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Philip Roth speaks on Primo Levi

The Grinzane Literary Masters Award

Philip Roth receives the first Grinzane Literary Masters Award in recognition of his merit as a writer and for introducing the work of Primo Levi to a wider American audience. The prize, which brings an honorarium of $25,000, is awarded this year in memory of Primo Levi, the Italian Jewish writer, chemist, and Auschwitz survivor, on the twentieth anniversary of his death (in April 1987).

Philip Roth says of Levi: “With the moral stamina and intellectual pose of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contemptible. What has survived in Levi’s writing isn’t just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in "The Periodic Table" and "The Monkey’s Wrench," his delight in what made the world exquisite to him. He was himself a magically endearing man, the most delicately forceful enchanter I’ve ever known.”

The Premio Grinzane Cavour is one of Italy’s most prestigious literary prizes. The Grinzane committee, based in the Piedmont region, awards annual prizes for contemporary Italian fiction, contemporary foreign fiction published in Italy, translations, essays, and young writers, as well as an Italian publishing award offered to figures with outstanding ethical and civil commitment, and the International Award, an acknowledgment for “lives devoted to literature.” This event launches the Grinzane Literary Masters Award, to be observed with readings from Mr. Levi’s works and a brief talk by Mr. Roth.

Co-sponsors: The Premio Grinzane Cavour, the Compagnia di San Paolo, The Foundation for Italian Art and Culture, and the Centro Primo Levi.