The Drowned and the Saved

The Drowned and the Saved

4.35 (3,719 ratings by Goodreads)
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Shortly after completing THE DROWNED AND THE SAVED, Primo Levi committed suicide. The matter of his death was sudden, violent and unpremiditated, and there were some who argue that he killed himself because he was tormented by guilt - guilt that he had survived the horrors of Auschwitz while others, better than he, had gone to the wall. THE DROWNED AND THE SAVED is Levi's impassioned attempt to understand the 'rationale' behind the concentration camps, was completed shortly before his tragic death in 1987. THE DROWNED AND THE SAVED dispels the myth that Primo Levi forgave the Germans for what they did to his people. He didn't and couldn't forgive. He refused, however, to indulge in what he called 'the bestial vice of hatred' which is an entirely different matter. The voice that sounds in his writing is that of a reasonable warns and reminds us that the unimaginable can happen again. A would-be tyrant is waiting in the wings, with 'beautiful words' on his lips. The book is constantly impressing on us the need to learn from the past, to make sense of the senseless' PAUL BAILEYshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 16mm | 300g
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Abacus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 20 cm
  • 0349100470
  • 9780349100470
  • 92,359

Review quote

Levi writes of unspeakable things with charity, clarity and objectivity SUNDAY TIMES Levi's work is a model of patience and hard-won enlightenment, a search for illumination in places where there appeared to be none. DAILY TELEGRAPH It is, as always, an intellectual and aesthetic pleasure to follow the perfection of style, the manner of exposition, both subtle and lucid. OBSERVER The horror of what he reveals is made all the more terrifying by a prose style which is cool, clear and unsparing. The most powerful message to emerge from this book is that we must learn the lessons of history so as not to repeat its mistakes. YORKSHIRE POSTshow more

About Primo Levi

Primo Levi was born in Turin in 1919 and trained as a chemist. Arrested as a member of the anti-fascist resistance during the war, he was deported to Auschwitz. His experiences there are described in his two classic autobiographical works, IF THIS IS A MAN and THE more

Review Text

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. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

3,719 ratings
4.35 out of 5 stars
5 52% (1,936)
4 35% (1,295)
3 11% (406)
2 1% (54)
1 1% (28)
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