Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amazon review of the week

Often after I read a very good book, I like to see other opinions. This old review (in its entirety) of "If This is a Man" ("Survival in Auschwitz") caught my eye:
I have read many Holocaust biographies and autobiographies and this one was by far the worst one i have read. I could not finish the book, it was so uninteresting. i felt no connection with the author and narrator and I felt like he was making his experiences up. If you want a good book on the Holocaust try Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman. It shows a true hero of the Holocaust is one of the best and most amazing books I have ever read.
After I had the gall and the audacity to compare this exact book to "Night", I should not mind another reviewer finding a different memoir to compare to. However, "Alicia: My Story" tells a completely different survival tale and much in the same way that I felt Anne Frank's diary cannot be used in a comparison, I feel perhaps Appleman-Jurman's account should not come up against Levi's. Still, even as I disagree with the reviewer's opinion (and face a few twinges of annoyance at the implication that Levi's story is made up), once again I must respect this dissenting view and appreciate the interesting points it raises.


  1. The notion of comparing Holocaust memoirs with each other seems to be a sort of dicey territory to start with, doesn't it? I mean, these are all peoples' own horrific experiences presented in the way they were able to/wanted to present them, therefore I think I would have a hard time saying about any Holocaust memoir that it was the "worst" I'd ever read despite the fact that I too have read many. Just because Holocaust memoirs exist as a sort of genre based on a "shared" experience certainly doesn't make them automatically comparable.

    That said, I did find your comparison of Night and If This is a Man to be really interesting but more in the way you considered why one seems to get more attention over the other and the conclusion you ultimately reached. Perhaps Night is more approachable for a general audience based simply on the way that it is written, but I'm sure that both have much to offer in a large body of Holocaust history.

  2. Saying that someone "made up" their Holocaust experiences is a vicious form of slander. not that frauds don't happen- see "angel girl"- but let's get real. refusing to accept what happened to people is just a few steps away from denying it altogether.

  3. Some interesting thoughts here - reading Amazon reviews is often a depressing experience and makes you wonder how any book sells, so misunderstood and misinterpreted are the authors.


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