“These are pages that one reads with almost physical pain...all the way to its stoic conclusion.”
— Primo Levi
At the Mind’s Limits is the story of one man’s incredible struggle to understand the reality of horror. In five autobiographical essays Améry describes his survivalmental, moral, and physicalsurvival through the enormity of the Holocaust. Above all, this masterful record of introspection tells of a young Viennese intellectual’s fervent vision of human nature and the betrayal of that vision.
Améry depicts the futile attempts of the intellect to cope with the overwhelming realities of Auschwitz. His torture is perceived as a reduction of self to the purely physical, with an accompanying loss of faith in the world. He struggles to come to terms with exile from his homeland as well as his feelings upon returning to the country of his persecutors. Finally, Améry, once the completely peripheral Jew, explains how complete acceptance of his Jewish identity, as compelled by his experience in Auschwitz, is the only way in which he can regain human dignity. From the book cover.
“The testimony of a profoundly serious man....In its every turn and crease, it bears the marks of the true.”
— Irving Howe, New Republic
“This remarkable memoir...is the autobiography of an extraordinarily acute conscience. With the ear of a poet and the eye of a novelist, Améry vividly communicates the wonder of a philosophera wonder here aroused by the ‘dark riddle’ of the Nazi regime and its systematic sadism.”
— Jim Miller, Newsweek
“At the Mind’s Limits, Jean Améry completes everything that has been written on the subject. The book would make an ideal textbook for Jewish studies courses, philosophy studies and studies on the philosophy of recent history, for it shows what we can expect in the world we were born into after Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
— Arnošt Lustig, Professor of Literature, American University, Literature Today
Jean Améry was born in Vienna in 1912 and in 1938 emigrated to Belgium, where he joined the Resistance Movement after the beginning of the German occupation. He was caught by the Nazis in 1943, tortured by the SS, and survived the next two years in the concentration camps. Jean Améry was author of seven volumes of essays and two novels. He committed suicide in 1978.
Sidney Rosenfeld is Professor of German at Oberlin College. He and Stella P. Rosenfeld are co-translators of Radical Humanism, by Jean Améry, and Jewish Life in Germany, edited by Monika Richarz.