BOOK LAUNCH Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò and Centro Primo Levi present: One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World. By Michael Frank. Illustrated by Maira Kalman, Avid Reader Press / Simon
Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò and Centro Primo Levi present: One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World. By Michael Frank. Illustrated by Maira Kalman, Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2022. Recipient of the Jewish Book Council’s Natan Notable Book Award.
The remarkable story of Stella Levi whose conversations with the writer Michael Frank over the course of six years bring to life the vibrant world of Jewish Rhodes, the deportation to Auschwitz that extinguished ninety percent of her community, and the resilience and wisdom of the woman who lived to tell the tale.
With the participation of Stella Levi, Michael Frank and Daphna Mor who will perform some of Stella’s favorite romansas.
“Through the polyphonic story of Stella Levi, a woman severed from her origin but deeply connected to it through memory, Michael Frank conjures up not only the eradication of the Jewish community in Rhodes, but also what preceded it: the life. His book—beautiful, sober, and affecting—is a testament to remembrance and friendship.” —Dalia Sofer, author of The Septembers of Shiraz
With nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had long discussed her past and the ways her views and different environments continuously reshaped her memory. Then she met Michael Frank. He came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she’d grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium.
Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays over the course of six years that they would spend in each other’s company. During these meetings Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this luminous, legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians conquered in 1912, began governing as an official colonial possession in 1923, transformed over the next two decades, and continued to administer ever after the Germans seized control in September 1943. The following July the Germans, having received the lists of the Jews from the Carabinieri, rounded up over 1,730 residents of the Juderia and sent them first by boat and then by train to Auschwitz on what was the longest journey of any of the deportations. Ninety percent of them were murdered upon arrival.
Stella was born into the mysterious world of Jewish Rhodes, witnessed its destruction, and lived to tell the tale. Probing and courageous, elegant and sly, she is a modern-day Scheherazade whose stories reveal what it was like to be formed by an extraordinary place in an extraordinary time—and to construct a life after that place has vanished.
One Hundred Saturdays is a portrait of one of the last survivors, drawn at nearly the last possible moment; it is also an account of a tender and transformative friendship that develops between storyteller and listener as they explore the fundamental mystery of what it means to collect, share, and interpret the deepest truths of a life deeply lived.
ABOUT MICHAEL FRANK
Michael Frank is the author of What Is Missing, a novel, and The Mighty Franks, a memoir, which was awarded the 2018 JQ Wingate Prize and was named one of the best books of the year by The Telegraph and The New Statesman. His essays, articles, and short stories have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Yale Review, Salmagundi, The TLS, Tablet, and other publications. The recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives with his family in New York City and Camogli, Italy.
ABOUT MAIRA KALMAN
Maira Kalman is the author/illustrator of over thirty books for adults and children and a contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times. She lives in New York City.
ABOUT STELLA LEVI
Stella Levi is a member of the Board of Directors of Centro Primo Levi NY. She was born on the Island of Rhodes under Italian rule and attended the local Jewish and Italian schools while growing up in a multinational and polyglot community where Turkish, Greek, Hebrew and old Spanish coexisted with French and Italian. She loved literature, philosophy and music and looked forward to going to university in Europe.
On July 23, 1944, along with the entire Jewish community of Rhodes, she was deported to Auschwitz. Stella and her sister were the only survivors of their immediate family. Even though they were Italian, they had never seen Italy where they landed in 1945 on a truck of the American army and through the assistance of the Joint Distribution Committee. They decided to continue her journey to the United States where some of her family had settled before the war. Stella has long been involved with the reconstruction and preservation of Sephardic and Italian Jewish life and traditions, offering her knowledge, guidance, and dedication to the Jewish Museum of Athens, the Jewish Museum of Rhodes, the Museum of Kehilah Kedoshah Janina, and the American Sephardi Federation. Stella appears in several films, including The Longest Journey by Ruggero Gabbai, The Island of Roses by Rebecca Samonà, and Redemption Blues by Peter Stastny. A flow of programs, publications, and projects have their source in her imagination and questions. The multimedia exhibition Los Corassones Avlan presented in 2019 in New York, was based on her recollections.