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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Giorgio Bassani (1962)

Doomed Jewish lives, behind high walls

by
Adam Kirsch
September 17, 2013

The Jewish community of Ferrara, Italy, was completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1943. In this novel, set in the late 1930s, Bassani at once memorializes that community and explores the deep tensions and rivalries within it. The Finzi-Continis, the richest Jewish family in town, live reclusively in their walled estate, a standing provocation to Ferrara’s more assimilated Jews. When Bassani’s unnamed narrator’s falls in love with Micol, the family’s daughter, he undergoes an education in love, family, and class that bears comparison to Proust’s. Bassani never stops insisting on the reality and complexity of these Jewish lives, doomed though he and we know them to be.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

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