Primo Levi

Literary Birthday – 31 July – Primo Levi

Primo Levi was born 31 July 1919 and died 11 April 1987.


  1. Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live.
  2. Human memory is a marvellous but fallacious instrument. The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or even increase by incorporating extraneous features.
  3. There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God.
  4. Each of us bears the imprint of a friend met along the way; in each the trace of each.
  5. Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.
  6. Even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilisation. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last — the power to refuse our consent.
  7. I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.
  8. Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it.
  9. Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.
  10. We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.

Primo Levi was an Italian Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. His books include The Periodic Table, Survival In Auschwitz, and The Drowned And The Saved.

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 30th July 2017