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The Wrench (Abacus Books) [Paperback]

Primo Levi
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 1988 Abacus Books
This is not a book for journalists. Civil servants, too, will feel uneasy while reading it, and as for lawyers, they will never sleep again. For it is about a man in his capacity as homo faber, a maker of things with his hands, and what has any of us ever made but words. I say it is 'about' the man who makes; truly, it is more a hymn of praise than a description, and not only because the toiler who is the hero of the book is a hero indeed - a figure, in his humanity, simplicity, worthy of inclusion in the catalogue of mythical giants alongside Hercules, Atlas, Gargantua and Orion. He is Faussone, a rigger' Bernard Levin, THE TIMES

Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (1 Mar 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349100128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349100128
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 203,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Primo Levi was born into a Jewish family in Turin, Italy, in 1919. He spent time in Auschwitz and his novel If This Is a Man is a harrowing account of his ordeal. Levi died in 1987.

Product Description


A beautiful book by a beautiful man. Not a word he has written should be missed. (INDEPENDENT)

A masterpiece of quiet patience (London DAILY News)

Book Description

* A fabulous, funny novel narrated by a multi-talented storyteller

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple thing well done. 12 Feb 2004
A previous reviewer claimed "there is no heroism in the mundane." Perhaps. Yet, despite Bernard Levin's cover note, heroism was never the subject of this book. Levi saw too much of the fallibility of humans to divide them into "heroes" and "mortals".
A better divsion would be lovers of life and whatever their antithesis may be. Read his poem, "Some other Monday" for an insight into the simple pleasures of life that Levi held so dear. From the depths of his suffering at the end of the war, Levi absurdly imagines the voice of the tannoy announcer at Turin Station bellowing out "I'll tell you who's going to heaven/hell", the former being those who innocently love life, the latter, the cynics and smart-arses.
The Wrench it is a reflection of Levi's other life, the one before and after his encounter with the extraordinary. The simple, unheroic one in which he found peace, contentment, fulfilment and the odd mundane adventure in his day-to-day business. The original Italian title, a much more subtle play on words than "The Wrench" perhaps suggests something of Levi's simple philosophy: "La Chiave a Stelle" - "The Key with Stars", the Italian term for a Monkey wrench, but maybe also the key TO the stars?
Faussonne is an ordinary man, performing an ordinary job, but in this book he transcends the ordinary in his love and devotion for his everyday tasks. Maybe there is no heroism in this, but the satisfaction of a simple thing, done to the best of one's ability is, in Levi's experience the key to happiness.
A beautiful, simple and profoundly unheroic book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chasing Waterfalls 8 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is always something sad in Primo Levi's works. The Wrench is a sad book. On the surface a collection of hilarious tales about building cranes told under Levi's supreme style, but scratch the surface and it's a tale of migrant Labour and the dispossessed.
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6 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mix of mundane and profound 30 Nov 1999
By A Customer
a book that mixes construction with greek mythology. a book that remains with you and is not easily forgotten
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of The wrench by Primo Levi: Excellent 2 Mar 2011
By William P. Palmer - Published on
Review of The wrench by Primo Levi published by Abacus Books (1988)
Reviewer W.P.Palmer

Some years ago I reviewed another of Levi's books, The Periodic Table (Palmer, 1988), (now in my Amazon reviews). I was so impressed with his writing for its relevance to us as science teachers, that I will now review another of his books. The Wrench is a collection of stories, some of which relate to chemistry, but this time there is Faussone, a rigger, the man of action or "Homo faber" and the author (Levi), the chemist who is the thinker and narrator. They meet in a factory in a distant country, and are thrown together through the common language and common experience of being Italian. They start to converse and tell each other stories in the mess: we are the privileged listeners. Again as in The Periodic Table a number of the stories seem autobiographical and they gain realism and coherence from this personal input, whilst others are about the hard tough life of being a rigger, a man who personally puts together large cranes partly through his physical strength, but also through his knowledge skill and experience. Faussone is an expert in his field. Later in the book the two men start to relate to the other's experience of life and the analogies are then of great interest to chemists. The chemist in synthesizing new molecules acts like a rigger. In fact Levi says:-

But we are still blind... . blind and we don't have those tweezers we often dream of at night, the way a thirsty man dreams of springs, that would allow us to pick up a segment, hold it firm and straight, and paste it in the right direction on the segment that has already been assembled. If we had those tweezers (and it's possible that, one day, we will), we would have managed to create some wonderful things But for the present we don't have those tweezers, and when we come right down to it, we're bad riggers.
(The Wrench, p.144)

It is interesting to note that Von Baeyer in his recent book (Von Baeyer, 1992) needs to use the analogy in this passage to differentiate the aims of chemists and physicists in investigating the fine structure of matter. In other words, Levi manages to express in his novels something about the nature of chemistry and chemists that it is difficult to explain in any other way. It is for that reason that I believe that this novel is of importance in the education of any science teacher or scientist.

Palmer, W.P. 1988 Review of The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, in The Australian Science Teachers' Journal, Vol. 34, No. 2 (May), pp.91-92.
Von Baeyer, H.C. (1992). Taming the atom: the emergence of the visible Microworld. London: Viking/Penguin Books Ltd, p.129.

Originally published as Palmer W. P. (1994). A Review of 'The Sixth Day' &' The Wrench' both by Primo Levi, Abacus Books, The Australian Science Teachers' Journal Issue 133, Vol 40, No 2, pp.81-82
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