I finished part 2 of this book yesterday. The first part was named If this is a Man.
Levi has survived Auschwitz, but now the rest of his journey stands before him. He has to make his way home to Italy and as a surviving prisoner, he can travel with the help of local authorities. In this case, that means whoever is in military charge of the soil he finds his feet on. In post-war Europe, this is a tiresome task which includes many detours due to the destructions of the war. Levi suffers through more hunger and pain, but at the end of the journey lies Italy, his homeland.
I found this book to be slower than the other one even though I have never read an account from a Holocaust survivor that includes a journey through post-war Europe. I think I found it to be slower because you at several points during the story wonder if Levi is ever going to arrive home. For example, for several months he is at a camp named Katowice in Poland where the Russians are in command. He makes several friends in this camp and many strange things happen. In this setting of Katowice Levi describes ways of acquiring food, doctor services, and other privileges. Some of the situations he describes seem utterly absurd to me, but I’ve never lived in early post-war Europe. This is one of the reasons I like the book, these strange situations he describes from his daily life. Since he purely tells the story from his point of view with his own experiences, this makes for a interesting historical perspective. At the same time, I feel that these are the situations that make the book slower. I knew when I started to read this book, that it wasn’t going to be full of action but at the same time, there is a limit to how slow a book can be, even though it is a true account of events before I fall asleep or doze off. Looking at The Truce through my historical glasses I find myself much more enlightened on the topic of Holocaust survivors and their journey home after the liberation of Auschwitz. Levi’s story is only one of many, but a lot of people were in the same shoes with similar destinies, and he presents a clear and coherent representation of his journey.
On this note, I think I’ll end with a quote from the end of the book for us all to think about. It is just as relevant today as it was then; 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 act without asking questions.
Genre: Historical novel
Theme: Post-war Europe, survival, journey
– The Book Reader