Graham White

Primo Levi's The Periodic Table

Primo Levi's The Periodic Table

Dramatisations and readings from the award-winning anthology


Scientist, resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi was one of Italy's greatest writers and an internationally renowned chronicler of human nature. In his masterpiece The Periodic Table, he charts his incredible life story through the medium of chemistry, using the titular list of elements - the building blocks of everything - as a prism to explore his experiences and search his soul.

In this superlative BBC adaptation, all 21 of the peerless stories in Levi's memoir are incorporated into 11 radio episodes, comprising both compelling dramatisations (starring Henry Goodman as the older Primo and Akbar Kurtha as his younger self) and eloquent readings by Paul Copley, Ben Crowe, Evie Killip and Henry Goodman. The chapters are preceded by a short introductory feature by Janet Suzman, discussing Levi's life and writing and featuring archive interviews with Levi himself.

We hear of Levi's student days in Fascist Italy, his battles as a partisan, his imprisonment in Auschwitz, his subsequent career as a professional chemist, and his imagined meeting with his Piedmontese ancestors - as well as his job in a paint factory in the 1960s and an unsettling encounter with his past. Alongside these autobiographical meditations are fabulous fictional tales of a European prospector, a little girl enchanted by white paint, an 1820s captain living on a remote island with strange chemical properties, and the incredible, centuries-long journey of a single carbon atom...

Named 'the best science book ever' by the Royal Institution of Great Britain, this astonishing compilation fuses autobiography and fantasy, science and emotion, to extraordinary effect. Vivid, powerful and breathtaking, it will surprise, amuse and move you, lingering in your imagination and changing the way you look at the world.

Written by Primo Levi
Dramatised by Graham White from the translation by Raymond Rosenthal
Introduced by Janet Suzman
Produced and directed by Emma Harding and Marc Beeby

Vanadium, Part 1
Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Cometto - John Rowe
Dr Muller - Erich Redman
Younger Primo - Akbar Kurtha
Lucia - Juliet Aubrey
Polish overseer - Chris Pavlo

Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Cesare - John Rowe
Jacob - David Horovitch
Moses - David Hounslow
Samuel - Sam Dale
Abigail - Jessica Turner
Zepora - Debra Baker

Read by Ben Crowe

Read by Evie Killip

Read by Paul Copley

Abrahams - Paul Hilton
Maggie - Amelia Lowdell
Hendrik - Nicholas Murchie
Willem - Leo Wan
Andrea - Chris Pavlo
Gaetano - George Watkins
Burton - Richard Pepple
Rebecca - Debra Baker
Woman - Katie Redford

Younger Primo - Akbar Kurtha
Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Enrico/Marchetti - Caolan McCarthy
Rina - Debra Baker
Lazzari - Sam Dale
Luca - Leo Wan
Giulia - Rebecca Hamilton
Caselli - Stephen Critchlow
Bettega - George Watkins
Rita - Katie Redford
Sandro - Andrew Rothney
Dallaporta - Richard Pepple
Antaeus - David Hounslow
Alida - Amelia Lowdell

Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Younger Primo - Akbar Kurtha
Vanda - Rebecca Hamilton
Silvio - Leo Wan
Lina - Evie Killip
Aldo - George Watkins
Militiaman 1/Prisoner - David Hounslow
Militiaman 2 - Caolan McCarthy
Fossa - Stephen Critchlow
Cagni - Nicholas Murchie

Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Younger Primo - Akbar Kurtha
Alberto - Leo Wan
Guard - Erich Redman
Prisoner 1- David Hounslow
Prisoner 2 - Sam Dale

Arsenic and Silver
Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Younger Primo - Akbar Kurtha
Versino - Jessica Turner
Lentini - Nicholas Murchie
Bruni - David Horovitch
Cometto - John Rowe
Lucia - Juliet Aubrey
Gallery director/Emilio's father - Stephen Critchlow
Emilio - Caolan McCarthy
Farmer - David Hounslow
Customer - Ben Crowe
Bonino - Sam Dale
Gina - Rebecca Hamilton

Vanadium, Part 2
Older Primo - Henry Goodman
Younger Primo - Akbar Kurtha
Cometto - John Rowe
Dr Muller - Erich Redman
Lucia - Juliet Aubrey
Polish overseer - Chris Pavlo
Postwoman - Debra Baker

Read by Henry Goodman