Today is the centenary of Primo Levi’s birth, and I wanted to share a short extract from a short essay tucked away in volume 2 of the Complete Works.

Unknown (Mondadori Publishers) [Public domain] – via Wikimedia Commons

The Nazi massacre bears the mark of folly, but also another mark. It is the mark of the inhuman, of human solidarity negated, forbidden, shattered; of slave-like exploitation, of the shameless establishment of the law of the strongest, smuggled in under the banner of order. It’s the mark of bullying, the mark of fascism. It’s the realization of an insane dream, in which one person rules, no one thinks anymore, everyone always stays in line, everyone obeys to the death, everyone always says yes.

The essay is called “Monument at Auschwitz”; it was published in La Stampa on 18th July, 1959. Like everything Levi has to say, it’s profound and moving; and frighteningly enough still relevant today. I’d like to think, on a day when I’m remembering a great writer who bore witness to his times, that humanity had progressed from the horrors of the 20th century – but alas, I’m not convinced we have…