Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wednesday Verse

The Survivor
by Primo Levi

Once more he sees his companions' faces
Livid in the first faint light,
Gray with cement dust,
Nebulous in the mist,
Tinged with death in their uneasy sleep.
At night, under the heavy burden
Of their dreams, their jaws move,
Chewing a non-existant turnip.
'Stand back, leave me alone, submerged people,
Go away. I haven't dispossessed anyone,
Haven't usurped anyone's bread.
No one died in my place. No one.
Go back into your mist.
It's not my fault if I live and breathe,
Eat, drink, sleep and put on clothes.'


  1. It is heartbreaking to read the about the guilt that some of the Holocaust survivors must endure. Here in The Netherlands we celebrate 04 May "Dodenherdenking". Het is a time to reflect about all who have lost their lives in WWII. My book this week is about a one of the very brave Dutch people who serverd in the resistance. The book isn't translated into English so I will read it in Dutch: Volg het Spoor Terug by J.B Charles (nom de plume) W.H. Nagel ( 1910-1983)

    1. Yes, and Primo Levi was particularly eloquent on survivor guilt. He's a favorite author of mine; his The Periodic Table is absolutely wonderful.

      I saw the Dutch title on your blog but didn't realize the subject matter. Have you read The Assault by Harry Mulisch? It's on my list for the Classics Club.

    2. Yes, I did read The Assault. It was very good. After reading 900 pages of C McCullough I think it is time for some perceptive and intelligent writing. I will put The Periodic Table by P Levi on my list. I'll let you know how I liked it.

  2. Beautiful poem. Should be read alongside, I think, If This Is A Man (the poem, not the book).

    Agreed on the beauty of The Periodic Table. It's a brilliant book. Levi's versatility is quite something - to write If This Is A Man, The Periodic Table, The Wrench and The Truce - all so very different from each other - is surely a mark of great genius.

    1. I think I may have read that poem, too. Yes I have (just googled it). The lines

      Her eyes empty and her womb cold
      Like a frog in winter.

      have always stuck with me. Makes my heart ache.

  3. I know what you mean. I think The Canto of Ulysses in the book, If This Is A Man, is the most shattering piece of prose I've ever read.