Tag Archives: Primo Levi

Book Review: Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi (4/5)

30 May

I read Night and The Diary of a Young Girl very close to each other a few years back and it got me to add this book to my list as well. I received it as a Christmas gift a few years ago but it lingered on my shelf for a while. A trip to Las Vegas seemed like as good a time as any to dive into it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1943, Primo Levi, a twenty-five-year-old chemist and “Italian citizen of Jewish race,” was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz is Levi’s classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance. Remarkable for its simplicity, restraint, compassion, and even wit, Survival in Auschwitz remains a lasting testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit.

This is a survival story, no question about it. Levi focuses on how he lived in the camp and how he survived when so many around him didn’t make it. He talks about the right amount of work to do, the good jobs to get, the ways to pass examinations. He details how the trading system worked and what tools were essential and how to get them, how to make them. It felt like a survival story more than a Holocaust story to me. The Nazi officers were not consistent characters but Levi’s bunk-mates and trading partners were.

Levi painted vivid pictures of other prisoners. He gave us details about ones who were like him, ones that were unlucky, and ones that couldn’t survive. I felt he pained a vivid picture of himself, too. For me, the most impactful part was when he detailed the other men in the quarantined room with him before liberation. The teamwork they demonstrated was incredible. Finally, it was about the survivability of the group and not the individual and that really shone through.

Levi was the only major character in the story and I liked how he portrayed himself. He was smart and was able to use that intelligence to get him a good position. But a good position didn’t mean comfort, it meant more opportunities. He stole and traded and schemed to get more food. He used that job to survive and to help his friend survive. There was no enduring, you had to find a way to make things better for yourself.

It was hard to relate to Levi and the characters in the story because his story is so extreme. I think that’s why it’s important. It’s important to remember that humans did this to other humans because they thought some were less than others. It highlights what happens to us when we do this to each other and why we can never let this happen again. It’s the un-relatability of his story that’s so important.

Primo Levi
Author photo courtesy of the Paris Review

The final scenes in the infirmary spoke to me most. In history, I’d heard that those who were ill were left behind and liberated soon after. The days-long delay and the horror it brought was never mentioned before. The number of men who died waiting for freedom astounded me and I was so sad to hear about them.

The book was non-chronological and that confused me at times. I would question what job Levi was doing or how long he had been in the camp when something happened and I’d be confused for a few pages before I found a landmark. I understand that this book was not written in chronological order on purpose; it’s written to detail the different steps taken to survive. It’s a small gripe, but it’s really the biggest one I have.

We should not have to survive the treatment of other humans. Abused women and children, prisoners, and Holocaust victims have survived things that no person should have to. We have the ability to take away the freedom of others. But we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t have to be ‘survived’ by others in the way Levi had to survive.

Writer’s Takeaway: Levi told a story with impact. He didn’t sugar-coat anything or leave out any detail that might be embarrassing. His candid telling is why this is so powerful and wonderful and scary and tragic. I think memoir should always be like this. Otherwise, we might not learn something essential.

The book was impactful, though I did find myself confused and tuning out at times because of the time jumps. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Primo Levi Blog- Survival in Auschwitz through a Christian Perspective
Primo Levi’s reflection on humanity in crisis: Survival in Auschwitz (If This is a man) | Literaturesalon’s Blog
An Encapsulating Analysis of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz | Vivid Incandescence
Survival in Auschwitz | Posthegemony

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WWW Wednesday, 15-May-2019

15 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I made a point to read more of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min during my lunches this week. I got through another chapter and then some so I’m happy with the progress. I knew this would be slow going so I’m not worried about it.
I’m taking small bites out of A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I’m not yet a third done, but I’ll keep going steadily. I don’t mind drives right now and I’m taking the time to enjoy it as it comes.
I started on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and I’m hoping I can finish fast. I have a trip out of town next weekend and I don’t like to take signed books out of the house. I might just have to power through, though. I don’t think it will be much of a chore.
I’ve just started Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I adore Noah on The Daily Show and I’ve liked the stand-up I’ve seen from him. I even watched his documentary on getting started in comedy in South Africa and enjoyed that. I’m really excited about this, to say the least!

Recently finished: I wrapped up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi this week. It was a short book but it hit me hard! I thought after reading several other accounts of survival in concentration camps, I knew what I was getting into. But Levi kept shocking me. He was in the camp for a long time and his memory is very vivid. I’m glad he wrote this haunting book, the world needs to remember the atrocities we are capable of.
I also finished Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I should have guessed that I’d finish it in a week but it still came as a surprise to me. I liked this one a lot and the bit of magical realism didn’t bother me too much. I usually hate it, but this wasn’t too overwhelming. My book club meets in a few weeks to discuss so expect a few more posts on this going forward.

I only got one review up this week which means I’m slipping seriously behind. I posted my review of The Power by Naomi Alderman last Thursday. It was very OK to me, nothing that blew me away. My book club met earlier this week to discuss so I’ll be sharing some more thoughts soon.

