In 1919, Primo Levi was born into a Jewish family in Turin where he later trained as a chemist. When the Germans invaded Italy in 1943 he was captured and deported to Auschwitz. After liberation in 1945 his graphic account of the camp, IF THIS IS A MAN, was published in 1947. Many other books followed and Levi emerged as not only one of the most profound commentators on the Holocaust but as a great writer on many twentieth-century themes, especially science. Levi committed suicide in 1987.
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)
"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