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The Monkey's Wrench (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – July 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (July 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140188924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140188929
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his second novel, Levi abandons the painful subject of the Holocaust and World War II with mixed results. His previous works, such as the memoirs Survival in Auschwitz and Moments of Reprieve, reveal his talent for careful, detailed storytelling and consciously artless dialogue, and this is a somewhat contrived celebration of that craft through the narrator's conversations with Faussone, an itinerant steelworker. Readers may find the technical minutiae on steel-rigging and paint chemistry (like Levi, the narrator is a paint chemist turned writer) less than compelling. But the novel also glistens with inspiring reflections on the disparate yet similar joys of mental and physical labor (the rigging of words vs. steel or molecules), and the relationship between storyteller/writer and listener/reader. Faussone passionately describes a truss tower-in-progress ("It was like seeing a baby grow") and a finished crane ("It seemed to walk in the sky, smooth as silk, I felt like they'd made me a duke") and offers his tales to the narrator ("You can work on it, grind it, hone it, deburr it, hammer it into shape, and you'll have a story"). The narrator similarly finds that "loving your work . . . represents the best, most concrete approximation of happiness on earth" but cautions that "paper is too tolerant a material. You can write any old absurdity on it, and it never complains." (October
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An Italian ironworker or rigger, Tino loves his work. Just read his story of the disaster on that bridge in India, or follow his description, given in loving detail, of how he assembled that off-shore oil platform in Alaska. He has traveled the world as a rigger, and now he unfolds his adventures to his chemist friend in monologues swirling with danger and exuberance. As these two men talk, the reader comes to see how one's work expresses one's life. Departing from the Holocaust themes of his previous works, Levi pays tribute to happiness on earth, of which he finds "loving your work represents the best, most concrete approximation." William Weaver's fine translation from the original Italian catches Tino's ebullience, effectively bringing Levi's genius to the English audience. Highly recommended. Paul E. Hutchison, English Dept., Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Those looking for 20th century profundities will be disappointed.
Col. D
And the stories are told in such an engaging way you don't really realize Levi is showing you a way to make life bearable.
Luder
He combines one of the greates talents as a writer in this century with a wisdom uncommon for any age.
Prof. N. von Woland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Luder on April 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I finished this book and read it all the way through again less than a month later. There are lots of things to like about it. Mainly, though, I like it because it conveys a sense of joy in work, in writing, in the less spectacular aspects of life that can be as much a source of happiness as can the great gifts that come along once or twice in a lifetime. And the stories are told in such an engaging way you don't really realize Levi is showing you a way to make life bearable. The sad thing is that Primo Levi apparently couldn't do for himself what he did for so many of his readers.

I also like that though a good part of the novel takes place in the former Soviet Union, Levi, with the exception of one chapter in the book, says nary a word about communism. The Soviet regime is, for the purpose of his book, completely irrelevant. Lesser writers would have stuck to the "one-man-against-the-regime" template.

That said, I do have some gripes, mostly to do with the translation. Levi has been very badly served either by his translators or, more likely, by his American publishers. Why this book was called _The Monkey's Wrench_ is beyond me. There's a wrench, and there's a monkey all right, but there's nothing so patently ridiculous as a wrench belonging to a monkey. _The Wrench_, plain and simple, like Levi's prose, would have sufficed.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Prof. N. von Woland on September 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
There are some people who you can never hear enough of. Levi is certainly one of those. He combines one of the greates talents as a writer in this century with a wisdom uncommon for any age.
This book is not an adventure story in the typical sence of the word, but reading it is an adventure, and I for one am a better man for having opened its covers.
I don't think that Levi has ever written a book that I would only read once. This book, I look forward to revisting many times over. The maximum length of this review is one thousnd words. If all those words were supperlatives, I would not come close to doing this book justice.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By david eisenman on February 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Excellent series of vignettes/stories generally related within the novel by a crane/derrick rigger to the author, a chemist. For those with no inclination to industrial engineering and chemistry, this book makes the two subjects seem interesting, and uniquely identifies them with the human condition. Quite beautiful.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By glbiondizoccai@mailcity.com on January 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
First, this book is not about Nazi. Second, this author is not an artist( he's more and less than that).
This writer is not the straightforward creator who sits in his living-room thinking about life and all; he started to write inspired by pain and suffering. That means his works are always a struggle to grasp the poet and entertaining side of art, while being unable to reach it.
This novel is awesome. It says work is one's life and happiness. All this through the eyes of a travelling chemist admiring a manual and intellectual worker. It should please every one who needs to have a different and more constructive, while human, view of work. I strongly suggest you to buy it. Then send me your opinion.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Kettlewell on December 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Meet Faussone, an able tradesmen who sets up cranes around the world and enjoys his work. Most of the several short stories in the book centre on him recounting some interesting job he's been involved in. 
 
Rather than remain invisible and let 'Faussone' do all the talking, the listener/narrator is also allowed to take on a role - the stories are clearly placed in a setting of Faussone talking to the semi-autobiographical persona of Levi. We learn a little of why he's putting down these stories, his own speculation on whether writing is a worthy 'craft' compared to that of the tradesman, and he even drops in a work story of his own (as a chemist - Levi himself was a chemist) to conclude. Levi highlights the importance of the listener and the context to the stories, which, while entertaining enough to stand on their own, are enhanced by tangents of setting and response. Moreover there's room for just a little plot and relationship development winding alongside the stories.
 
As close as I can think of are the James Herriot stories, although I suspect some of Levi's fans would be a bit horrified at the comparison. That being said, I suspect 'Herriot' himself would have enjoyed the book. Levi's stories, however, are not nearly as formulaic (or as funny), and Levi is a more able painter of characters that feel more authentic, and don't necessarily need to be pigeon-holed. Amusing that Faussone feels more authentic than some of Herriot's doubtless 'real' recollected characters: in a postscript Levi says,
"Faussone is imaginary but "perfectly authentic," at the same time; he is a compound, a mosaic of numerous men I have met, similar to Faussone...
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