vividly. It shows the psychological manipulation which people can put on other people. The Jews had to stand in a room, having been thirsty for days and the only thing in the room was a tap … with undrinkable water. Some of the work the Jews had to do was just utter useless labor. One day they had to carry sacks from point A to point B and the next back to point A. When you make something, you can at least be proud of your creation. Even that pride was taken from them.

            These are just some examples. The conditions were a lot worse. I believe it is good to remind us of these things definitely in this day and age, with the rise of extreme right-wing parties getting consecutively higher and higher votes. Nationalism is not something we should strive towards; it will only rather divide us than bring us together. And we should be wary of this, because Auschwitz is just one of the many examples of what humans are capable of.

By elenchusphilosophy

I'm a Philosophy student in Belgium, trying to talk and write about ideas of all kinds of sorts.

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