L'altrui mestiere gathers together about 50 articles that Primo Levi had published in newspapers and periodicals between 1964 and 1984. The background for these articles is that of his most famous books – his professional experience as a chemist and his experience in the Nazi concentration camps.
"This book gathers together about 50 articles that Primo Levi had published in newspapers and periodicals between 1964 and 1984. The background for these articles is that of his most famous books – his professional experience as a chemist and his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. However, this serves just as a distant and off-color backdrop that his various topics stand out against. Levi chooses to make clear precisely and explicitly, beginning with the title, that these articles are the studies and roamings about of a curious and libertine dilettante, invasions of the field, poachings into private hunting preserves, namely into the boundless territories of the natural sciences, zoology, and astronomy, sciences that Levi had never studied systematically and which, for just this reason, affect him with the fascination of unsatisfied loves. However, in other essays Levi takes positions on current problems, gives amusing re-readings of ancient and modern classics, and gives us memories of his youth that may be nostalgic or ironic. He makes observations on the transversal bonds which link the world of nature to that of culture and on the bridges that unite (or should unite) the scientific and the literary cultures. This book is a little summing up of the experiences and the extravagant thoughts of one of the least conformist Italian writers and, along with this and maybe beyond his intentions, a summary but true sort of autobiography. We can find here – in its pure state, so to say – the kind of writing that makes the pages of Levi stand out from all others – crystal clear, lean and precise, vigorously rooted in culture, but accessible to any well-intentioned readers".
Back jacket, Einaudi 1985.
"The most representative from among the objects of Levi’s encyclopedic attention are words and animals. (Sometimes one could say that he tends to fuse his two passions into a zoological glottology or into an ethology of language.)"
Italo Calvino, “I due mestieri di Primo Levi,” [The Two Crafts of Primo Levi], La Repubblica, March 6 1985.