Saturday, February 22, 2003

Primo Levi's 'The Sixth Day'

I found this book hidden among all the science books in my supervisor's bookshelf and it seemed intriguing enough. Primo Leviwas an Italian writer, born in 1919. He's written a lot of novels and essays concerning his Auschwitz experiences. But this book is particularly interesting to me because its one of those in which a 'mainstream' writer addresses issues so familiar to science fiction. This book is a collection of loosely linked short stories. Most of them deal with the impact of a invention on society. He doesnt care to describe how the machine or the phenomenon works, all he is interested in is seeing how the people involved would change or react to the invention. Its lightly humorous and wryly satirical at times but altogether an enjoyable read. Some stories deal with evolution seen from unusual point of views. I found many concepts familiar because they appear frequently in SF stories, but Levi's handling of the concepts was something akin to hearing an electric guitar riff played on a piano. Familiar yet different. His style of writing is also reminiscent of Italo Calvino's, in fact one of the stories is dedicated to the latter. Italo Calvino also has this underlying fascination with technology and speculative fiction, he even edited a collection of fantasy stories.