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The Periodic Table

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

This award winning Holocaust memoir is "a work of healing, of tranquil, even buoyant imagination."--New York Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“I immersed myself in The Periodic Table gladly and gratefully. There is nothing superfluous here, everything this book contains is essential. It is wonderful pure, and beautifully translated…I was deeply impressed.” –Saul Bellow

“The best introduction to the psychological world of one of the most important and gifted writers of our time.”–Italo Calvino

“A work of healing, of tranquil, even buoyant imagination.” –The New York Times Book Review

“Brilliant, grave and oddly sunny; certainly a masterpiece.” –Los Angeles Times

“Every chapter is full of surprises, insights, high humor, and language that often rises to poetry.” –The New Yorker

“One of the most important Italian writers.” –Umberto Eco

With a new Introduction by Neal Ascherson

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This curious memoir by an Italian Jew who came of age under Mussolini is organized by the periodic table of the elementschapter titles range from Argon to Zinc. Levi portrays himself as a young, aspiring chemist eager to fathom nature's secrets. The sections describing his ordeal in a detention camp, awaiting deportation to Auschwitz, are the most vivid. PW called this an ``odd, haunting book.'' (March)
Charles McGrath
....[A] wealth of wisdom about human relationships and values and the beauty of the world. -- The New York Times Books of the Century
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805210415
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 159,174
  • Lexile: 1230L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Scientific Discovery

    "Troubles overcome are good to tell."
    -Yiddish Proverb

    The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi, is about a Jewish chemist, who was hired by a German lieutenant during World War II. Each chapter of the book is titled after an element from the Periodic Table, which is important to that chapter. The Periodic Table is a collection of memoirs and short stories. Overall, the book is a series of important events that influenced his life, and his career as a chemist. For example, Nickel, a chapter in the book, is about the time he tried to find nickel deposits in a mine. Nickel starts out by him getting hired by the lieutenant. "That I was a Jew the lieutenant apparently knew (in any event, my last name left little room for doubt) but it didn't seem to matter to him." The lieutenant asked him to find Nickel in an old mine he bought. While working in the mine, Primo Levi uses many different methods to try and separate the Nickel from other elements attached to it.

    I thought that this book was OK, I found some parts dull, but some parts good. Although, I thought that some chapters had a lot of unnecessary detail, and moved slowly, I really liked the two short stories that Primo Levi wrote, and inserted into the book, Lead and Mercury. For example, the very first chapter, Argon, was mainly full of Italian translations, ".the attribute barba ('uncle'), or, respectively, manga ('aunt')." pg. 6. These translations aren't used anywhere else in the book, so it's unnecessary information.

    The Periodic Table is the last of his three memoirs to come out, (If Not Now When, and The Drowned and The Saved are his older works), and though The New Yorker says, "Every chapter is full of surprises, insights, high humor, and language that often rises to poetry," I disagree. I wouldn't recommend this book for other Middle School kids, but I'm sure that this book would be good for some, like those who are interested in chemistry, and science in general.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2000

    WOWZA!!

    I thought this book was great. It helped me with my research if I had to rate it. It wouldnt be a five it would be a <O> star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star star (get the PIC)I love science and People like Primo Leva rule (Yeah BAby)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2000

    Humane quest

    The Periodic Table caught me, as my favorite books always have, after thinking 'what's all this?' for the first few pages. Each chapter stands alone as a short story. A young man turns to science to make sense of life, hoping to answer the impossible question. Levi's gentle voice leads me into a world I couldn't otherwise understand.

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