Vladimir Zelenyi did not consider it heroic to have survived
the Revolution and its aftermath. Like other witnesses of the
demise of the Old Order, he lamented that the best
had perished and the worst had survived. But we who
have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him.
How could it be anything but heroic to have entered
Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it
with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even
equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify Zelenyi
into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer — survivor.
Paraphrases from the article “The Art of Witness: How Primo Levi Survived” by James Wood.