The Wrench

Primo Levi

translated from the Italian by Willam Weaver
Abacus 1988
A book review by Danny Yee © 2001
Faussone is a rigger (and the son of a coppersmith), who works erecting bridges, derricks, industrial equipment, and cranes. He travels the world from India to Alaska, becoming restless if he stays too long in one place, though his aunts want him to marry and settle down. The narrator to whom Faussone describes his constructions, adventures, and background is a chemist and a writer (and obviously Primo Levi's alter ego), someone who uses the subjunctive and makes etymological interjections... and in the end insists on telling some stories of his own.

The stories they tell and the dialogue between them make up an series of vignettes that work on many levels at once, mixing narrative and ideas with humour, intelligence, and subtlety. So Levi explores the nature of craftsmanship and manual labour, their literary description, and their contrast with intellectual work; but he is also a spell-binding story-teller, whether his subject is a lovers' tryst under the stars, the cabling in a suspension bridge, or a puzzling problem with anchovies and a batch of enamel. The Wrench (La Chiave a Stella) is not an argument but a demonstration, a unique encounter between prose-poetry and engineering.

April 2001

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%T The Wrench
%A Levi, Primo
%M Italian
%F Weaver, Willam
%I Abacus
%D 1988
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0349100128
%P 171pp