The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

by Giorgio Bassani

But it is not until 1938 that he is invited behind the walls of their lavish estate, as local Jews begin to gather there to avoid the racial laws of the Fascists, and the garden of the Finzi-Continis becomes a sort of idyllic sanctuary in an increasingly brutal world.

Years later after the war, the narrator returns in memory to his doomed relationship with the lovely Micol, and to the predicament that faced all the Ferrarese Jews, in this unforgettably wrenching portrait of a community about to be destroyed by the world outside the garden walls."

  • Series: Il romanzo di Ferrara
  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.81
  • Pages: 246
  • Publish Date: July 19th 2005 by Everyman's Library
  • Isbn10: 1400044227
  • Isbn13: 9781400044221

Read the Book "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" Online

####################################### Caroline Moorehead describes the rise of fascism in Italy and the counter anti-fascist campaign in her book A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Two Sons, and Their Fight Against Fascism. Giorgio Bassani, himself Jewish, also took part in the anti-fascist campaign, and was imprisoned in 1943. In this novel Bassani refers to several of the anti-fascist leaders who feature in Caroline Moorehead's book. Giorgio Bassani won the 1956 Strega Prize for his five novels of Ferrara.

Echoes of the primeval garden, of an overgrown paradise, or of the Hortus Conclusus of protected virginity, welcome us from the beginning since the title of the book acts as a kind of Welcoming Banner. Tragic because we know what is coming: the Italy of the black shirts.

For those who are interested in the parallels I've been finding between Bassani's Ferrara cycle and Marcel Proust's Recherche du Temps Perdu, let me say that there are even more here than in the second book, The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles. In this episode he recounts his memories of the Finzi-Contini family, from when he first became aware of them as a young boy in the late 1920s until he left Ferrara at the outbreak of the war. Like Marcel Proust's unnamed narrator's obsession with the Guermantes family, which began with a sighting in the church at Combray when he was a child, and which grew and grew with the passing years, Bassani's narrator first spots the Finzi-Contini family in the local synagogue. One day when he is a young teenager, he has a brief encounter with Micòl across the Finzi-Contini garden wall just as Proust's narrator does with Gilberte Swann through the garden railings of Tansonville. From that day onwards, his interest in the Finzi-Continis transforms into an interest in Micòl alone just as Proust's narrator becomes obsessed with Gilberte during his teenage years to the exclusion of all else.

The inner flap of this edition mentions Marcel Proust, but even without that I'm sure I would've thought of him, not only with the above passage, but with the unnamed narrator's love for the tennis-playing Micòl, at an age when love equals jealousy, a love without the understanding that the insecurities and accusations that arise from the lesser emotion will not endear you to the beloved. For only one thing, Micòl's family, not the narrator's, is the one with money; but more importantly, unlike Albertine, Micòl is not a concept but a character who speaks her mind, acts and reacts (though perhaps the two differences are not unrelated).

Like another of my favourite books, Hopeful Monsters by Nicholas Mosley, it transcends the series it is part of and can be read as a self-contained novel.

Alla magna domus È tutto nel prologo, magistrale, il significato di questo romanzo, raffinato e struggente, in quella visione maestosa del castello di Santa Severa - che si erge nel nulla, e desolato e abbandonato si staglia sulla spiaggia deserta in una soleggiata mattina dinverno, così come la magna domus, la villa dei Finzi-Contini, che si poggia quieta e silenziosa,misteriosa, nellintricato e lussureggiante giardino - e in quella discesa nella necropoli di Cerveteri che il narratore fa allinizio insieme ai suoi amici, simbolo del passato prossimo e remoto al tempo stesso, presa in prestito per rievocarne altri, di morti, altri passati sulla terra e ora, che sono stati spazzati via tutti insieme, hanno bisogno di essere rievocati per essere poi lasciati in pace, ricordati perché a essi si è voluto bene: sono morti vicini, non come gli Etruschi, nelle cui tombe, profanandole, si scende dimenticandosi che si è trattato di persone vive; sono morti che non dovevano morire così, spazzati via dalla follia, dalla ferocia, dalloffuscamento della ragione. In questo senso Il giardino è molto diverso dai tanti racconti, romanzati e non, sugli effetti delle leggi razziali in Italia e sulla Shoah, lo spaccato descritto da Bassani non mostra nulla delle storie già acquisite dal nostro immaginario sul ghetto di Roma, o sui campi di prigionia di Fossoli, o su quelli di sterminio, ma si sofferma su una parte di mondo privilegiato, sugli effetti provocati su chi era abituato a essere ammirato, invidiato, emulato, criticato, a essere considerato punto di riferimento per la comunità cittadina, modello a cui tendere.

Told from the un-named author, he recalls the memories of the Finzi-Continis of Ferrara, Italy just leading up to the War. The book focuses on the young adult lives of Micól and her brother Alberto and their eccentric Jewish parents. In pre-war Italy the Race Law had been passed that eroded the lives of Jews. Toss in a love story and the book fills out an almost painful to read plot as we know what is coming.

All Iost, nothing lost Esco da questo libro con una particolare tristezza, in parte determinata dal modo in cui lho affrontato. Vorrei consigliarvi di evitare la versione audio e il prologo prima di aver letto lepilogo; non so se ogni storia sia davvero una storia damore, so però che ogni lettore legge a modo suo.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is a coming-of-age story of the narrators loss of innocence and entry into manhood. The Finzi-Continis, a family of Italian Jews, wall themselves off in their villa with its garden paradise, dreaming their sunlit afternoons away. They live on in Bassanis novel: a moving elegy to these people who too once loved, and played, and dreamed that their innocence could never end.

Giorgio Bassani was born in Bologna into a prosperous Jewish family of Ferrara, where he spent his childhood with his mother Dora, father Enrico (a doctor), brother Paolo, and sister Jenny. As a Jew in 1939, however, work opportunities were now limited and he became a schoolteacher in the Jewish School of Ferrara in via Vignatagliata.1: In 1940 his first book, Una città di pianura (A City of the Plain), was published under the pseudonym Giacomo Marchi in order to evade the race laws. Bassanis writings reached a wider audience in 1956 with the publication of the Premio Strega-winning book of short stories, Cinque storie Ferraresi. Together with stories from Cinque storie ferraresi (reworked and under the new title Dentro le mura (1973)) it was to be form part of a series of works known collectively as Il romanzo di Ferrara which explored the town, with its Christian and Jewish elements, its perspectives and its landscapes. Bassani passed away in 2000, and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Ferrara.