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LIVE from the NYPL: A Tribute to Primo Levi

April 5, 2007

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The Richard B. Salomon Distinguished Lectures* & LIVE from the NYPL present:

"I am a normal man with a good memory who fell into a maelstrom and got out of it more by luck than by virtue, and who from that time on has preserved a certain curiosity about maelstroms large and small, metaphorical and actual."
Primo Levi 1919-1987

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Primo Levi's death, Joan Acocella, Alessandra Bastagli, Ruth Franklin, Ann Goldstein, and Adam Kirsch pay tribute to Levi's legacy as well as discuss his unpublished stories now translated in A Tranquil Star. The actress Maria Tucci reads from this collection. Robert Weil moderates.

A Tranquil Star, seventeen stories first published in Italian between 1949 and 1986 and now translated into English by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli, demonstrates Levi's extraordinary range, from the primal resistance of a captured partisan fighter to a middle-aged chemist experimenting with a new paint that wards off evil, to the lustful thoughts of an older man obsessed with a mysterious woman in a seaside villa. This collection once again affirms Primo Levi?s position as one of the twentieth century's most enduring writers.

About Primo Levi

Primo Levi was an Italian-Jewish writer and chemist, who first gained fame with his book, If This is a Man, an autobiographical story of survival in Nazi concentration camps. For the last forty years of his life, Levi devoted himself to attempting to deal with the fact that he was not killed in Auschwitz. "The worst survived, that is, the fittest; the best all died," he said. Among Levi's other works is The Periodic Table where he used the Russian chemist Mendeleyev's periodical table of elements as the basis of autobiographical meditations. If Not Now, When combined the emergence of Jewish consciousness and action taken to rescue victims of concentration camps. His last work was the essay collection The Drowned and the Saved where he writes that in the camp system useless violence dehumanized both guards and prisoners. "Before dying the victim must be degraded, so that the murderer will be less burdened by guilt," he stated. Levi also published poetry, science fiction, and short stories. He died in 1987, at the age of 67, in what some believe was suicide. Italo Calvino called Levi "one of the most important and gifted writers of our time."


About Joan Acocella

Joan Acocella is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Among her books are Mark Morris, Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism, and Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder. Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints, a collection of her essays (including one on Primo Levi), was just published.





About Alessandra Bastagli

Alessandra Bastagli is the translator from the German of Jurek Becker's The Boxer and co-translator with Ann Goldstein of Primo Levi's A Tranquil Star. She works as a book editor in New York.






About Ruth Franklin

Ruth Franklin is a senior editor at The New Republic. Her writing also appears in The New Yorker, Slate, and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She is at work on a book about the literature of the Holocaust.





About Ann Goldstein

Ann Goldstein is an editor at The New Yorker. She has translated works by, among others, Primo Levi, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alessandro Baricco, Elena Ferrante, and Roberto Calasso, and is currently editing the Complete Works of Primo Levi in English. She has been the recipient of several prizes, including the PEN Renato Poggioli prize, and an award from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.




About Adam Kirsch

Adam Kirsch is the book critic of the New York Sun. He is the author of a book of poems, The Thousand Wells, and a critical study, "The Wounded Surgeon."






About Maria Tucci

Maria Tucci began her career in the original production of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. Later she won a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Rosa in the revival of The Rose Tatoo. She has worked extensively on and off Broadway, including Requiem For A Heavyweight (Tony Award Nomination), Athol Fugard's A Lesson From Aloes, and Mike. Her film credits include Sweet Nothing and To Die For, directed by Gus Van Sant.




About Robert Weil

Robert Weil is an Executive Editor at W. W. Norton & Company. He has commissioned from the Italian publisher, Giulio Einaudi Editore, both the The Complete Works of Primo Levi, as well as A Tranquil Star, which inaugurates Norton's involvement with the literary estate of Primo Levi. Weil has worked with many writers, including Anthony Appiah, Robert Crumb, Patricia Highsmith, Clive James, Paul McCartney, Jan Morris, Henry Roth, Oliver Stone, and Edward O. Wilson.

*These annual lectures made possible by an endowed fund established by the friends and associates of the late Richard B. Salomon.