Italy was the main attraction in two of the events at this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. A part of the international section was dedicated to the Italian writer Primo Levi and to the English translation of his Complete Works. The session was introduced by the director of the festival herself, Marie Arana, and moderated by Michael Abramowitz of the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Among the attendees were Ann Goldstein of The New Yorker, who was one of the translators of the Complete Works, as well as critic Adam Gopnik and the director of the Primo Levi Center in New York, Alessandro Cassin. Yet it was multimedia artist Cynthia Madansky’s short film which accompanied the presentation that made the morning truly unforgettable.
In the home and food section of the festival, another event was dedicated to the Italian kitchen in the presence of Victor Hazan who was the first importer of Italian wines in the United States. He is also the husband of the late celebrated cooking writer, Marcella Hazan, who revolutionized the idea of the Italian kitchen in America during the 70’s. Hazan presented his latest book Ingredients: Marcella’s Guide to the Market where he revisits the ideas of his wife and aims to guide the reader through the best ingredients in order to prepare exceptional dishes. Hazan was accompanied by Alessandro Frassica whose book Il Pan’Ino Veggie is transforming the idea of the classic American Sandwich. The panel was moderated by Guy Lamolinara, an expert on international cuisine.
The National Book Festival 2016 was the first big institutional event organized by the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. During the inauguration gala of the festival she expressed feelings of gratitude for the contribution the Italian Embassy made to Washington and credited them for the success of the event.