Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival

By Frederic D. Homer | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Civilized Liberalism

“Everything is arcane/but our pain, to quote Leopardi once more: the certitudes of the layman are few, but the first is this: suffering (and inflicting suffering) is acceptable only if rewarded by the avoidance of greater suffering to oneself or others.

Other People's Trades

And one must take into account a definite cushioning effect exercised both by the law, and by the moral sense which constitutes a self-imposed law; for a country is considered more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak or a powerful one too powerful.

Survival in Auschwitz

Primo Levi embraces the modern insight that we are all strangers and that we commence thinking about others from the standpoint of our own individuality. His political philosophy develops from the perspective of an outsider who becomes engulfed by Auschwitz and comes to understand both the fragility and importance of solidarity with others. The Holocaust reinforces the difference with others Levi felt when he was a youth studying for his degree in chemistry. Levi's return, after the Holocaust, to others is literally from an individuated state with the clear realization of his aloneness.

Adam Phillips grasps this modern temper when he writes, “Our life will be what we can make of feeling left out. That experience, which takes so many forms, is the raw material.”1 This is especially true for Levi, who believes

Phillips, Monogamy, 114.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Primo Levi and the Politics of Survival


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 278

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?