What an amazing book! I was completely blown away by this one. The author got me hooked by page 2. His style is different from any author I have read before and he presented me with a whole new perspective.
The thing is I had absolutely no intention of reading a book about Primo Levi. I knew the Italian author had written “hard-core” books about surviving Auschwitz and I didn’t think I could deal with that. I do read about the Holocaust and have read many books about WWll but Levi scared me.
Then I read a very convincing article about Primo Levi and his books in the New Yorker Magazine. The book that caught my attention the most (it was highly praised) was one called ” The Periodic Table”. From what I understood the author (who was a chemist) used various elements as a tool to describe members of his family and other people in his life.
“AHA!” I thought and set out to look for the book. The library doesn’t carry it. “If Not Now, WHEN” was the only book by Levi in English they had. Since it was also mentioned favorably in the article I decided (gulp) to try it.
I’m so glad I did. It’s about people. I know that’s odd to say, most books are. But it’s about people on the move, partisans, refugees, soldiers, peasants, people of many nationalities, thrown into unexpected encounters because of the war. The perspective of a Jewish Partisan, coming from Russia and crossing parts of Poland, Germany and Italy is not one I have encountered before.
Most importantly. Levi did not overdo anything. He didn’t attempt to spoon feed the readers, particularly with gory details. One sentence can often be more powerful than supplying too many details. Levi managed to be engrossing while saying just enough.
I don’t want to say any more and spoil it for you. Just read it!