Facing the Extreme

Facing the Extreme : Moral Life in the Concentration Camps

4.32 (152 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by 

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The Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulags provide the context for Tzvetan Todorov's unparalleled examination of the human capacity for moral life. Drawing on a striking array of documents, from little-known memoirs by eyewitnesses and survivors to the works of Primo Levi and Jetty Hillesum, Eugenia Ginzburg and Albert Speer, Todorov reconstructs a vivid portrait of the conduct of those who ran the camps and those who suffered their outrages. Challenging the widespread view that moral life was extinguished in the extreme circumstances of the camps, he uncovers instead a rich moral universe composed not of grand acts of heroism but of innumerable ordinary gestures of dignity and care, compassion and solidarity. These 'everyday virtues', Todorov argues, allowed inmates to survive morally intact in the most immoral and inhuman of conditions.

A complex and profound meditation, "Facing the Extremes" restores a lost dimension to this anguished history, even as it offers an eloquent plea for the recognition of everyday virtues as a basis for contemporary morality.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 307 pages
  • 159 x 235 x 22.86mm | 431g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Berkeley Trade ed.
  • 0805042644
  • 9780805042641
  • 395,024

Review quote

"Graceful and gigantic...a fascinating tour through the subtlety, integrity, and brute honesty of Todorov's thought." --The New York Times Book Review

"Todorov invigorates the debate over morality with rigor and grace, Aristotelian fineness, fluid prose, and his own virtues of compassion, humility, and realism." --David Greenberg, The Washington Post

"In a world that continues to devalue human life, Todorov leaves us with a sense of hope that morality, with its ultimate action and caring, will not disappear." --Eva Fogelman, The Boston Globe
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About Tzvetan Todorov

Tzvetan Todorov is the director of research at the Centre National de Recherches in Paris and the author of many highly acclaimed works, including The Conquest of America.
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Rating details

152 ratings
4.32 out of 5 stars
5 58% (88)
4 26% (40)
3 11% (16)
2 1% (2)
1 4% (6)
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