Lit rec #151: “In the skewed human world of Mussolini’s racial laws and the nightmare inversion of humanity that was Auschwitz, chemistry’s tangible knowledge was an incorruptible bastion to which he could cling: “matter is matter, neither noble nor vile”. It also saved his life. Levi was a slightly built man and only the strongest could survive many months of the camp in winter. In the summer of 1944 Levi was detailed to work in the laboratory. The chapter ‘Cerium’ recounts how he found a store of alloy that could be whittled down to make lighter-flints and bartered for food. It was this that kept him alive. The Periodic Table marks a coming of age for science in literature.” (1975)

One of the quiet masterpieces. How to treat people decently, and a curiosity for the failing world. THE PERIODIC TABLE by Primo Levi



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