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The Periodic Table Paperback – April 4, 1995
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From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Mr. Ellison took our mediocre stories and, in a bargain where we definately got the better deal, gave us the end of Primo Levi's Carbon, the last chapter of The Periodic Table. Nothing had prepared me for it. That simple style that I had so despised the night before was in fact the work of a writer who had stripped off all of those unnecessary phrases that I had been looking for, who had left nothing but the unadorned truth. Struck by this, I went out and bought the book.
It consists of 21 chapters, each of which have an element of the periodic table as their themes. But in truth each chapter/story is based on one idea which is explored. Some stories are pure fiction, some are remembrances, and some are meditations. They range from family gatherings to amusing teenage chemistry mistakes to the threads that bind us all together. Levi was not only a gifted chemist and a gifted writer, but someone who had that rare talent of opening his personal philosphies to the reader, and you can't help but feel that you've gotten to know him by the end of the book, which certainly makes the read worth it.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
not what I expected but found it interesting. Never had a chemistry class so I don't think I appreciate.Published 3 months ago by Elaine
A classic book by one of the most important writers of the 20th century.Published 3 months ago by H. Simon
I confess that for me the book started out so slowly that I almost gave up at the beginning. But that first chapter, called Argon after the inert gas, may have been a subterfuge... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Maggie Anton
Primo Levi was a chemist by training, a natural skeptic, pragmatist, rational thinker, and poet. He was enthralled by the natural world though he did not embrace a lust for... Read morePublished 4 months ago by John Sollami
The first chapter was confusing, but after that the story was mesmerizing and I couldn't put the book down. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Milton Palmer