The Hands of Primo Levi

The chemist’s hands that mixed elements,  alpinist’s hands that grasped rocks, the sculptor’s hands that transformed materials, the hands of the writer that set down experiences of life and painful memories – these are all different hands, but they are able to coexist in a character like Primo Levi, who incarnated all of them.  

On the centenary of his birth, Rai Cultura television featured Bruna Bertani’s documentary, The Hands of Primo Levi / Le mani di Primo Levi, broadcast July 31 2019, exactly 100 years after Levi’s birth.

The documentary goes over the various experiences of the man and artist from the point of view of manual skills, the sense of touch, and manual work as ways of rediscovering how relevant and important Levi’s thought is for us right now. It was made with original and previously unseen footage and with photographic material provided by the International Primo Levi Studies Center –

The narrative follows a dual path – visiting the places of Primo Levi and gathering the reflections made by experts and witnesses.

In this way, places live again, such as Rocca Sbarua [a mountain haven for rock climbers] and other mountains that Levi frequented, the Siva paint factory in Turin Province where Levi worked, and the shops in his stories. The places of pain come back again, from the camp at Fossoli to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The words of these scholars accompany the images of these place in the narrative progress of the film: historians Anna Bravo and Marcello Pezzetti, who talk about life in concentration camps;  Paola Valabrega, the first scholar to take on the “topic of the hands” in Levi; writer Ernesto Ferrero; Marco Belpoliti, editor of Levi’s complete works; architect Gianfranco Cavaglià, Ordinary Professor of  the Technology of Architecture; alpinist and writer Enrico CamanniPeppino Ortoleva, scholar of the role of work in Levi’s writings; Chief Rabbi Scialom Bahbout, who comments about the role of the hands in Jewish tradition; Professor Robert Gordon of Cambridge University, author of important research works on Levi; and Professor Pierpaolo Antonello of  Cambridge University, scholar of the relationships between  science and writing in Primo Levi.

Actor Luigi Lo Cascio closes the documentary with a reading of Primo Levi’s poem, “The Work”/ “L’opera,” where Levi sums up his conception of literary creation and more.

Events for the centennial of Primo Levi’s birth

Programma delle iniziative per il Centenario, promosse dal Centro e dal Comitato Nazionale per le celebrazioni, a Torino e in tante altre città d’Italia e di tutto il mondo.