Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

The Periodic Table (original 1975; edition 1996)

by Primo Levi

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,573392,331 (4.15)118
Title:The Periodic Table
Authors:Primo Levi
Info:Everyman's Library (1996), Hardcover, 241 pages
Collections:Read but unowned, Read & released (inactive)
Tags:nonfiction, R04, released, memoir, translation, italy

Work details

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi (1975)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 118 mentions

English (33)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Primo libro di Levi, avvicinato perche' spaventato dal suo piu' famoso. Cosi', tanto per tentare l'approccio.

Il libro e' netto e inerte, come alcuni viali milanesi la mattina presto. Mi rimanda la noia della mediocrità, del caffelatte, dei cappotti lisi.
Ma nonostante questo, in quei giorni nebbiosi e grigi, c'e' un uomo che ha visto cose che noi mortali ce le sogniamo solo nei nostri peggiori incubi e che conduce una vita banale, di lavoratore in una fabbrica, e cerca di espellere sostanze da vernici raggrumate, e registra le sue attivita' con correttezza e imparzialita'.
E' questa distanza apparente dalle emozioni della lingua scritta che piu' di altre cose mi colpisce. L'Uomo ha sofferto, e' stato distante, e' stato allontanato, ha strappato la sua vita futura nei posti più lontani da Dio che la nostra civilta' serbi in memoria: e nonostante tutto non è ricco, e' famoso ma di una fama non appariscente, prende uno stipendio e probabilmente accantona una liquidazione, nel suo quotidiano svolge una attivita' che gia' al suo nominarsi fa arretrare.
Eppure attraverso quegli occhi sono passate immagini indicibili; attraverso quelle orecchie e quella pelle sono trasmigrati suoni e climi non di questa terra. Quell'uomo ha visto un inferno e parla di vanadio, oro e carbonio.
Ancora non mi capacito, e leggo affascinato le sue storie sull'autobus. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
21 chapters, each with the title of an element of the periodic table. As he says in the final chapter, 'this is not a chemical treatise'. He tells us about his life using the element as a metaphor for that period. The early chapters when we learn how he became interested in chemistry are interesting. These chapters have the energy and optimism of youth, although they were written in his old age. I found the information and the stories in these early chapters engaging and interesting. The chapter Cerium is the only one from his time in Auschwitz, that is covered thoroughly in 'If I was a Man', although there is an unexpected encounter with this time again in Vanadium, when he comes across a German officer he met in Auschwitz. The Silver chapter had me enthralled, what could be causing the problem with the x-ray paper, he is an excellent story teller. In Phosphorus in 1942 we feel the war, we are also wrapped up in chemical analysis to find an injection to cure diabetes but we are also thinking about love and what might have been. The stories unfold chronologically but also stand alone and some I enjoyed more than others. ( )
  Tifi | Jul 11, 2014 |
In three haunting reflections, Primo Levi, a chemist by training, takes
the elements of the periodic table as his inspiration. He ranges from
young love to political savagery; from the inert gas argon - and 'inert' relatives
like the uncle who stayed in bed for twenty-two years- to life- giving carbon. 'Iron'
honours the mountain -climbing resistance hero who put iron in Levi's student soul,
'Cerium' recalls the improvised cigarette lighters which saved his life in Auschwitz, while
'Vanadium' describes an eerie post-war correspondence with the man who had been his
'boss' there.
All are written with characteristically understated eloquence and shot through with deep humanity.
  TIISHARED | Jun 23, 2014 |
An exceptionally wise and thoughtful book. Levi's stories, inspired by the elements, offer a mix of history, anecdote and autobiography. The walls of the concentration camp close in and the survival instinct kicks in - chemistry as tool for the hustle and scramble of survival. The stories come full circle with the tale of the most basic element of all, the essential for life, the element that lies within us and around us, that makes up the brain that thinks and the fingers that write. Essential humanity is, it appears, a matter of chemistry - no more, no less.
  otterley | Mar 24, 2014 |
This is a quirky book by an Italian survivor of Auschwitz. Rated as one of the best science books ever written, I found it worked better when viewed as a memoir. Levi had written elsewhere of his war experiences, and the awful events he faced during WW2 form more of a background here. He uses various elements from the periodic table to serve as triggers/themes for a collection of stories about his life as a chemistry student and professional. Wonderfully understated, the result works. I feel I now know a little bit of the man, and of his working life as an industrial chemist. The edition I read had an introductory chapter by Philip Roth which helped by giving me background I would have otherwise lacked. Read March 2014. ( )
  mbmackay | Mar 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Primo Leviprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Riu, XavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, RaymondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Ibergekumene zoress is gut zu derzajln.
Überstandene Leiden lassen sich gut erzählen.
First words
There are the so-called inert gases in the air we breathe.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805210415, Paperback)

Writer Primo Levi (1919-1987), an Italian Jew, did not come to the wide attention of the English-reading audience until the last years of his life. A survivor of the Holocaust and imprisonment in Auschwitz, Levi is considered to be one of the century's most compelling voices, and The Periodic Table is his most famous book. Springboarding from his training as a chemist, Levi uses the elements as metaphors to create a cycle of linked, somewhat autobiographical tales, including stories of the Piedmontese Jewish community he came from, and of his response to the Holocaust.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

One of Italy's leading men of letters, a chemist by profession, writes about incidents in his life in which one or another of the elements figured in such a way as to become a personal preoccupation.

(summary from another edition)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
161 wanted3 pay1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.15)
0.5 1
1 2
1.5 1
2 9
2.5 8
3 52
3.5 20
4 174
4.5 35
5 156


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185147, 0141399449, 0241956811

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,884,570 books! | Top bar: Always visible