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The Periodic Table (1975)

by Primo LEVI

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,986692,988 (4.16)166
Scientist, resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi was one of Italy's greatest writers and an internationally renowned chronicler of human nature. In his masterpiece The Periodic Table, he charts his incredible life story through the medium of chemistry, using the titular list of elements - the building blocks of everything - as a prism to explore his experiences and search his soul. In this superlative BBC adaptation, all 21 of the peerless stories in Levi's memoir are incorporated into 11 radio episodes, comprising both compelling dramatisations (starring Henry Goodman as the older Primo and Akbar Kurtha as his younger self) and eloquent readings by Paul Copley, Ben Crowe, Evie Killip and Henry Goodman. The chapters are preceded by a short introductory feature by Janet Suzman, discussing Levi's life and writing and featuring archive interviews with Levi himself. We hear of Levi's student days in Fascist Italy, his battles as a partisan, his imprisonment in Auschwitz, his subsequent career as a professional chemist, and his imagined meeting with his Piedmontese ancestors - as well as his job in a paint factory in the 1960s and an unsettling encounter with his past. Alongside these autobiographical meditations are fabulous fictional tales of a European prospector, a little girl enchanted by white paint, an 1820s captain living on a remote island with strange chemical properties, and the incredible, centuries-long journey of a single carbon atom... Named 'the best science book ever' by the Royal Institution of Great Britain, this astonishing compilation fuses autobiography and fantasy, science and emotion, to extraordinary effect. Vivid, powerful and breathtaking, it will surprise, amuse and move you, lingering in your imagination and changing the way you look at the world.… (more)
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» See also 166 mentions

English (53)  Italian (5)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (69)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Has anything ever been written like the carbon chapter? An amazing book. ( )
  dhenn31 | Jan 24, 2024 |
A unique and original approach to revisiting a life. The author, a chemist by training, is an Italian Jew who came of age in the late 1930's and early 1940's and lived through internment in the Nazi concentration camps. He has used the characteristics of a number of elements from the periodic table to reflect on people and events in his life. Most vignettes are nonfiction and autobiographical, but several entries are very clever fiction. While an interest in and some knowledge of science is useful, the book is quite accessible without it. The chapters entitled Iron, Lead, and Carbon were my favorites. ( )
  jemisonreads | Jan 22, 2024 |
Not an easy book to read. An important one. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 5, 2023 |
I've read a number of other reviewers on Goodreads and I can't add anything unique. There are many people who write far better than I and who express how this book affected them. Search them out and read their reviews.

Levi had an incredible ability to put his experiences in the form of essays on chemical elements. ( )
  alan_chem | Feb 28, 2023 |
read this a bit ago and forgot to add it lol ( )
  sn_fk_n | May 15, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
LEVI, Primoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ascherson, NealIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
BUFFA, AiraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Matteis-Vogels, FridaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riu, XavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, RaymondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roth, PhilipIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There are the so-called inert gases in the air we breathe.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Scientist, resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi was one of Italy's greatest writers and an internationally renowned chronicler of human nature. In his masterpiece The Periodic Table, he charts his incredible life story through the medium of chemistry, using the titular list of elements - the building blocks of everything - as a prism to explore his experiences and search his soul. In this superlative BBC adaptation, all 21 of the peerless stories in Levi's memoir are incorporated into 11 radio episodes, comprising both compelling dramatisations (starring Henry Goodman as the older Primo and Akbar Kurtha as his younger self) and eloquent readings by Paul Copley, Ben Crowe, Evie Killip and Henry Goodman. The chapters are preceded by a short introductory feature by Janet Suzman, discussing Levi's life and writing and featuring archive interviews with Levi himself. We hear of Levi's student days in Fascist Italy, his battles as a partisan, his imprisonment in Auschwitz, his subsequent career as a professional chemist, and his imagined meeting with his Piedmontese ancestors - as well as his job in a paint factory in the 1960s and an unsettling encounter with his past. Alongside these autobiographical meditations are fabulous fictional tales of a European prospector, a little girl enchanted by white paint, an 1820s captain living on a remote island with strange chemical properties, and the incredible, centuries-long journey of a single carbon atom... Named 'the best science book ever' by the Royal Institution of Great Britain, this astonishing compilation fuses autobiography and fantasy, science and emotion, to extraordinary effect. Vivid, powerful and breathtaking, it will surprise, amuse and move you, lingering in your imagination and changing the way you look at the world.

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Azoto, carbonio, idrogeno, oro, arsenico... Sono ventuno gli elementi chimici che dànno il titolo ai racconti di questo libro, e ventuno i capitoli di un'autobiografia che per affinità e accostamenti corre sul filo di una storia personale e collettiva, affondando le radici nell'oscura qualità della materia, raccontando le storie di un mestiere «che è poi un caso particolare, una versione piú strenua del mestiere di vivere». È questo il gigantesco minuscolo gioco che lega osservazione, memoria, scrittura: ne esce ricostruita la vicenda di una formazione maturata negli anni del fascismo, poi nelle drammatiche vicende della guerra: di chi, partendo dalla concretezza del lavoro, impara a capire le cose e gli uomini, a prendere posizione, a misurarsi con ironia e autoironia. Un De rerum natura metafora dell'esistenza, in cui emergono, nel volgersi del racconto, stranezze, fallimenti e riuscite imprevedibili.
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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185147, 0141399449, 0241956811

 

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