Levi never completed this book;2 instead he paired The Periodic Table with the fourteen stories of The Wrench (La chiave a stella, ), centred on a highly. La Chiave a Stella. This is doubly interesting as Levi was by training an industrial and analytical chemist, and many of the achievements of The Periodic Table. The Wrench, published in the U.S. under the title of The Monkey's Wrench, is a novel by Primo First published as La Chiave a Stella by Einaudi in , Levi wrote this book largely in Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version .
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It is similar in form to his collection of connected memoir stories, The Periodic Table. First published as La Chiave a Stella by Einaudi in , Levi wrote this book largely in the Piedmontese language of the region surrounding Turin where he lived.
It takes the form of an interview by a chemist of a rigger. They are both working in a remote work camp where there is little to do in the evenings except tell stories. The scene is loosely based upon Togliattigrad , the Fiat camp set up in Russia to build a car factory. The rigger is Libertino Faussone and the chemist is clearly autobiographical.
The job of a rigger is to set up cranes and scaffolding and to manage major mechanical projects. One of Faussone's jobs is to sort out a problem with an acetic acid separation column which goes through a cycle of making loud noises and shaking, before settling down again. It turns out the ceramic contents of the column have disintegrated and have formed a sludge at the bottom. The story, one of many in the book, is about troubleshooting , and the forensic investigation skills needed to solve industrial problems.
The skills include being able to assess the facts of a failure, analyse them in the light of the product design, and once the root cause has been identified, act to correct the mistake or mistakes so as to prevent further events of the same kind. Levi always felt that satisfying work was essential for a happy life, and the honest hands-on work of someone who also used his intellect was the highest form of work. Faussone was his ideal. Life is a series of problems which one has to use one's brains and one's hands to resolve.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Works by Primo Levi. The Search for Roots Collected Poems. In his highly influential essay The Question Concerning Technology, Martin Heidegger illustrates this very point by contrasting craftmanship in ancient Greece and the build- ing of a modern dam on the Rhine: Levi implicitly rejects such philoso- phical idealism in relation to the understanding of nature. He sees an essen- tial continuity between human experience and nature, between mind and body, between technology and natural forms and dispositions.
The boundaries between inanimate objects or the mineral world and living organisms are questioned, in fantastic form, in some of his science- fiction stories in The Sixth Day.
In The Wrench, Levi also resorts to a whole spectrum of organic, biological and animal metaphors and similes to depicts rigs, cranes, bridges.
These images are not simply vividly metaphorical; they have an epistemological weight and insert Levi into a tradition going back to the arch-model of the artist-engineer Leonardo da Vinci. Thus, at one point in The Wrench a chimpanzee playfully helps Faussone build a derrick, showing a pre-cognitive, instinctual understanding and fascination for the gigantic toy-machine The Wrench, p.
One could then argue that, as with nature, technology per se cannot be framed through moral categories.
Neither animals nor machines are them- selves moral entities. Only human acts can be inscribed within an ethical framework because they are free acts, responsible acts.
Technology is thus not good or bad in itself, but good or bad according to the social subject who uses it. With his Enlightenment attitude, Levi considers the single human being, with her weaknesses and with her virtues, with individual choice and indivi- dual responsibility, as the irreducible centre of his theoretical beliefs: If technology is as natural as a beehive or a nest, it is then impossible to prevent any human being from being a technician, a tool-maker, because it is an anthropological given: Doing away with science and technology would be giving up part of what makes us human: However, as social animals, it is our moral duty not to inflict pain and therefore to try to anticipate any possible distorted use of a given technology or device.
What are needed are ethics and moral norms relevant to all human beings in general, not only to scientists or politicians. This is the only check we can possibly impose on the growth of science and technology.
Nazism was for Levi, among other things, the ruthless, expert use of social and technological organization to serve a neo-pagan ideology, the perverse of primitive, pre-rational drives with the rationality of industrial efficency. He was, nonetheless, fully equipped with a pragmatic attitude to and knowledge of working conditions, through his experience of industrial work at all levels: In fact, there is evidence that Levi wrote with a polemical intent in mind: As mentioned above, Levi reads the general problem of the alienation of work in industrial society by focusing his attention on the single individual, rather than on the collectivity or on classes: In more general terms, Levi was also keenly aware that technological issues and work are strongly linked to economics.
This is evident in various of his science-fiction stories centred on Simpson, who is both salesman, keen on his commission and his profit and magician-Prometheus, intent on transforming matter and man. When the customers came to collect them, he would sort of give them a caress, and you could see he was sorry.
What further distinguishes the rationality of economics from technology are the gratuitous elements of the latter. In The Periodic Table, Levi notes with typical irony: Although it is based on exact planning and mathematical calculation, technology evades these strict limits, because, as with any form of art techne , it is also formed by chance, play and imagination, and is effected by unforseeable events and irrational drives. Although the story is set in an unspecified African country, Levi later revealed that the episode was based on a real event that occurred in Milan Voice of Memory, p.
To make veritable predictions within the technological realm is, most of the time, hazardous and intellectually dishonest: Try talking about it with a farmer, or a school teacher, or a doctor, or, most of all, a politician. The Wrench, pp. As already noted, although Levi never fully articulated and exposed a thoroughly expressed epistemol- ogy, in many of his books he extrapolates methodical, cognitive and ethical rules from his practical experience, grounding his understanding of science and technology in his practical work.
On this score, Levi is quite clear: Voice of Memory, p. There is a constant dialectic, a silent dialogue, between the homo faber and material reality. Although there is always a level of projectuality and planning in any technical work, for Bachelard as for Levi, the homo faber does not operate through abstract mental schemes, but mainly through direct, sometimes painful, contact with matter, which engenders a form of cognitive response that is channelled through the body and through the senses.
The trade of the chemist is not only an intellectual learning process, but also a manual one, through which the young Levi matures into an adult: If man is a maker, we were not men: Manual dexterity is a form of intelligence at its most elementary level, as he tells Tullio Regge: And thus to train our hands means to train our brains as well: The intelligence of the hands becomes the intelligence of the body, as Faussone himself explains: An essential requirement of this principle is that any experiment should be repeatable under given experimental conditions, and be inter-subjective, that is shared and reproduced by a plurality of people, by a given community.
As a matter of fact, I remained friends with all my laboratory colleagues.
Knowledge formation, education and indeed culture are them- selves collective, communal phenomena. This is extremely important for Levi, both as a chemist and as a writer, because one of the key ethical element in science and in technical trades is the fact that it provides a common language through which to develop dialogue with others. To say that it is impossible to communicate is false: Communication and dialogue are fostered by technical trades also because of an intrinsic link to story-telling.
Technical work, rather than being a cold, uninspiring and dehumanizing activity, is a source of inspiration for the writer: Various elements are shared between the two trades of technology and narrative: In relation to this parallelism between the lang- uage of science and the language of literature and the borrowing of aes- thetic and stylistic principles such as clarity, consistency, concision, Levi adds a category which is seldomly used in the realm of literary criticism: This is a virtue on which Levi lays particular emphasis, at different levels: