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The Periodic Table Paperback – Apr 4 1995

4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Reissue edition (April 4 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210415
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“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


From the Hardcover edition.

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There are the so-called inert gases in the air we breathe. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the first book by Primo Levi that I've read. The man was a brilliant author.
"The Periodic Table" cleverly takes the elements that are part of our everyday lives and uses each to illustrate a story, most of which are his view point of 1940s Italy, before or after he was sent to Auschwitz. (Very little of this book has to do with the actual death camp, though its impressions are evident.) Levi, a chemist, tells autobiographical tales of his desire to make people see in the logical way that chemists see the world.
The way that Levi weaves words might be more expected from a poet than from a scientist. Above all, however, Levi was an observer of both elements and of human nature. I'm only sorry that I discovered him after he died; I might have written to tell him how much I enjoyed his book. My mother, a scientist, is emotionally unable to read any more books about the Holocaust; but as this book doesn't talk about the horrors of the camps but about the era, why, I think I'll lend it to her.
(amazon.com wishlist purchase)
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Format: Paperback
I started this book expecting a story of how a Jew survived the Holocaust in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. I thought that I'd read about tragedy and misfortune, but I didn't get what I expected.
What I got was a tale of subtle defiance and quiet resiliency to the war that looms in the background of the book. The author hints at the drama and struggle of the war through his many short vignettes--each related to an element from the Periodic Table--but he is never overcome by it, remaining distant from the events, submitting helplessly to the way things were, but looking brightly toward the future.
This was altogether a very interesting book. Strangely inspiring, aloof but aware, it provided me a view of the second world war that I never would have imagined.
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Format: Paperback
Primo Levi was a gifted writer that happened to practice chemistry. In these short memoirs he tells the story of a chemist, a chemist that is living in Mussolini's Italy, a chemist that is Jewish and survived Auschwitz. Levi has written of Auschwitz previously and only a single chapter in "The Periodic Table" directly discusses Auschwitz.
To many readers the career of a chemist might seem as exciting as the career of an accountant or a tax attorney, essential to society, but better left to someone else. It hardly seems the subject for a remarkable literary work.
Levi paints an intriguing portrait of a chemist, a detective unraveling the secrets of matter, a philosopher searching for meaning. We learn much about the kinds of problems that excite a chemist and how a chemist goes about searching for answers. But we learn more about Levi himself, about life in a Fascist state, and about human relationships in difficult situations.
Primo Levi titled each chapter with the name of an element that either plays a role in that particular chapter or exhibits characteristics that are metaphorically descriptive of human relationships portrayed in that chapter.
Most chapters revolve about an important biographical event. However, the first chapter, Argon, tells a rather quiet (inert) story of the unexciting Levi family history and it might be best to skip chapter one until later. Hydrogen, the second chapter, is more exciting, almost explosive. Zinc, Iron, Potassium, Nickel, and others follow.
Three chapters - Lead, Mercury, and Carbon - are fictional. I was absolutely fascinated by all three. Levi is a great story teller. Lead should be read by students of history and Mercury likewise.
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By A Customer on Sept. 16 1998
Format: Paperback
This book, like all truly great books, can be viewed in many ways. A possible, rewarding one is to view it as the story of an education. Each chapter, named after the periodic table of the elements, tells about the acquisition of an important piece of the mosaic that was Primo Levi.There is the discovery of the "essential language" of science, as opposed to the void rethoric of fascism, the discovery of courage, in the chapter named "Iron", of rigor, in the "potassium". But this is not a didactical book. This is a series of wonderful tales, of exquisite poetry and of life, true life. I didn't read more than five books comparable to this one.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read The Periodic Table in a college course on 20th century Italian literature. Since then I have reread it perhaps a half dozen times. Parts of it -- the chapter about Sandro, for instance, and the last chapter -- I have reread many more times than that.
It is such a great book -- such a clear-eyed, deeply felt, wide-ranging look at the human cost of Fascism and the Holocaust -- that anything I could possibly say about it would be idiotically trite. All I can really say, in honesty, is that I think it is one of the greatest books ever written. In any language. In any century. On any topic.
Having never read it in translation, I have trouble imagining how a translator could capture the poetry and the rich literary resonances of Levi's deceptively simple writing style. It is the kind of writing where you read sentences over again, sometimes aloud, just for their rythm and sound. However, friends who have read it in English say the translation is excellent. Even if it weren't, it's a book no thinking person should go without reading. It has a beauty and a gripping quality that goes far, far beyond style.
Just read it. Unlike most books you hear this about, it REALLY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
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