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Pollak's Arm by Hans von Trotha

02/17/2022 - 6:00pm



Centro Primo Levi, New Vessel Press, and Rizzoli Bookstore invite you to celebrate the launch of Pollak's Arm, with author Hans von Trotha in conversation with Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David I. Kertzer moderated by Alessandro Cassin. Pollak's Arm is an enthralling work of historical fiction for lovers of Rome and the world of antiquity, centered on one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.



In-person events will be presented to a fully vaccinated audience at full capacity. All attendees are required to wear masks. All patrons over the age of twelve will be required to show proof* of having completed the COVID-19 vaccination series at least 14 days prior to the date of the event. 

*Proof of vaccination will be defined as either an original vaccination card or an Excelsior Pass. 

 Registration will be required. 


October 16, 1943, inside the Vatican as darkness descends upon Rome. Having been alerted to the Nazi plan to round up the city's Jewish population the next day, Monsignor F. dispatches an envoy to a nearby palazzo to bring Ludwig Pollak and his family to safety within the papal premises. But Pollak shows himself in no hurry to leave his home and accept the eleventh-hour offer of refuge. Pollak's visitor is obliged to take a seat and listen as he recounts his life story: how he studied archaeology in Prague, his passion for Italy and Goethe, how he became a renowned antiquities dealer and advisor to great collectors like J. P. Morgan and the Austro-Hungarian emperor after his own Jewishness barred him from an academic career, and finally his spectacular discovery of the missing arm from the majestic ancient sculpture of Laocoön and his sons.

Torn between hearing Pollak's spellbinding tale and the urgent mission to save the archaeologist from certain annihilation, the Vatican's anxious messenger presses him to make haste and depart. This stunning novel illuminates the chasm between civilization and barbarism by spotlighting a little-known figure devoted to knowledge and the power of artistic creation.


© Jan Düfelsiek



Hans von Trotha is a German historian, novelist and journalist who spent ten years as editorial director of the Nicolai publishing house in Berlin.

© Peter Goldberg

David I. Kertzer is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author, anthropologist, and historian. He is Professor of Social Science, Anthropology and Italian Studies at Brown University. His 2014 book The Pope and Mussolini was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Among his many other books, his The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award for Nonfiction.


Alessandro Cassin is the director of Centro Primo Levi’s online magazine Printed Matter and CPL Editions which has published over 15 books since its debut in 2014. Coming from a tradition of publishing —his father published the first edition of If This Is A Man in English—Cassin began working in experimental theater and was awarded the Premio Ruggero Rimini 1989 for Il Presidente Schreber. He has been a cultural reporter for publications including L’Espresso and Diario. He is a contributor to The Brooklyn Rail. His book Whispers: Ulay on Ulay co-authored with Maria Rus Bojan received the 2015 AICA Netherlands Award. He coordinated the publication of Laurence Butch Morris’ The Art of Conduction edited by Daniela Veronesi (Karma, 2017). He is the author of The Scandal of the Imagination, a film about the life and work of Aldo Braibanti (2021). 

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