Books: Bridges the Monkey's Wrench

by Primo Levi Translated by William Weaver Summit; 173 pages; $15.95

What's in a name? For many, the indication that they are descendants of craftsmen: smiths, coopers, millers, weavers. Primo Levi, 67, is an Italian Jew whose surname suggests ties to those members of the Levite tribe who were entrusted with guarding the sacred tabernacle. Not ritual priests but deacons, Levites were workers with practical tasks to perform. Appropriately, Levi came to writing through chemistry. For 30 years he worked for a Turin paint manufacturer. Before that he was the unwilling employee of the Nazis, who recruited him at Auschwitz for his technical skills. While millions died for what they were, Levi...

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