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In collaboration with Primo Levi Center
Book Presentation in the Garden of Casa Italiana
One Hundred Saturdays
Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World
(Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2022)
Illustrated by Maira Kalman
With the participation of the author and Stella Levi
Featuring a performance by singer Daphna Mor
Recipient of the Jewish Book Council’s Natan Notable Book Award
The remarkable story of ninety-nine-year-old 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 nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. 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, and continued to administer even after the Germans seized control in September 1943. The following July, the Germans rounded up all 1,700-plus residents of the Juderia and sent them first by boat and then by train to Auschwitz on what was the longest journey—measured by both time and distance—of any of the deportations. Ninety percent of them were murdered upon arrival.
Probing and courageous, candid and sly, Stella is a magical modern-day Scheherazade whose stories reveal what it was like to grow up in 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, as well as 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.