The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

This is a lovely book. Wise, witty and restrained. It is a mixture of memoir, story and essay. The structure is based around the elements, each chapter dealing with one of them. The writer’s training and career as a chemist provides the narrative flow and there is profound commentary on the nature of knowledge and science, and how they relate to human existence.

Later in the book, the writer reflects on the success of his Auschwitz memoir ‘If this is a man’, and how its fame affected his position as a working industrial chemist.

His style is unaffected and humane. All in all, a joy.

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