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The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

The Periodic Table (original 1975; edition 2000)

by Primo Levi, Raymond Rosenthal (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,151532,808 (4.15)148
The Periodic Table is largely a memoir of the years before and after Primo Levi's transportation from his native Italy to Auschwitz as an anti-Facist partisan and a Jew.   It recounts, in clear, precise, unfailingly beautiful prose, the story of the Piedmontese Jewish community from which Levi came, of his years as a student and young chemist at the inception of the Second World War, and of his investigations into the nature of the material world. As such, it provides crucial links and backgrounds, both personal and intellectual, in the tremendous project of remembrance that is Levi's gift to posterity. But far from being a prologue to his experience of the Holocaust, Levi's masterpiece represents his most impassioned response to the events that engulfed him.   The Periodic Table celebrates the pleasures of love and friendship and the search for meaning, and stands as a monument to those things in us that are capable of resisting and enduring in the face of tyranny.… (more)
Title:The Periodic Table
Authors:Primo Levi
Other authors:Raymond Rosenthal (Translator)
Info:Penguin Classics (2000), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Biography

Work details

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi (1975)


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» See also 148 mentions

English (44)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Do yourself a favor and skip the first chapter. It's a mostly boring, entirely disposable catalog of people and minor details without much narrative or depth. You won't be missing anything, and that way you might not put down what is an otherwise pleasant read. There are a couple slow or dry chapters, but overall the writing is comfortable and well enough done that it makes me want to read his other (more widely acclaimed) material. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
One of the better autobiographies I've read in a long time. Witty, funny, and very well written. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 15, 2018 |
  jperry13 | Aug 30, 2018 |
Fantastic book. I toyed with giving this book four stars because several chapters veered away from the first person tone of the Primo Levi narrator and into discomforting make-believe; and because the final chapter, "Carbon," was barely comprehensible--on the heels of the spectacular chapter "Iron." All told, the lucid writing, insights, character portraits, and chemistry lesson(!)--which, to my surprise, was enlightening ( I didn't like it as a subiect in high school)--were too good to give The Periodic Table any less than five stars. ( )
  copyedit52 | Aug 8, 2018 |
This was an intriguing book and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in. It ended up being well-written (more of a high literature formal style of writing) and very interesting. It took some concentration to read but I ended up liking it. My only complaint is that the story wanders quite a bit.

I listened to this on audiobook and Jason did a perfect job in reading it. He sounded exactly like I though Levi would sound and did a great job with all the different languages and accents in here. I would definitely recommend listening to this on audiobook if you listen to audiobooks.

This book is a collection stories with each one being named after a chemical element. Some how the element name ties into the story named after it. The stories jump between renditions of Levi’s life and stories that he has written throughout his life. Because of that, things jump around a bit and it can be a bit hard to remember if you are reading about Levi’s life or if you are in the middle of a story that he created about fictional characters.

My other complaint is that the first 40 minutes were really a drag; in this portion of the story Levi introduced a whole bunch of Jewish terminology and characters that have nothing to do with anything. It was awful to get through but I am glad I stuck with it because the rest of the book was very good.

Levi writes in a very intelligent way and has a humorous tone. He weaves his experience as a chemist into the events of his lifetime and it ends up being an intriguing look at both science and life of that era. I really enjoyed it and it brought back excellent memories of my college chemistry work. I could also easily relate to some of his later product troubleshooting stories.

Overall this was an intriguing, entertaining, and accessible memoire on science in the WWII era and one man’s journey through that time. I would recommend to those interested in the 1940’s and chemistry and how the two collided during that time. ( )
  krau0098 | Jul 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Levi, Primoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
De Matteis-Vogels, FridaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riu, XavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, RaymondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roth, PhillipIntroductionsecondary 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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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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