Primo Levi and the Literature of Witness

Explores the techniques used by Primo Levi to write “Survival in Auschwitz”.

This paper analyzes the writing style of Primo Levi to determine whether this work is considered a piece of literature as opposed to a strictly journalistic account. The paper discusses Levi’s simple yet compelling style and provides an example of the profound depth Levi passes on to the reader. The paper concludes that as time will testify, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi will take its place with works like Journal of the Plague Year and All Quiet On The Western Front as works that border on fiction but record real tragedies of humanity.
One of the writers who wrote in this style was concentration camp survivor, Primo Levi. In his book, Survival In Auschwitz, Levi employs many literary techniques to record his experiences of his year in that camp. Being a scientist, however, Levi’s writing is also devoid of many of the emotional elements that are common in texts of this kind. His style is plain yet compelling because he balances expressing an emotionally devastating experience as he had in Auschwitz with the restraint necessary so that the reader is not overwhelmed.
There would not be inherent difficulties, if Levi were writing about the an air show, or a tornado, or even being hunted down by lions. The problems with Levi’s story, as with every holocaust memoir exit because what is written about is so horrific and so nightmarish, one cannot believe that such things actually occurred.

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