The Monkey's Wrench Characters

Primo Levi

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Libertino Faussone

Libertino Faussone (lee-behr-TEE-noh fahew-SOH-nay), a rigger of giant steel structures such as cranes and suspension bridges. Faussone is an independent man, tall, thin, tanned, proud of his physical skills, and contemptuous of incompetent bosses, workers, and designers. The thirty-five-year-old Faussone enjoys a variety of professional and personal adventures as he travels around the world setting up monumental steel constructions. This “novel” is, in fact, a collection of separate tales connected mainly by the adventurous personality and forcefully stated perceptions of Faussone, their teller and principal character. He is by no means a perfect man; he is incapable, for example, of maintaining a permanent relationship with a woman, although he clearly has enjoyed a number of intense temporary relationships. He believes that women need “a different man for a husband, the kind that punch the time clock and come home at the same hour and never say boo.” He is also claustrophobic and has a fear of water that has prevented him from learning to swim. Above all, Faussone is a man in love with his work and its demanding structural problems that only the rigger’s indispensable skill can solve. As he says, “For me every job is like a first love.”

The narrator

The narrator, an industrial chemist who has gone to the Soviet Union to solve a problem of grit in his Italian factory’s exported enamel. Clearly, the narrator is the author, who has decided, at the age of fifty-five, to leave his chemist’s profession and devote himself entirely to his writing. In Russia, he has his first encounter with Faussone, who has been rigging a...

(The entire section is 720 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Each of the two main characters is absorbed by the demands of his own profession, but while the narrator’s relationship to his work is mainly intellectual, Faussone’s is physical and emotional. Faussone is inspired by the handling of tangible objects and the creation of massive working structures from them, by the poetry of motion when something which he has helped to construct functions elegantly. “It seemed to walk the sky, smooth as silk,” he says, recapturing the moment when the bridge crane began to function. “I felt like they’d made me a duke, and I bought drinks for everyone.”

Faussone has learned his sensitivity to the properties of metals and his fierce spirit of independence from his coppersmith father. In the postwar period, his father refused many lucrative offers of industrial work in order to remain his own boss.

Faussone enjoys good food and wine and a night with a woman. He understands his own nature well enough, however, to know that he will always be ready to give up these pleasures for the supreme achievements offered by his work. Whatever his feelings for the forklift driver, who first attracts him because of her boldness of spirit and her pride in her driving skills, he knows that he will never settle down. He evaluates others in his own terms and even expresses a grudging praise for the artistry of the men who sabotaged the bevel gear. By the same token, he is scornful of “imbeciles” and idlers, salesmen...

(The entire section is 477 words.)