Primo Levi at 100: If This Is a Man

By Bogdan Horbal, Curator, Slavic and East European Collections
June 12, 2019
Cover of the Russian translation of Primo Levi's

In 1947, just three years after he was liberated from Auschwitz, Primo Levi (1919-1987), an Italian-Jewish chemist and writer, published Se questo è un uomo (If This Is a Man), an unsparing account of Levi's 11 months of internment in the Nazi death camp.

Today, from afternoon into evening (noon to 8:00 PM), 100 years after Levi's birth in Turin, Italy, readers will gather at The New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building for a full-length recitation of If This Is a Man (also issued in the United States as Survival in Auschwitz). Readers will share chapters aloud in some of the many languages into which Levi's indelible work has been translated around the world. 

Primo Levi's works have been translated into several Slavic and East European languages including: Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, and Slovenian.

Among the readers at today's event:

  • Elidor Mëhilli (Albanian) teaches European history at Hunter College, City University of New York.
  • Aleksandra Wagner (Croatian) is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at The New School.
  • Vít Hořejš (Czech) is an actor and director.
  • Elena Lozonschi (Romanian) is an actress, musician, and model.
  • Yuriy Tarnawsky (Ukrainian) is a writer and linguist.
  • Magda Teter (Polish) holds a Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies and is a Professor of History at  Fordham University.
  • Lara Vapnyar (Russian) is a writer.

The program is presented with Centro Primo Levi New York and the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.

The annual Joy Gottesman Ungerleider Lecture has been made possible by a generous grant from the Dorot Foundation.