Primo Levi a Settimo Torinese

Siva (Società industriale vernici e affini) was a paint enterprise that belonged to the businessman, Federico Accati. On April 8 1948, Levi began to work in the factory at Corso Regina Margherita  264, near Pellerina Park. In 1953 the factory was moved to Settimo Torinese. Levi worked for this company for more than 26 years until December 1 1974, first as a simple employee, from 1953 as technical director and, finally, from 1962 as general manager. After he retired, Levi agreed to stay on as a consultant until September 1977.
(Album Primo Levi, eds. Domenico Scarpa and Roberta Mori, Torino 2017, p. 288)

“Primo Levi worked at a chemist in a factory in Settimo Torinese just a few kilometers from Turin, right at the entrance to the Autostrada, the highway to Milan. Settimo Torinese is a town that is a little strange, really, because, I’d say, it mixes old and new parts together, new and old. There are great modern buildings, skyscrapers, and cranes and there are also little houses with the wash hanging on clotheslines. It really looked like a southern Italian setting at certain points.”

(Luigi Silori, L’approdo / The Landing, Rai interview broadcast  September 27 1963, in Opere complete, III, 13).

I entered the paint industry by chance, but I never had very much to do with the general run of paints, varnishes, and lacquers. Our company, immediately after it began, specialized in the production of wire enamels, insulating coatings for copper electrical conductors. At the peak of my career, I numbered among the 30 or 40 specialists in the world in this branch. The animals hanging here on the wall are made out of scrap enameled wire…. I don't believe I wasted my time in the factory. My factory militanza  – my compulsory and honorable service there - kept me in touch with the world of real things.

A reply to Philip Roth, in  Roth’s “A Man Saved by His Skills,” The New York Times, October 12 1986 /  Opere complete, III, 1090.


How many workers were there?
Up to 7o, but, at the beginning, still in Corso Regina there were 7 of them.

Is it a factory that is still doing well?
By now, the factory is half of what it was, but, for what is left, it is doing well enough and there is still some equipment I made.

When you had problems in the factory, do you tend to take them home?

You didn’t manage to turn them off…
No. then they called me up, I don’t know, sometimes at night too. I had to go more than once at night, once, twice, or three times a night to see, to take measures. I remember when my son was born in 1957. My son was born at four in the morning and at seven I was already in Settimo because it had hailed and there was I don’t know what kind of trouble.  I was diligent.

Io che vi parlo /  It’s me who’s talking to you, Conversazione con Giovanni Tesio, in Opere complete, III, p. 1072.


 The Gulls of Settimo

Bend on bend, year after year,
The lords of the sky have come upriver,
Along the banks, up from its turbulent mouths.
They’ve forgotten backwash and salt water,
Shrewd, patient hunting, greedy crabs.
Above Crespino, Polesella, Ostiglia,
The newborns, more determined than the old,
Beyond Luzzara, beyond wasted Viadana,
Bloated with our ignoble
Waste, fatter at every turn,
They’ve explored Caorso’s mists,
The lazy tributaries between Cremona and Piacenza,
Borne on the tepid breath of the autostrada,
Shrieking their mournful, brief salute.
They’ve halted at the mouth of the Ticino,
Built nests under the bridge at Valenza,
Near mounds of tar and leftover polyethylene.
They’ve sailed to nowhere, beyond Casale and Chivasso,
Fleeing the sea, drawn on by our abundance
Now they drift restless over Settimo Torinese:
Past forgotten, they pick over our waste.

April 9, 1979

From At an Uncertain Hour (Collected Poems) in Complete Works / Ad ora incerta, in Opere complete II,  711.

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