Tuesday, October 10, 2006



I saw, on television, Primo - a staged version of Levi's Auschwitz memoir If This Is A Man and it reminded me of what an extraordinary document it is. I sensed that someone else in the room was a bit put off at having their cosy newspaper-strewn Sunday living room invaded by such matters, and I didn't blame them. Normally I might cave in and turn off the television rather than feel guilty at making someone who didn't, at that moment, want to deal with anything "heavy" feel guilty about ignoring it. But when you hear or read that righteous sentance: "If I were God I would spit on Kuhn's prayer", well, there's no turning back. Actually, I had long since been gripped - "gripped", that dimly epiphanic experience of clenched jaw, fixed gaze and, yes, almost a slight queaziness in the pit of the stomach - by that stage, following a tentative ten opening minutes when I wasn't sure if the adaptation worked.

Is it trite - Oprah-like? - to say of a Holocaust memoir that you will feel a richer human being for having read it? Richer if only because you achieve a greater consciousness of the catastrophic evil contrived by men, of the stain of shame that the just man, as Levi says, must feel that such things can have happened, can go on happening. (And perhaps a greater consciousness of the abyss that threatens when we cease to care whether we live like just men.)

Anyway. Read it if you haven't. I can't find my copy so maybe I'll get some more Levi.

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