Notes - The Periodic Table / by Roland Dahwen Wu

Reading notes from The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.

Out of habit or compulsion, I take notes and copy passages as I read, and from time to time a book reveals itself to be so magisterial that I take no notes, because otherwise I would have to copy down the entire book. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is one such text. In the stories and recollections that compose this book, there is a sadness, owed to the impending adjournment of those days by the malignancy of fascism. A few lines are recorded here, more by chance than rigor or classification.

«—and there, all around us, barely touched by the sun, stood the white and brown mountains, new as if created during the night that had just ended and at the same time innumerably ancient.»

«I had always considered my origin as an almost negligible but curious fact, a small amusing anomaly.»

«It seemed to me that I had won a small but decisive battle against the darkness, the emptiness, and the hostile years that lay ahead.»

«he lived on dreams, like all of us, but his dreams were sensible; they were obtuse, possible, contiguous to reality, not romantic, not cosmic.»

«—from whose condensation the universes area formed in eternal silences.»

«—the praise of impurity, which gives rise to changes, in other words, to life.»

«But immaculate virtue does not exist either, or if it exists it is detestable.»

«...there was much talk about purity, and I had begun to be proud of being impure.»

«...without acrimony and indeed with a vein of inexplicable tenderness.»

«He died poor but rich in years and fame and in the peace of the spirit.»

«Its historical interest is meager, since it was never spoken by more than a few thousand people; but its human interest is great, as are all languages on the frontier and in transition.»

«His body was abandoned in the road for a long time, because the Fascists had forbidden the population to bury him. Today I know that it is a hopeless task to try to dress a man in words, make him live again on the printed page, especially a man like Sandro.»

«...a country where the sun is cold and never sets.»

«...the mountains around Turin, visible on clear days, and within reach of a bicycle, were ours, irreplaceable, and had taught us fatigue, endurance, and a certain wisdom.»

«I was not thinking of anything sensible and sad.»

«It is better to live our tomorrows alone.»

«...these asbestos-filled solitudes...»