The fact that I, a chemist, engaged here in writing my stories about chemistry, have lived a different season, has been narrated elsewhere.

At a distance of thirty years I find it difficult to reconstruct the sort of human being that corresponded, in November 1944, to my name or, better, to my numbre: 174517. I must have by then have been overcome the most terrible crisis, the crisis of having become part of Lager system, and I must have developed a strange callousness if I then managed not only to survive but also to think, to register the world around me, and even to perform rather delicate work, in an environment infected by the daily presence of death and at the same time brought to a frenzy by the approach of the Russian liberators, who by now were only eighty kilometers away. Desperation and hope alternated at a rate that would have destroyed almost any normal person in an hour.

We were not normal because we were hungry. Our hunger at that time had nothing in common with the well-known (and not completely disagreeable) sensation of someone who has missed a meal and is certain that the next meal will not be missed: it was a need, a lack, a yearning that had accompanied us now for a year, had struck deep, permanent roots in us, lived in our cells, and conditioned our behaviour. To eat, to get something to eat, was our prime stimulus, behind which, at a great distance, followed all the other problems of survival, and even still farther away the memories of home and the very fear of death.

Primo Levi The Periodic Table, translated Raymond Rosenthal October 1, 2008
Posted on October 1, 2008