Primo Levi Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 45 quotes)
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.
We who survived the Camps are not true witnesses. This is an uncomfortable notion which I have gradually come to accept by reading what other survivors have written, including myself, when I re-read my writings after a lapse of years. We, the survivors, are not only a tiny but also an anomalous minority. We are those who, through prevarication, skill or luck, never touched bottom. Those who have, and who have seen the face of the Gorgon, did not return, or returned wordless.
...the sea's only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now, I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head...
You who live safe. In your warm houses, You who find warm food. And friendly faces when you return home. Consider if this is a man. Who works in mud, Who knows no peace, Who fights for a crust of bread, Who dies by a yes or no. Consider if this is a woman. Without hair, without name, Without the strength to remember, Empty are her eyes, cold her womb, Like a frog in winter. Never forget that this has happened. Remember these words. Engrave them in your hearts, When at home or in the street, When lying down, when getting up. Repeat them to your children. Or may your houses be destroyed, May illness strike you down, May your offspring turn their faces from you.
He was a physicist, more precisely an astrophysicist, diligent and eager but without illusions: the Truth lay beyond, inaccessible to our telescopes, accessible to the initiates. This was a long road which he was traveling with effort, wonderment, and profound joy. Physics was prose: elegant gymnastics for the mind, mirror of Creation, the key to man's dominion over the planet; but what is the stature of Creation, of man and the planet? His road was long and he had barely started up it, but I was his disciple: did I want to follow him?
This is the most immediate fruit of exile, of uprooting: the prevalence of the unreal over the real. Everyone dreamed past and future dreams, of slavery and redemption, of improbable paradises, of equally mythical and improbable enemies; cosmic enemies, perverse and subtle, who pervade everything like the air.
I see and hear old Kuhn praying aloud, with his beret on his head, swaying backwards and forwards violently. Kuhn is thanking God because he has not been chosen. Kuhn is out of his senses. Does he not see Beppo the Greek in the bunk next to him, Beppo who is twenty years old and is going to the gas chamber the day after tomorrow and knows it and lies there looking fixedly at the light without saying anything and without even thinking any more? Can Kuhn fail to realize that next time it will be his turn? Does Kuhn not understand that what has happened today is an abomination, which no propitiatory prayer, no pardon, no expiation by the guilty, which nothing at all in the power of man can ever clean again? If I was God, I would spit at Kuhn's prayer
It was the shame we knew so well, the shame that drowned us after the selections, and every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame that the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man's crime; the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have availed in defense.
One of them declared: 'Doing this work, one either goes crazy the first day or gets accustomed to it.' Another, though: 'Certainly I could have killed myself or got myself killed; but I wanted to survive, to avenge myself and bear witness. You mustn't think that we are monsters; we are the same as you, only much more unhappy.
Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.
The future of humanity is uncertain, even in the most prosperous countries, and the quality of life deteriorates; and yet I believe that what is being discovered about the infinitely large and infinitely small is sufficient to absolve this end of the century and millennium. What a very few are acquiring in knowledge of the physical world will perhaps cause this period not to be judged as a pure return of barbarism.
But Gedalah had something in mind. He sent four men to collect a dozen pumpkins, and he had them set in the pylons that supported the overhead power line that ran the train, one pumpkin to each pylon. “What are they for?” Mendel asked. “Nothing,” Gedaleh said. “They’re there to make the Germans wonder why they’re there. We’ve wasted maybe two minutes; they’re methodical, they’ll waste a lot more.
There are people who wring their hands and call it an abyss, but do nothing to fill it; there are also those who work to widen it, as if the scientist and literary man belong to two different human subspecies, reciprocally incomprehensible, fated to ignore each other and not apt to engage in cross-fertilization.
In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities of impurities in the soil, too, as is known, if it is to be fertile. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are needed: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that's why you're not a Fascist; it wants everybody to be the same, and you are not. But immaculate virtue does not exist either, or if it exists it is detestable.