In this study of Primo Levi's If This is a Man (Se questo è un uomo), the author tries to give some sense of the historical and cultural context not just of Levi's book, but also of the events which gave rise to it, since it is to those events that Levi is directing us. For the same reason, suggestions for further reading mainly concentrate on history. While looking at some of the many literary influences on Levi's book, particularly that of Dante's Inferno, this book also places it in the literature of survivor accounts. The author has drawn widely on Levi's other writings, both because If This is a Man has to be seen as the beginning of a lifetime's endeavour, and because, in the absence of a definitive body of criticism, Levi remains the best explicator of his own work.
This book is intended both for the student of Italian and for the general reader. All quotations from If This is a Man and all verse quotations are given both in Italian and in English, while all other quotations from Italian texts are given in English.