Reading Next: It seems too early to pick another book to read. I guess I’ll have to pick. I’m working through books that will need an Interlibrary Loan when I can so I’ve put in a request for Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson. I’ve yet to be let down by the ‘Dummies’ series and it seems like a good time for this one. With my manuscript being wrapped up, I need to start another and I’m a bit lost on how to go about it this time. I’m hoping for a bit of inspiration.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 8-May-2019

8 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Still going slow with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min but I did squeeze a bit in this week. I’m not worried about this one taking a while, I figured it would. I’ll get there eventually.
Maybe I’ll finish A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin before I finish Min. It’s not going quickly, but it’s going. I adore the narration of this one and I think I’ll continue to enjoy it for another month or so.
I picked up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi while I was on my vacation and finished about half of it. I thought I’d get through more but I was so tired on the plane that I slept a lot. The author really focuses on the survival aspect of the camps and I’m really getting a good sense of what he remembers and went through.
I started  Exit West by Mohsin Hamid on audio. Still too early to really say, but I’m excited to start this one after hearing so much about it! It’s a nice, short one, so expect this finished quickly.

Recently finished: I finished Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton right before I left on my trip. I was really disappointed with it if I’m being honest. It’s from the author of my favorite book and it lacked a lot of the emotion I love about that book. If it had been by another author, I’m not sure I would have liked it anymore. The subject matter was just not what I expected.
I wrapped up The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob and really enjoyed it. I was worried about the author narrating this one but she was amazing. Honestly, I’d listen to her narrate any book and I’d be very happy with it. I saw the author has another book out and I’m excited to see how that one is received.

I posted my review of Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. This was one that kept me up late reading. I really adored it, a full 5 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: I’m going to keep chipping away at my TBR. I want to read one of my autographed books next since I don’t like those leaving the house and I’ll be home for a few weeks. So I’ll tackle A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I’ve liked most things I’ve ready by Eggers so I’m excited to read his memoir as well.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 1-May-2019

1 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ve had to work through lunch a lot the past few weeks so I haven’t made much progress on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. Partially, it’s because I’m not super interested, but it’s mostly because of time. I hope work slows down and I can get back to it soon.
I’m still moving forward with Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. I hoped to be done with it by now, but it’s not gripping me. I actually dislike it so far, but I’m hoping things turn around a bit and finish on a better note than they’ve started. I’ll be really disappointed otherwise.
I’ll finish The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob by next week. This one has been enjoyable and I like the back-and-forth timeline it’s using to build suspense. And I keep thinking about the title and all of the things it can mean for the book. I wonder what I’ll finally decide on when I’m done.
As predicted, A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin will be a long haul. I’m on disk four of 36 so I feel like it’s going pretty well. We’ll see if I can keep this pace up for a few weeks and actually finish before it’s due back at the library. I might have to beg for a long renewal.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week, unfortunately. I’m OK with this because I’ve been so far behind on reviews and I finally get a chance to catch up! I think there will be two here next week, though.

I’ve knocked out one more review this week, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I absolutely adored this book and I wish I could imitate Simon’s voice. Albertalli is so talented. I gave it Five out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’m leaving for a trip tonight and I’m taking Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi with me. I hope to start reading it while I’m gone and on the plane home at the latest.
I’ll need a new eaudiobook soon as well and I’ll be picking up our next book club selection, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I’ve only heard good things about this one so I’m excited to dive in soon and see what all the fuss is about.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 24-April-2019

24 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m still moving forward with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min but it’s starting to drag. It feels like nothing has happened in a while and I’m starting to get a little bored of this one. I hope something major happens soon, it feels like it’s due.
I’ve made decent progress on Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton despite being so busy the past week. I try to read a chapter before bed each night, but I keep falling asleep too quickly to finish. I think I can have this one finished next week, though.
I started The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob over the weekend. I’m having flashbacks to Lahiri’s The Lowland so far but I’m not sure if it will continue that way. It’s just something about brothers fighting in India that’s got me comparing them.
I started the long journey that is A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This monster is 36 disks long and I’m on disk 3. And I’m happy with that. It will be on here a while longer, I’m sure. This is going to be fun.

Recently finished: I finished Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to see the movie as soon as I find a copy. I adored Simon’s voice and I’m not sure how that will translate to film, but I can’t wait to see them try.
I finished The Power by Naomi Alderman over the weekend. I’m still feeling out how I feel about this book. I liked the idea and how it played out, but I’m not sure how I felt about the characters. Sometimes, it was just a little too much for me.

I’ve got two book reviews posted as well. The first was my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. I’m still vacillating about reading the rest of the series. I have an opinion poll on the review page so please check that out.
I also posted my review of News of the World by Paulette Jiles. My book club will be meeting next Monday to discuss this so I’m glad I was able to review it before then. I’ve been falling so far behind that’s become a problem.

