Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top ten memoirs and autobiographies

Eve Claxton studied English and American Literature at Manchester University before moving to New York in 1995. She is the author of two guidebooks to New York, and the editor of The World’s Best Memoir Writing.

In 2006 she named her top ten memoirs and autobiographies for the Guardian.

One title on the list:
If This Is A Man (US title: Survival in Auschwitz) by Primo Levi (1947)

This is Levi's legendary account of his year in Auschwitz when he was 25 years old. The book first appeared in 1947 and it remains the most profoundly civilised description of profoundly uncivilised events. What's so extraordinary is Levi's tone, which is never one of simple outrage, but instead springs from a kind of principled curiosity; the astonishment of the scientist confronted with wholly foreign phenomena. "How is this possible?" Levi seems to be always asking us. If This Is A Man can make for extremely disconcerting reading, not only because of the systematic cruelty of the Nazis it describes, but because Levi doesn't let you dismiss the Holocaust as the work of monsters. This was the work of men.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Survival in Auschwitz is on Gail Caldwell's list of five groundbreaking memoirs.

--Marshal Zeringue

No comments: