The Periodic Table
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The Periodic Table

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Primo Levi's "The Periodic Table" is a collection of short stories that elegantly interlace the author's experiences in Fascist Italy, and later in Auschwitz, with his passion for scientific knowledge and discovery. This "Penguin Modern Classics" edition of is translated by Raymond Rosenthal with an essay on Primo Levi by Philip Roth. A chemist by training, Primo Levi became one of the supreme witnesses to twentieth-century atrocity. In these haunting reflections inspired by the elements of the periodic table, he ranges from young love to political savagery; from the inert gas argon - and 'inert' relatives like the uncle who stayed in bed for twenty-two years - to life-giving carbon. 'Iron' honours the mountain-climbing resistance hero who put iron in Levi's student soul, 'Cerium' recalls the improvised cigarette lighters which saved his life in Auschwitz, while 'Vanadium' describes an eerie post-war correspondence with the man who had been his 'boss' there. In his essay, Philip Roth reproduces a conversation with Primo Levi, delving into the process of Levi's authorial technique, his sense of identity and distinctiveness and the relationship between science, writing and survival. Primo Levi (1919-87), 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. Levi is the author of "Moments of Reprieve" and "If Not Now, When?", also available in "Penguin Modern Classics". Philip Roth is the author of "Nemesis" and "The Plot Against America", and winner of the both the Pulitzer prize, and the Man Booker International prize. If you enjoyed "The Periodic Table", you might like Levi's "If Not Now, When?", also available in "Penguin Modern Classics". "A book it is necessary to read". (Saul Bellow, author of "Herzog"). "One of the finest writers in post-war Ital". ("The Times").

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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 18mm | 158.76g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • PENGUIN CLASSICS
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141185147
  • 9780141185149
  • 19,301

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Review quote

"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

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About Primo Levi

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. Levi is also the author of the forthcoming Modern Classics: MOMENTS OF REPRIEVE and IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

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Customer reviews

Primo Levi's writing generally is harrowing and - as strange as it sounds - hauntingly beautiful. This is especially true of his masterpieces, "If This Were a Man" and "The Truce". It will be very hard to read Levi's books without being left moved by his life experiences and marvel at the same time at the positive courage he showed and the almost surreal sunny disposition he maintained while incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp. "The Periodic Table", in which Levi takes the chemical elements as the inspiration for recounting people and incidents from his life, is also as exquisitely written as his other books. While it is a little less disturbing compared to some of his other works, it is nevertheless not short of some eloquent passages. For instance, while describing how he stole cerium rods from the Lager laboratory, he discusses such a seemingly mundane issue as packaging and observes that "God.. solved [the problem of packaging] brilliantly... with cellular membranes, eggshells, the multiple peel of oranges, and our own skins..." However, while lamenting the then non-availability of polyethylene, Levi adds, "God... although he is a master of polymerization, abstained from patenting it: He does not like incorruptible things."show more
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