Reading Next: I’ll read Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi as my next physical book. It’s been sitting on my shelf for so long. I’m glad to finally get it off.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 17-April-2019

17 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: It’s still steady-going with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. It’s not engrossing me as much as I would like and I keep waiting to be swept into it, but I’m almost halfway through and it’s not happening. I’ll keep pressing forward!
I’m obsessed with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Simon’s voice is so perfect, I’m loving it. Honestly, it’s making me feel like my YA novel is never going to get published if this is the standard I have to stand up to. I’m finding excuses to drive around so I can listen to this.
I’m getting toward the end of The Power by Naomi Alderman and finally starting to see where it’s going. There are jumps forward and backward in time and they slowly merge into a big event. I’m getting close to it now. I think it’s safe to say this one will be finished next week.
I started reading Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. Hinton is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Outsiders so I’m excited to pick up something new by her. This one is relatively short so I hope it doesn’t stay on this list very long.

Recently finished: I’m happy to say I finished Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. This one had me staying up late to read just a few more pages each night and I think I frustrated my husband by keeping the light on later and later. There’s a movie of this one and I can’t wait to see it. What a complicated issue Bohjalian created. I think it will play out well on screen.

I was able to post one review this week, Dodgers by Bill Beverly. My book club met this past week to discuss it as well so I’ll have another post about this one coming up soon. I enjoyed the book but the discussion actually brought up a few issues I hadn’t thought of before so I’m really glad for this group of people who have challenged me to think more about books.

Reading Next: I still plan to pick up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi as a physical book, I’ve just pushed it back one. I’ll get to this when Hawkes Harbor is done.
My next eaudiobook will be The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. This book was hyped a lot a few years ago and I haven’t heard much about it since but it’s lingered on my TBR all the same.
I think it may finally be time. I tend to listen to ‘bad summer books’ in the summer. I’m going to start on A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This will be a long endeavor to be sure, but I’m ready for it. I’ll be caught up to my husband finally. And it will be good to be catching up on the books as the show ends.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 10-April-2019

10 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: It’s still steady-going with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I only had two lunches last week to read and this week isn’t looking better. I’ll keep making my way through, though. No rush on this one.
I’m really enjoying Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I squeezed a little extra reading time this weekend even though I couldn’t afford it. I hope to finish this one soon and not have it linger on this list for more than one more week.
I got my hold on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and was finally able to start it! I hope I have some long drives to get through this one quickly because I’ve been waiting for it forever!
I started reading The Power by Naomi Alderman on Sunday. Not too far into this one yet. I’m excited to stay one step ahead of my book club, though! We didn’t get our copies of this until Monday. Staying ahead is letting me focus on books I want to read, not just those for groups.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up News of the World by Paulette Jiles which was a lovely little book. I hope I remember it well enough for our next meeting because it seems so far away. I’ll get around to a review at some point. I feel so behind in reviews that it could be a week or two before I finally get to it! Better this than struggling for content, though.
I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Sunday morning. I enjoyed the story but it’s clear this is the first of a series. It was very unfinished and I was a bit disappointed. I hoped there was something more I would get before the book ended, but it was a set-up for the next books. I’m still debating if I’ll finish the series.

I posted two reviews this week. The first was for Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. Not a favorite read, but a solid one. I enjoy Larson’s style but this topic didn’t grab me as much as earlier ones have. I’ll have to try again soon. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This book was a joy for me and I hope I can see the movie soon and experience it all over again! I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll grab another book off of my shelves next. I’m feeling great about getting through so many! Next up is Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. I added a number of concentration camp memoirs to my TBR after listening to Anne Frank’s diary a few years ago. This one was a little harder to come by but I have a copy and I look forward to reading it!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Recently Add to my To-Read Shelf

6 Sep

I’ve recently added three books to my “To-Read” Shelf on Goodreads. I wanted to see if any readers here had any opinions on them.

  1. Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. I recently read another book by Bainbridge that I had some mixed feelings on. I read that the other book was unfinished when Bainbridge died and I felt that the sudden ending might have something to do with that. Every Man for Himself is about the Titanic, which I love, and if it’s what I hope for, will be in the same well-written style as Bainbridge’s other book, but have a more definitive ending which won’t leave me wanting to throw the book at my husband.
  2. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. This was recommended on my Book-A-Day calendar (that thing has recommended SOOO many books!) and sounded interesting. It’s seriously long, which is something of a deterrent, but is available as an audiobook at my library. This book tells the story of two young lovers during WWII, one of whom is a Jew. I have a suspicion it will have a sad ending.
  3. Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. This book came as a Goodreads recommendation to me (yet another culprit of growing my To-Read shelf). I’m a big sucker for a well-written memoir and this seems to have some great reviews. It’s the story of a Holocaust survivor who was in Auschwitz. Kind of has a similar ring to The Invisible Bridge and I think it will be interesting to contrast the true story with the fictional story.

So there they are! My shelf is up to a whopping 82 books and as I add faster than I read, it’s not coming down any time soon. If you have any comments on these books or you want to lengthen my list any more with your own suggestions, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.