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

ISBN-13: 978-0140188929 ISBN-10: 0140188924 Edition: Reprint

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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: 10.8 x 0.5 x 4.2 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: #416,998 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luca Graziuso and Marina Ross on December 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
Primo Levi forges a stunningly eloquent creative execution that reveals the joys of living, of work, of responsibilities and not least of storytelling. The book is consistently verging on the comic at every turn shunning the tragic buoyancy of the pathos that life imposes on her victims. but here victims find ways to stagger the routines with an indomitable will that reveals the grandeur of the human spirit. This is indeed an exhuberant, wildly funny novel that coils magic abreast the mesmerizing tales of a construction worker, who full of life and sheer bewilderment for the ecstasy of being alive and the adventures that we wield and construct as we perform our most converntional exploits. Libertini Fussone, the character in question, has been justifiably pronounced a kin to Zorba, a worldy self-educated philosopher. He has built bridges and towers in India, Africa, Alaska and Russia. His love of work and travel is sustained by an enviable penchant for finding circumstances and situations that transcend the norms of facile relatioships and recognize beauty glowing in people and places that magically trace the absurd in the most passion driven haunts of the mind - yet it is here that we find the meaning of our lives. The narrator, a chemist as was Levi, swaps stories with the construction worker, and in fact it is his most extraordinary telling of how he saved his Italian paint factory from economic disaster at the hands of a Russian anchovy canner that brings laughs while eradicating our most grounded expectations. Faussone will tell us of a monkey who wanted to be a man, of a magnificent machine that caught stardust, of a girl who drove a bulldozer and affected, rather moved him more than anyone or anything else.Read more ›
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