Primo Levi Quotes

The future has an ancient heart.

We are all sons of Auschwitz.

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

I do not believe in collective guilt. I do not believe in collective guilt, because it would mean renouncing one’s freedom.

Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument.

We must bear witness.

Life is not a miracle. It is a mutual compromise between you and your circumstances.

We cannot understand but we can, and must, believe.

If not now, when?

There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God.

Nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower.

It is truly terrible to see, in the dusk of the twentieth century, that two thousand years after Jesus Christ, hatred and the idolatry of hatred are socializing again.

In moments of crisis, only imagination is more important than knowledge.

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

The aims of life are the best defense against death.

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.

The future is uncertain, but the end is always near.

A country is considered the 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.

In the kingdom of impostors, the man without arms is king.

You who live safe In your warm houses, You who find, returning in the evening, Hot food and friendly faces: Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud, Who does not know peace, Who fights for a scrap of bread, Who dies because of a yes or a no.

Violence is not a creative force, with exception, perhaps, of that living violence, the flame.

In happiness, after all, the condition of man is not unlike the child’s: we see him, at the instant of his birth, in bliss and unaware of it.

If we become increasingly humble about how little we know, we may be more eager to search.

I think that books and people go together. There are no good or bad books of any kind, whatsoever. Some are given, others are lent, some alight with their readers.

No human being is to be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and slave-trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

A mouse, once upon a time, was caught in the web of a spider. The spider appeared and said: ‘I want to eat you.’ ‘Eat me? Have mercy upon me! I am an animal who did you no harm ever! Please forgive me!’ ‘Very well, I will spare you. But then you will have to tell me who is it that put you on the earth, and in what place.’ ‘Very well, you see, mamma mouse put me on the earth, and she put me behind the pots. Then, I sauntered off by myself, and came here.’

Fragments of a life. Were they stopped in the air, 50 years ago and more?

It seems certain that our generation, that believed deeply and profoundly in the truth of progress, is unable to conceive any more that its own progress may be vitiated by the possessive instinct, much less that it could, as its limit, produce only destruction, horror and pain.

We live by deceptions. We lie to ourselves about ourselves.

Science fiction like mine, If Not Now, When? was a political and game-changing awareness for me – a way to express my despair and my fear of the future.

The history of Auschwitz, which is at the same time the history of Levi himself.

The butterfly’s attractiveness derives not only from colors and symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it.

Everything can go to the dogs, Bastards win, Times are hard, nothing will ever change: bitter recrimination against everything is the most futile of attitudes.

There is one way each of us can honor Levi’s memory: by remembering his words and continuing to bear witness.

Culture and civilization can succumb, and have often succumbed, to a load there is no way of discharging; culture and civilization have been corrupted by all the martyrs’ humus that they have buried in themselves.

Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.

Bombed, destroyed, but always rebuilt, it forced itself into the light, regenerated after every death.

God chose Auschwitz as His negative revelation. His hiddenness is after the concentration camps.

There are moments when, however sincere our intentions, we are unable to fulfill the promises we have made to ourselves. Our life is an uncertain voyage, where there is often not even a suggested course.

It seems sometimes that man’s quest for progress and the designs of his hands are everywhere matched by some claims of the human heart and intelligence that refuse to be overcome.

I was a happy boy, like any other, growing up in a reasonably ordered world.

Toward evening, in a place where the wounded were brought to be transferred to a hospital, and where they awaited the ambulance, being crowded, packed together, nobody knew how long, under a porch. The place was, say, 100 meters long and huts on both sides. And in the midst of that agglomeration of human beings, there were two toilets. And I saw two men through much jostling, start off toward the toilets. And with three strokes of the cane, unpremeditated as always, I sped them on their way. It wasn’t a special occasion. It’s only now that I’ve invented an appropriate explanation: to break the monotony of that waiting.

I wish for everyone to have the right to die The Right to choose where and when it should end; and from the moment that death occurs in a dignified manner, to receive from others, finally, the respect one was denied during ones life.

What has become of a man’s smile, even for his friends, when he is himself possessed? I had completely forgotten, for all the years of my youth and at the camp, what a laugh is.

And pith, in such a context, can only acquire its truth slowly, through a process of elimination, dating to helps establish the date of the object, above all in the realm of oral and written tradition and customs.”

Work is not a social category. It is a human need, just as water is a human need.

One day, walking along via Grimaldi in Turin, I saw people standing in line to buy something in a dark and musty shop. They were standing in line to buy pain, something which I, as a Jew, received for free at school, for breakfast and for lunch. And I was very close to some of the may people queuing to buy bread, eggs and so on.

It is easier to kill than explain.

Legbiter man, you chase my best hour. You chase away my strength, my cheerfulness. You make the playground not amusing. Legbiter man, you intimidate me.

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