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    Work and Mankind


    Orsolina Azzario’s birthday party at Siva, June 8 1972. First row, from the left: Giuseppe Cordua, Massimo Polazzoni. Second row: Giuseppe Venezia, Aldo Nani, Giuseppe Carlino, Giuseppe Gilardi, Adolfo Arri, Orsolina Azzario, Primo Levi.

    Work is one of the constants that run through Primo Levi's works. It is an essential component of his personal experience.

    «The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in general it is understood completely only when it is broken: by exile or emigration in the case of one’s country, by retirement in the case of a trade or a profession.» (P. Levi, “Ex-Chemist,” in Other People’s Trades, p. 174).

    Reflections on the more human aspects of work run through all of Primo Levi’s works, ranging from his analysis of the conditions of slavery imposed on the people in the lagers to his profound conviction that “loving your work … represents the best, most concrete approximation of happiness on earth” (The Wrench, p. 79-80). These reflections focus on everything from his stories of the modern Odyssey of Faussone the crane rigger in The Monkey’s Wrench to his sharp critical awareness of the extraordinary potential that lay in his own work as a paint chemist at the SIVA in Settimo Torinese.


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