The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805210415
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/1995
Series: Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 138,852
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.91(h) x 0.62(d)
Lexile: 1230L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

PRIMO LEVI was born in Turin in 1919 to an Italian-Jewish family. Arrested as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance, he was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. After the war, Levi resumed his careers as a chemist and a writer in Turin until his untimely death in 1987. During his writing career, Levi won every distinguished prize in his native Italy. The Periodic Table, the first of his books to appear in America, was selected as one of the Best Books of 1985 by The New York Times Book Review.

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The Periodic Table 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ben_a on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A magnificent book.I just re-read this while on the train back from New York with my wife. but On the very last page, I found the note "York & 60th, Hospital Building, 8th Floor." This was the address of my wife's (then my girlfriend's) lab in New York 13 years ago. Evidently I first read it on the bus down to New York to see her right after college. (7.3.07)
Tpoi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most imaginitive ways of constructing a remembrance of history, biography and trauma. Levi, a Jewish-Italian chemical engineer who was sent to Auschwitz, uses the Periodic Table of Elements as frame and metaphoric language. It is so unique and thought-provoking, and completely bypasses my "I've read so much on the Holocaust that i can't really get hit with anything new, okay?" filter. I am curious to know how the word choices and language seem and feel in Italian which I can't read. In any case the translated text is good.
Stodelay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book as an undergrad in Provo. I remember after reading Survival in Auschwitz wanting to read everything I could find by Levi. I read this and wasn't initially wowed by it, but as time passed and I revisited the stories, my appreciation really grew. The book is structurally very clever, with several chapters named after various elements, and in each of the chapters Levi tells a story that centers around or involves that element in some essential way. The most humane chemistry book I have ever read (not that there's really much competition, but all the same).
piefuchs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I read this book - which was admittedly over a decade ago - I was deeply moved by its orginality. Wonderful.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a memoir of an Italian Jewish chemist organized into tales based on the elements from the Periodic Table. He says that,'So it happens, ..., that every element says something to someone (something different to each) like the mountains valleys or beaches visited in youth.'The stories start with Argon and the times before the Second World War, go through war experiences, the concentration camp, and finish with Carbon ('since carbon says everything to everyone'), and are each about one episode from the author's life. Some stories were very good, insightful and well written. Argon (the family history), Iron (getting stranded in the mountains with a friend), or Vanadium (the correspondence with the former supervisor in Auschwitz) will stay with me for a long time, but most will be gone and forgotten in no time.
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is partly memoir, partly fiction, with each chapter entitled for an element from the periodic table. The element may introduce a reminiscence, or be the subject of a short fantasy. The author earned his doctorate in chemistry, and earned his living as an industrial chemist, working in a number of different jobs. He finished his doctorate in Mussolini's Italy in about 1942. He joined the partisans when the Germans moved into Italy, but was captured, and, being a Jew, sent to Auschwitz. He identified himself as a chemist, and was put to work in a nearby synthetic rubber factory, narrowly avoiding the death march that ended the lives of most of the remaining survivors when the Russians moved in. He has two other books about that time of his life, and there is only a few bits of that history in this book. The writing was elegant, absorbing, and witty, and some of the early chapters on his relatives in the Piedmont were hilarious. I read this while on airplanes and travel with Joe to colleges.
EricC7E More than 1 year ago
"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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 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)
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.