The Truce (Italian: La tregua), titled The Reawakening in the US,[1] is a book by the Italian author Primo Levi. It is the sequel to If This Is a Man and describes the author’s experiences from the liberation of Auschwitz (Monowitz), which was a concentration camp, until he reaches home in Turin, Italy, after a long journey. He describes the situation in different displaced persons camps after the Second World War.

The Truce recounts Primo Levi’s journey after being liberated from Auschwitz. It follows on from If This Is a Man. I have read and watched a lot about World War II, but I had never really thought about what happens afterwards, especially with the divide between the Russians and the Americans. I wonder if one of the differences with something like Erich Maria Remarque’s The Road Back is that there was possibly more movement in World War II? It also made me wonder if Waiting for Godot and Rainbow’s Gravity are not as absurd as they seem?


 So for us even the hour of liberty rang out grave and muffled, and filled our souls with joy and yet with a painful sense of pudency, so that we should have liked to wash our consciences and our memories clean from the foulness that lay upon them; and also with anguish, because we felt that this should never happen, that now nothing could ever happen good and pure enough to rub out our past, and that the scars of the outrage would remain within us for ever, and in the memories of those who saw it, and in the places where it occurred and in the stories that we should tell of it. Because, and this is the awful privilege of our generation and of my people, no one better than us has ever been able to grasp the incurable nature of the offence, that spreads like a contagion. It is foolish to think that human justice can eradicate it. It is an inexhaustible fount of evil; it breaks the body and the spirit of the submerged, it stifles them and renders them abject; it returns as ignominy upon the oppressors, it perpetuates itself as hatred among the survivors, and swarms around in a thousand ways, against the very will of all, as a thirst for revenge, as a moral capitulation, as denial, as weariness, as renunciation.

The market of Cracow had blossomed out spontaneously, as soon as the front had passed by, and in a few days it had invaded an entire suburb. Everything was bought and sold there, and the whole city centred on it; townsfolk were selling furniture, books, paintings, clothes and silver; peasant women, padded

He explained to me that to be without shoes is a very serious fault. When war is waging, one has to think of two things before all others : in the first place of one’s shoes, in the second place of food to eat; and not vice versa, as the common herd believes, because he who has shoes can search for food, but the inverse is not true. ‘But the war is over,’ I objected : and I thought it was over, as did many in those months of truce, in a much more universal sense than one dares to think today. ‘There is always war,’ replied Mordo Nahum memorably.

I felt my sense of freedom, my sense of being a man among men, of being alive, like a warm tide ebb from me. I found myself suddenly old, lifeless, tired beyond human measure; the war was not over, there was always war. My listeners began to steal away; they must have understood. I had dreamed, we had always dreamed, of something like this, in the nights at Auschwitz: of speaking and not being listened to, of finding liberty and remaining alone.

They were months of idleness and relative comfort, and full, therefore, of penetrating nostalgia. Nostalgia is a fragile and tender anguish, basically different, more intimate, more human than the other pains we had endured till then – beatings, cold, hunger, terror, destitution, disease. Nostalgia is a limpid and lean pain, but demanding; it permeates every minute of the day, permits no other thoughts and induces a need for escape. 


Inga Clendinnan’s Reading the Holocaust is what the name suggests, a reading of the various texts produced about the Holocaust. This reading is divided into sections, including a discussion of impediments, accounts from witnesses, what it meant to resist, the grey zone of those Jewish people who helped, the leaders, the police and the SS. It involves explorations of various texts, including memoirs, photographs, documentaries, poems, novels and historical accounts. This is something akin to a literature review.

Throughout, Clendinnan addresses the dangers of treating the Holocaust as unique just because it stands so near in time.

Our sense of Holocaust uniqueness (and we do have that sense) resides in the fact that these ferocious, largely secret killings were perpetrated within ‘twentieth-century Western society’, and that both our sense of portent and of the peculiar intransigence of these actions before puny human interpretation find their ground in the knowledge that they were conceived, executed and endured by people very like ourselves.
It is not that this material stands too far from us. It stands too near.

The limits to compelling the silence to speak and giving voice to the voiceless.

While we can never be sure what lies behind silence, I will begin to map the silences behind the words we have by exploring the circumstances under which people might feel the compulsion to speak, but find themselves unable to do so: situations, that is, when words fail.

Writing to find peace, to mend, to resist.

Levi was to find both personal peace and a way back to society not through the social activity of talking but the private one of writing: ‘By writing I found peace for a while and felt myself become a man again, a person like everyone else, neither debased nor a saint: one of those people who form a family and look to the future rather than the past.’

The difficulty with making sense of motives of leaders.

Explaining is not excusing; understanding is not forgiving. The notion that one must simply reject the actions of the perpetrators and not try to understand them would make impossible not only my history but any perpetrator history that tried to go beyond one-dimensional caricature … I must recognise that in such a situation I could have been either a killer or an evader – both were human – if I want to understand and explain the behaviour of both the best I can.

