There are myths that are life-sustaining
and deserve to be reinterpreted for our age.
There are some that lead astray
and must be redefined.
Others are dangerous and must be exposed.

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi
Carlo Ginzburg and Stefano Levi della Torre in film Lucus a Lucendo presented on January 23, 2024 at CUNY
As the opening of the annual Holocaust remembrance observance approaches, more and more people wrestle with the attempt to attribute meaning to past and present events. But is there a limit to this act? Is there a moment when we may consider stepping back and reining in the urgency of our gaze and judgement?

The confrontations that inundate the media and social networks constantly call us to choose between two options as if we were spectators at a sport match. We are told that there will be a right and a wrong outcome, people who will be proven right and others who will be proven wrong, and that good and evil will be neatly distinct. We rush to like and dislike, approve and disapprove, and offer our opinions driven by the adagio that time is of the essence. Fast we act, believing that our cherished "agency" will move things along. And still we stand far away from events that precipitate unperturbed by our semantic frenzy. 

Most of us cannot stop wars, mend natural and man-made disasters or heal famine and destruction. But perhaps we can contribute to a reflection on what went wrong with our well-intentioned principles, what makes us so eager to improve the world and so fundamentally uninterested in improving ourselves. Co-existence requires more than two teams, more than high morals, more than tough stances, more than intelligent analysis. Primo Levi feared that, as human beings, we are unable to renounce the luxury of being right. He warned us that the dead should not become tools in anyone's hands and cannot be attributed meaning. But they speak to us. 
Song of Those Who Died in Vain
Primo Levi, 1984

Sit down and negotiate
All you like, grizzled old foxes.
We’ll wall you up in a splendid palace
With food, wine, good beds and a fire
As long as you bargain and negotiate
Your children's lives and your own.
May all the wisdom of the universe
Converge to bless your minds
And guide you in the labyrinth.
But out in the cold we'll wait for you, 
The army of the dead in vain.
We of the Marne, of Montecassino,
Treblinka, Dresden and Hiroshima.
And with us will be
The lepers and the trachomatoses, 
The disappeared of Buenos Aires, 
The dead of Cambodia 
and the dying of Ethiopia, 
The plea bargains of Prague, 
The bloodless of Calcutta, 
The innocent mangled in Bologna. 
Woe to you if you come out disagreeing:
You’ll be clutched tight in our embrace.
We are invincible because we are the vanquished,
Invulnerable because already silent;
We laugh at your missiles.
Sit down and bargain
Until your tongues are dry.
If the havoc and the shame continue
We’ll drown you in our rottenness.
JANUARY 23 at 6:30 pm
Hunter College Ida K. Lang Recital Hall, Room 424-North Bldg. East 69th Street.
Between Park & Lexington Avenues (South entrance).

LUCUS A LUCENDO. A PLACE OF LIGHT. (2019, Caucaso/Luce Cinecittà).

Presented by CUNY Calandra Institute and the Consulate General of Italy

Screening and discussion with Alessandra Lancellotti and Enrico Masi.

In his acclaimed autobiographical novel Cristo Stopped in Eboli, Carlo Levi uses the expression “Lucus a non lucendo” to describe the landscape of Lucania where the Fascist Regime confined him as an enemy of the state. In the light and darkness of the desert land in which the writer imagines a “little Jerusalem,” Levi’s human and artistic gaze moves from Turin’s horizon toward workers, mothers, and children: the southerners whom the nation had conquered and abandoned. Levi’s nephew Stefano Levi Della Torre and historian Carlo Ginzburg trace the steps of his journey in the landscapes of his confinement: the director’s ancestral land.
JANUARY 24 at 6:00 pm
Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò
24 West 12th Street

A LENS ON HISTORY: LORENZA MAZZETTI'S FILMS. Introduced by Alessandro Cassin.

In London, during the 1950s, Lorenza Mazzetti became a filmmaker and one of the founders of the Free Cinema movement. She could not recount the pain she had suffered to anyone; it emerged in her art. She and her twin sister Paola had been adopted by Nina and Robert Einstein, first cousin of Albert. While Robert was in hiding, the women of the family were massacred by the Germans on August 3, 1944. The girls, then 17, were the only survivors. A long time friend of the Mazzetti sisters, and curator of the exhibition dedicated to them at the Memoriale della Shoah in Milan (opening on January 18th, 2024), Alessandro Cassin will present and discuss excerpts of Lorenza Mazzetti’s films The Country Doctor (1953) and Together (1956) recently restored by the British Film Institute in London. On January 19th, the Museum of Modern Art will present a tribute to Lorenza Mazzetti and show all of her films.
JANUARY 25 at 6:00 pm
Italian Cultural Institute 686 Park Avenue


