Primo Levi If This is a Man and The Drowned and the Saved

Primo Levi If This is a Man and The Drowned and the Saved

Dvorana Müller, Varšavska 3, Zagreb

Speakers: Branko Lustig, Vuk Perišić, Tvrtko Klarić and Seid Serdarević. Excerpts read by Frano Mašković.

On the thirtieth anniversary of Primo Levi's suicide and 25 years since the first Croatian edition of If This is a Man, one of the main novels about the Holocaust, we present its new edition and, for the first time in Croatia, Levi's book of essays The Drowned and the Saved.

Both books talk about the man, the creator of history and its victim. They talk about the people in the vortex of the Holocaust, the most difficult of all moral and political disorders that have ever happened, who saved their lives or saved their own conscience. It rarely occurred that they saved both. It is about people who drowned morally in various ways in abnormal circumstances, sometimes innocently, sometimes criminally, but in abnormal circumstances in which, surprisingly, it was still possible to make moral decisions. The Drowned and the Saved is applied anthropology, painful in its torment between the need for faith in man and the fear of the same creature: if he was capable of creating Auschwitz once, it means that he can always repeat it. The novel If This is a Man talks about the biggest atrocity of all times, when people did not have the right to have a spoon, written by Primo Levi with astounding calmness. The search for balance between his own pain that would rather scream (or bluntly collapse) and bitter emotional self-discipline with which this novel was written, is not a due avoidance of pathos. It is the skill of a literary genius.

"With the moral stamina and intellectual pose, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it in lucid, unpretentious prose."

Philip Roth



Primo Levi (Torino 1919 - 1987) was an Italian writer and translator whose primary profession was a chemist. As a Jew and a member of the Italian antifascist movement, he was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. This experience left a permanent mark on his opus, and as he himself says, pushed him to become a writer. He published the novel If This Is a Man in 1947. The Truce (1975) covers his return from the Auschwitz and post-war Europe. The Periodic Table (1975) is a collection of 20 short pieces, each of which has the title of one of the chemical elements. The Drowned and the Saved, his collection of anthropologic essays, was published in 1986.

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