Primo Michele Levi (July 31, 1919 – April 11, 1987) was an Italian Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of several books, novels, collections of short stories, essays, and poems. His best-known works include If This Is a Man (1947) (U.S.: Survival in Auschwitz), his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland; and his unique work, The Periodic Table (1975), linked to qualities of the elements, which the Royal Institution of Great Britain named the best science book ever written. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.
An enemy who sees the error of his ways ceases to be an enemy.
Anyone who has obeyed nature by transmitting a piece of gossip experiences the explosive relief that accompanies the satisfying of a primary need.
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.
For he who loses all often easily loses himself.
Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument. The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or even increase by incorporating extraneous features.
I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.
I think that if for no other reason than that an Auschwitz existed, no one in our age should speak of Providence.
It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow, could overwhelm us and our children.
It is the duty of righteous men to make war on all undeserved privilege, but one must not forget that this is a war without end.
Logic and morality made it impossible to accept an illogical and immoral reality; they engendered a rejection of reality which as a rule led the cultivated man rapidly to despair.
Man is a centaur, a tangle of flesh and mind, divine inspiration and dust.
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.
Our ignorance allowed us to live, as you are in the mountains, and your rope is frayed and about to break, but you don't know it and feel safe.
Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live.
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 aims of life are the best defense against death.
The sea of grief has no shores, no bottom; no one can sound its depths.
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.
Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.
To destroy a man is difficult, almost as difficult as to create one.
(July 31 is also the birthday of Milton Friedman.)