The theatre of the camps, like Auschwitz.

The theatrical perspective helps expose understandings otherwise left implicit, and flush into light some of the sadistic impulses which lurk along the boundaries of consciousness. It can expose the determined ‘othering’ by the SS of their ‘enemies behind the wire’. It can take us a certain distance into even this action sequence – into what Olga Lengyel, who saw it, diagnosed as one of the ‘fits of destructive insanity’ she thought occasionally possessed the SS. But I do not believe it can take us to the heart of the scene described, or into the hearts of similar scenes scattered through the record.

The problems with trying to provide thick description of thin material.

Despite the most diligent research, the material remains too thin to allow a sufficiently detailed retrieval of actions to achieve ‘thick description’, save in one singular instance: the Hamburg Reserve Police Battalion’s first day of mass murder at the little Polish town of Jozefow. More damagingly, Goldhagen tends to confuse detailed external descriptions of actions (‘They did this, they did that’) with the ‘thick description’ which Geertz would have us aspire to, where the actors’ meanings are the quarry (‘She’d gone too far, so I hit her’).

The challenges in attempting to represent the Holocaust.

The most effective imagined evocations of the Holocaust seem to proceed either by invocation, the glancing reference to an existing bank of ideas, images and sentiments (‘Auschwitz’), or, perhaps more effectively, by indirection.

In the end, she ends with the claim as to why history writing, with its balance between telling and interpreting, provides the best means of telling the past.

Historians are the foot soldiers in the slow business of understanding our species better, and thereby extending the role of reason and humanity in human af¬ fairs. Humankind saw the face of the Gorgon in the concentration camps, petrifying the human by its denial of the human both in itself and in its prey. The shadow of the Holocaust has lengthened with the years. In that shadow, none of us is at home in the world, because now we know the fragility of our content. If we are to see the Gorgon sufficiently steadily to destroy it, we cannot afford to be blinded by reverence or abashed into silence or deflected into a search for reassur¬ ing myths. We must do more than register guilt, or grief, or anger, or disgust, because neither reverence for those who suffer nor revulsion from those who inflict the suffering will help us overcome its power to paralyse, and to see it clearly.


If This Is a Man (Italian: Se questo è un uomo [se kˈkwesto ˌɛ un ˈwɔːmo]; United States title: Survival in Auschwitz) is a memoir by Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi, first published in 1947. It describes his arrest as a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during the Second World War, and his incarceration in the Auschwitz concentration camp (Monowitz) from February 1944 until the camp was liberated on 27 January 1945.

If This Is a Man is Primo Levi’s memoir of how he survived the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. A trained chemist, Levi approaches the recount in a very factual manner. This methodical nature reads something like an absurd Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Whether it be only being transported later in the war, having the right skills required for work in the laboratory or falling sick at the right time, as Primo states at the beginning, chance played a significant part in Levi’s survival.

One of the strange things about the text is the trick of language that makes you feel that you could actually imagine what it was actually like. It has me wanting to go back to Inga Clendinnen’s Reading the Holocaust.


It is man who kills, man who creates or suffers injustice; it is no longer man who, having lost all restraint, shares his bed with a corpse. Whoever waits for his neighbour to die in order to take his piece of bread is, albeit guiltless, further from the model of thinking man than the most primitive pigmy or the most vicious sadist.

Replied to (

Let me ask you a question. Do you remember having water when you were a kid? You went out and fiddled around out in the world, but did you have a water bottle with you? You followed streams and went into the wild, but how long were you gone and did you have a water bottle with you?

Laura, that is a great question about water. I vaguely remember actually getting random drinks from taps on people’s front lawns, but I don’t remember carrying around a bottle much. I actually do not remember there being many public water bubblers, especially not like parks today in Australia. (Wonder if this is a global phenomenon?)

Associated with the water debate, I cannot remember drinking water or actually anything at all when I went to music festivals, like the Big Day Out.

I wrote a review of Sonya Hartnett’s The Ghost’s Child here.


She would have the memory of him, but the truth is that a memory is hardly ever good enough to console a heart.

But she longed for him to be happy, to be hers: so she would not open the prison of her heart to let him go. “I love you,” she told him, and this was true, and she knew that he believed her; but when she said it she saw the chain around his ankle, a length of links that let him wander, but not far. She did not see the chain around her own ankle, because love is blind.

Since the day by the pond Feather was always saying pretty things that were like bubbles of air, things she doubted and brushed away. His face darkened, however, and he said, “I should not have stayed. When I first met you, you had no cares. You shone with all the fabulous things you had seen, your world was wide and full of colours. Now there are shadows under your eyes, and you live in a lonely forest.”
“But I wanted you to stay.” She was willing to take the blame. “I trapped you into being with me, and threw away the key.”
Feather shook his fair head. “That’s silly, Maddy. There never was a trap, there never was a key. I stayed because I wanted to. How else could I have shown you that I loved you?”