Literary scholar Gabriella Romani in conversation with Fabio Finotti presents Lost Bread by Edith Bruck, which she translated with David Yanoff. The Italian original, Il pane perduto (2021), was a finalist for the prestigious Premio Strega. Born in Hungary, Ms. Bruck was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and survived with her sister. After living in Israel, she moved to Italy in 1954. Bruck began writing her memories of the camp in Italian, a language she learned as an adult that she described as a “Chinese wall” that gave her freedom. Her first book, Chi ti ama così (1959), became a classic of Holocaust literature. Bruck shared with Primo Levi the experience of the camp and that public life in Italy.
JANUARY 28 at 12:30 pm 
Magazzino Italian Art
Cold Spring, NY


Magazzino Italian Art, in collaboration with the Centro Primo Levi New York, will present a program focused on the resilient Mazzetti sisters. On August 3, 1944, Paola and Lorenza, twins adopted by Robert Einstein and Nina Mazzetti, witnessed the murder of their family by the Nazis. For the remainder of their lives, they channeled their experience into a profound artistic expression that spanned painting, filmmaking, writing, and psychoanalysis. The program at Magazzino will combine discussions led by Alessandro Cassin and Davide Spagnoletto, alongside photographs, documents, and video excerpts. Referencing the After Images exhibition at the Memoriale della Shoah in Milan, the program will reconstruct historical events and prompt introspection on the impact and diverse manifestations of memory in shaping life's trajectories.
JANUARY 29 8:30 am - 2:30 pm
Consulate General of Italy
690 Park Avenue


Ceremony of the reading of the names of the Jews deported from Italy and the territories under Italian rule. The ceremony is held each year in front of the Italian Consulate and everyone is invited to join and read. Giorno della Memoria (Remembrance Day) commemorates the day of 1945 in which Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Army. European countries and the UN mark this day with programs and ceremonies to create public awareness of the past, foster civil dialogue, and counter racism, intolerance, and xenophobia in today’s societies.
JANUARY 30 at 7:30 pm
Bruno Walter Theater at the NYPL Lincoln Center, 111 Amsterdam Avenue. Free admission. Reservations


Concert and historical overview by Raffaele Bedarida. Cantori New York directed by Mark Shapiro will perform Vittorio Rieti’s music for the Magnifico. In 1948, the New York City Ballet presented The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, a Renaissance poem by Lorenzo de’ Medici whose refrain “del doman non v’è certezza” (future holds no certainty) resonated with the experience of displacement in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Behind the project was the painter, set designer and cultural organizer, Corrado Cagli. Echoed in this performance are his reckoning with his life in fascist Italy, the catastrophe of the war, and the mass murder of the Jews. Cagli’s first exhibition in New York since 1937 is on view at CIMA through January 26. 
JANUARY 31 at 6:00 pm
Consulate General of Italy
690 Park Ave.


Umberto Gentiloni and Serena Di Nepi will present the archive and digital portal of La Sapienza ( documenting the expulsion of faculty members, researchers, students, and administrative staff, whose lives were taken apart by the persecutory laws of 1938. They will illustrate the archival project, its relevance for new research, and its impact in shaping our understanding of how legal process, sedimented mentalities, expedients, and the elimination of any possibility of appeal, concurred in eliminating Jews from all sectors of the academia. The Fascist project of a “new man” targeted prominently educational institutions and the university in particular was to be “freed from Jewish presence and influences” and become the springboard of State-sponsored racism.
Would you like to learn more about one of the smallest Jewish minorities? About the world seen through their eyes and about their peers who transited through the same tiny slice of land in the middle of the sea? The history and culture of Jews in the Italian peninsula spans over a millennium and defies simplifications and assumptions of linearity and homogeneity. Among its gifts are the first sonnets in Hebrew by Dante's contemporary Immanuel of Rome, which CPL has published in a bilingual edition last fall. As you wait for your copy of the book, explore some ramifications of this story through our online magazine Printed Matter: Ed Simon's The Heretical Origins of the Sonnet and Farah Abdessamad's Truth or Dare?

Among our latest volumes is a biographical profile of the artists and cultural ambassador Corrado Cagli whose vicissitudes between two continents in the wake of World War II encourages us to revisit large-scale events through the lens of individual sensibilities.

Many stories have been told and many are still awaiting to be written. Each year, Centro Primo Levi brings some of them to an international readership. Support new books and visit CPL Editions!
Christ Stopped in Eboli, Francesco Rosi, 1979
Centro Primo Levi is the recipient of the endowment fund established by the Viterbi Family in memory of Achille and Maria Viterbi. CPL's activities are supported by Lily Safra, Jeffrey Keil & Danielle Pinet, Sarah Wolf Hallac and Toby Wolf, Robert S. and Ellen Kapito, Peter S. and Mary Kalikow, Claude Ghez, Joseph and Diane Steinberg, Alan and Caryn Viterbi, Ezra K. Zilkha z'l, Andrew and Joan Milano, Leonard Groopman and Yasmine Ergas, The Mazur Family, Lice Ghilardi, Bruce Slovin and Francesca Slovin z'l, Georgette Bennett and Leonard Polonsky, Ira and Andrea Jolles, Antonio Weiss, Alan Berro.
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