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Date: Mar 29, 2007
ANSWERING AUSCHWITZ: PRIMO LEVI'S SCIENCE AND HUMANISM AFTER THE FALL
APRIL 26 AND 27
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY ... The Hofstra Cultural Center is proud to sponsor its second international conference on the legacy of Primo Levi, titled Answering Auschwitz: Primo Levi's Science and Humanism After the Fall, to be held April 26 and 27, 2007.
Primo Levi (1919-1987) is acknowledged as one of the 20th century's greatest writers. His memoir, Survival at Auschwitz (If This Is a Man), has claimed a place among the masterpieces of Holocaust literature. Levi's last work, The Drowned and the Saved, is arguably the most profound meditation on the Shoah. In his lifetime, Levi forged an impressive body of work and his writings remain a powerful reminder of what transpired in the extermination camps of Europe and what it means to be human after Auschwitz.
* An April 25 pre-conference screening of Primo, the film version of Antony Sher's one-man play, directed by Richard Wilson of the National Theatre Company of London. The play also ran at the Music Box Theater in New York City in 2005.
* A keynote address on Thursday, April 26, "Beyond Testimony: Levi's Vocabularies" by the Joseph G. Astman Distinguished Conference Scholar, Robert S. C. Gordon, who is a professor of Italian at the University of Cambridge in England.
*"But When We Started Singing...," a performance inspired by the life and works of Primo Levi, conceived and performed by Bob Spiotto, with musical accompaniment and original compositions by Herb Bradensten, will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.
*Panel discussions on "Memory and Biography," "Philosophy and Theology" and "Levi and Anti-Fascism." Guests include scholars from across the United States, as well as England, Belgium, Israel, Scotland and Italy.
*There will also be a special address on April 26 by Ann Goldstein, an editor at The New Yorker, who will give readings of newly translated material.
*Actor John Turturro will participate in an April 27 screening and roundtable discussion on The Truce, the 1996 film in which Turturro starred as Primo Levi. The film is based on Levi's second novel/memoir, The Reawakening, which recounted his long, meandering journey home through the chaos of liberated Europe.
Registration for the Primo Levi conference is priced at $75, $60 for senior citizens and $35 for matriculated non-Hofstra students. Tickets for "But When We Started Singing..." are $16, $13 for senior citizens and matriculated non-Hofstra students. The April 26 luncheon, at which Robert S. C. Gordon's lecture, "Beyond Testimony: Levi's Vocabularies," is priced separately at $25 per person. All conference events with the exception of meals are free to members of the Hofstra community upon presentation of a current HofstraCard.
To register or for more information about the conference call the Hofstra Cultural Center at (516) 463-5669.
About Primo Levi: Writer and chemist, survivor and witness, Primo Levi was born to a Jewish family in Turin, Italy, in 1919. In 1943, when the Germans invaded northern Italy, Levi was captured by a troop of Fascist militia and found himself crossing the Brenner Pass in a cattle car, en route to Auschwitz. Out of the 650 Italian Jews in his "shipment" Levi was one of the 20 who left the camps alive. He was stricken with scarlet fever just as the Germans began to evacuate the Auschwitz complex. Left behind for dead, he survived, and was liberated along with a handful of other disease-ridden inmates in January 1945. Levi returned to Turin, married, and resumed his career as a chemist. In his spare time he composed Survival In Auschwitz. Written in a prose of tactful precision, shirking metaphysics, Levi's account documents the mundane life of the camp, setting out the author's experiences with a modest, appalling dailiness.
The late-breaking success of his first book inspired Levi to write The Reawakening. He contributed a column to Turin's newspaper La Stampa, and published a series of science-fiction and philosophical vignettes that were later collected in The Sixth Day and The Mirror Maker. In 1977 he retired from chemistry to write full-time, and won a worldwide following during the next decade with the English translation of The Periodic Table.
Beneath the hope and reason of Levi's books underlay a similar sense of a wound that simply could not be healed. On April 11, 1987, after a period of prolonged depression, Levi toppled over the railing of a stairwell in his Turin home, and died of his injuries. To this day it is debated whether his death was the result of suicide.