Primo Levi is most commonly remembered as a Holocaust survivor and memoirist, but given his relentlessly humanist concerns, we would dishonor him by forgetting that he was also a man made of more than just his time at Auschwitz. In fact, Levi had two great loves: science — he trained as a chemist at the University of Turin — and writing, penning 14 books.
This year, New York’s Primo Levi Center reminds us of these other aspects of the life of its namesake by dedicating its annual forum to Levi’s writings on science. The forum opened on November 7 with a staged reading of “The Mark of the Chemist,” a short play that compiles passages spoken and written by Levi into a conversation with a fictional interviewer. The performance, which took place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, was the play’s English-language premiere, and starred John Turturro as Levi and The New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella as the interviewer, with live music by guitarist Marco Cappelli.