Matilda sat back, tapping her heel. “I didn’t know much in those days,” she said. “I was just a girl. I’d always imagined that love was something which couldn’t be destroyed. I thought that, once conjured, love was towering and eternal. But wandering around the cottage alone, I began to suspect I was wrong. Maybe love was really a feeble, spineless thing, which easily forgets the thing it once adored. If that was true of ordinary love, then my love was different. My love was something colossal, my love was great. I wanted to stop loving Feather, but I simply could not. He had hurt me, he had deserted me, he had never tried – and he’d never wanted the fay. If Feather had ever loved me, it was only with that faulty, insipid love. And yet, despite all this, I missed him, and I longed for him to return. I was shackled with love, I was blighted by it; I was its victim, plagued to despair. But Feather, I imagined, was carefree somewhere, never giving me a thought. He’d got everything he wished for, and nothing he didn’t want. Me, though – I had nothing! A broken heart, that was all! And it wasn’t fair – it made me angry – eventually, it made me kick and punch and smash my way out of that awful white box.”

The islands used to float about, following the summer, until somebody realized that the islands should stand still. Because that’s what endless fulfilment is, isn’t it? That’s what forgetfulness is. Just stopping still. So the islands stopped floating, and now, on an Island of Stillness, everything is still.”
“How awful that sounds,” mused Maddy.
Zephyrus shrugged breezily. “You’d be surprised. Some people like things that way.”

Maddy drew a breath, rehearsed the words in her head, and asked, “How can you know love, and lose it, and go on living without it, and not feel the loss forever?”
“You can’t,” Feather answered. “You feel the loss forever. But you put it in a safe corner of yourself, and bit by bit some of your sorrow changes into joy. And that’s how you go on living.”

In the beginning, the blind ex-soldiers were reluctant to be treated by her. There was still something barbarous and odd about Maddy; and she was youthful, and not stern, and she wasn’t a man – in short, she was nothing a doctor should be.

Liked Is Martha Stewart’s turn on the cover of Sports Illustrated really about the male gaze, or is she chasing something else? (

When we get fit and put on good clothes, even sexy clothes, we’re hoping our girlfriends greet us with shrieks of delight at our well-toned arms and how well our jeans fit. Martha may have been on the cover of a men’s magazine, but almost all the discussion since her appearance has been by women.

Bookmarked Book Summary: The Order of Things: The Archaeology of the Human Sciences / Michel Foucault by Huzeyfe Kıran (Thinking Prismatically)

“One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area — European culture since the sixteenth century — one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledges prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities differences, characters, equivalences, words — in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same — only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility — without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises — were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea” (The Order of Things p.386-387).

I remember reading Michel Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge during university, but never got around to The Order of Things. Wondering about the crux of the book I stumbled upon this lengthy summary from Huzeyfe Kıran. I was left thinking about archeology in relation to my Honours thesis on psychoanalysis and the way in which what we talk about when we talk about psychoanalysis.

Who the f*** is Damian Cowell?

Damian Cowell wrote a song called “I Was The Guy in TISM”. So there’s that. There was no Damian Cowell in TISM, but one of the masked personas’ voice and those distinctive lyrics are pretty familiar.

Since 2004 Damian Cowell has formed 3 bands, released 8 albums, been a stand-up comedian, published a graphic novel, been commissioned by MONA, produced a 19-episode podcast and created a 19-episode animated series. Now he’s back to bring you some of the best bits.

What the f*** is Damian Cowell?

Damian Cowell is a compilation album celebrating his work in ROOT!, The DC3 and Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine, plus some new things. It features a new version of”Fuck I’m Dead”, his collaborations with Tony Martin, Shaun Micallef, Celia Pacquolaand, Ella Hooper plus previously unreleased versions of songs from his 2010 lost masterpiece “Surface Paradise”.

Why the f*** is Damian Cowell?

He started out wearing a mask and pretending to be someone else. Since then he’s hidden behind the security of 3 bands. Now he’s just Damian Cowell: the social satirist, the singer, the songwriter, the band, the brand.

Who the f*** are Damian Cowell?

Damian Cowell the band features some familiar faces, like Gordon Blake, Andy Hazel and Emily Jarrett, plus some new ones. Oh, and Damian Cowell will be there too. His old friend Tony Martin may also make an appearance. To celebrate the release of Damian Cowell the album, Damian Cowell the band are touring nationally, playing selections from across his career. And even a few from you know who.

Not sure what ‘Damian Cowell’ the album is, but I am a yes whoever or whatever Damian Cowell is. Kind of feels like Cowell’s own Eras-style tour.