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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis Paperback – December 5, 1977


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (A Harvest/HBJ Book); Reissue edition (December 5, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156345706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156345705
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Giorgio Bassani's masterwork has Vittorio de Sica's 1971 film adaptation to thank for its dual success and obscurity. Not enough people know that this tale of a middle-class Jewish youth's obsession with the far more aristocratic Micol Finzi-Contini stems from a novel, not a novelization. Bassani's doom- and tomb-ridden examination of one-sided love is far more complex--about individuals' inability to contend with personal and political annihilation. Events call for heroism, yet it seems "downright absurd that now, all of a sudden, exceptional behavior was demanded of us." The narrator writes in retrospect, 13 years after World War II's end, and reveals the Finzi-Continis' 1943 deportation to Germany right from the start: "Who could say if they found any sort of burial at all?"

As Fascist racial laws go from strength to strength, the family, which had long isolated itself from the other inhabitants of Ferrara, opens its walled grounds and tennis court to other young Jews and even returns to the local temple. Unfortunately, the situation encourages the narrator's dream that Micol will return his love, and she is forced into cruel honesty. "She looked into my eyes, and her gaze entered me, straight, sure, hard: with the limpid inexorability of a sword."

The author has re-created a tragic era in which even nobility could not outrun events, let alone admit they needed to. (For a nonfiction account of the fates of five Italian Jewish families under fascism, see Alexander Stille's Benevolence and Betrayal.) Bassani's elision of historical and personal agony is furthermore superbly translated by William Weaver. All is foretold in the novel's Manzonian epigraph, "The heart, to be sure, always has something to say about what is to come, to him who heeds it. But what does the heart know? Only a little of what has already happened."

Review

Giorgio Bassani's masterwork has Vittorio de Sica's 1971 film adaptation to thank for its dual success and obscurity. Not enough people know that this tale of a middle-class Jewish youth's obsession with the far more aristocratic Micol Finzi-Contini stems from a novel, not a novelization. Bassani's doom- and tomb-ridden examination of one-sided love is far more complex--about individuals' inability to contend with personal and political annihilation. Events call for heroism, yet it seems "downright absurd that now, all of a sudden, exceptional behavior was demanded of us." The narrator writes in retrospect, 13 years after World War II's end, and reveals the Finzi-Continis' 1943 deportation to Germany right from the start: "Who could say if they found any sort of burial at all?" As Fascist racial laws go from strength to strength, the family, which had long isolated itself from the other inhabitants of Ferrara, opens its walled grounds and tennis court to other young Jews and even returns to the local temple. Unfortunately, the situation encourages the narrator's dream that Micol will return his love, and she is forced into cruel honesty. "She looked into my eyes, and her gaze entered me, straight, sure, hard: with the limpid inexorability of a sword." The author has re-created a tragic era in which even nobility could not outrun events, let alone admit they needed to. (For a nonfiction account of the fates of five Italian Jewish families under fascism, see Alexander Stille's Benevolence and Betrayal.) Bassani's elision of historical and personal agony is furthermore superbly translated by William Weaver. All is foretold in the novel's Manzonian epigraph, "The heart, to be sure, always has something to say about what is to come, to him who heeds it. But what does the heart know? Only a little of what has already happened." (Amazon.com Review)

“Giorgio Bassani is one of the great witnesses of this century, and one of its great artists.” (The Guardian)

Customer Reviews

Best book of the course, and one of my favorites of all time.
robert.j.tsai@ssmb.com
This is a hauntingly, heart-breakingly beautiful story about a young man and a first love in a wondrous garden.
Inna Tysoe
This book is filled with wonderful characters that make it a great work of fiction.
A. T. A. Oliveira

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Some readers will be familiar with this story because this novel was the basis for the beautiful and haunting film of the same title. Comparisons between the film and the book are inevitable. The basic story is identical in both. The narrator is a young, middle class Italian Jew in the provincial city of Ferrara. The events take place on the eve of WWII and are set against the background of the anti-semitic legislation and policies of the Italian fascist state. The book recounts the hopeless infatuation of the narrator with the daughter of a wealthy Jewish family. This doomed and largely one-sided passion is presented subtly as an allegory of the fate of the Italian Jewish community. Not surprisingly, the book is considerably more detailed than the movie, more detached, and at times almost ironic in tone. The quality of writing is excellent, even in translation, and the characterization of pre-war Ferrara is evocative. The gradual constriction of the life of Italian Jews emerges slowly and indirectly, but with great power. The book also features an important subplot concerning the narrator's relationship with his father which is also presented with delicacy and real pathos. This is one of those books whose impact tends to linger well after you finish reading it.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Montigiani Mario on December 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
A few months ago, I was visiting a friend in Ferrara and while walking through the streets of the town I was reminded of the Finzi Continis' sad story.
Going by the wall surrounding the house where they used to live, I went back to the times of their youth(the 30s and 40s)and I could nearly hear their happy voices, Alberto, Micol and their friends playing tennis in the big garden, Alberto on his wheeling chair watching the others play.
Ghosts of a time past, happy young people unware of what was waiting for them just round one of the corners of their lives.
I read the the book a few years ago and I was impressed by the sad, but never tragic style of the author Giorgio Bassani.
The story is a recollection of the life of a Jewish family from Ferrara before and during the Nazi-fascist persecutions of world war two.
The story of the one-sided love of the author for Micol Finzi Contini the Jewish girl who seems to foresee her destiny and refuses to return his love. She seems to know about her deportation to a concentration camp somewhere in Germany where would be lost any trace of her and her family.
She is doomed and she knows it.
Mr. Bassani tells his children this story while visiting an Etruscan necropolis, it is his story too and sadly points out that there are no tombs where to grieve and pray for Micol and her family, there is only their memory left in the hearts of those who loved them
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Inna Tysoe VINE VOICE on August 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a love story, a story about growing up, a story about discovering one's three rich heritages (Italian and Jewish and literary). And it is a story about a boy becoming a writer.
There must be thousands such coming-of-age stories; thousands of stories about that first (and naturally unrequited) love; and, since most of the people who write these stories are authors there are even a few tales of how boys grow up to become writers.
And yet this tale is haunting. It grips the reader and never lets him go till the end and even long after. And that is because this is also a story about a murder.
The murder is barely mentioned. Oh, the narrator invokes it once or twice when for example he tells us that when he looked out at his family members during a Passover meal "most of whom, a few years later would be swallowed up by German crematory ovens" he found almost all of them terribly bland and bourgeois. He also mentions it at the beginning when he informs us that his first (unrequited) love, Micol, her father, her mother, and her Grandmother were all "deported to Germany in the autumn of `43". But that's not what this story is about.
This is not a story about concentration camps and the mechanized degradation there. This is a hauntingly, heart-breakingly beautiful story about a young man and a first love in a wondrous garden. A story that comes to an abrupt end because the children (the real flowers in the Garden of the Finzi-Continis) are made to pay the ultimate price because the Italians around them first resented that "the Jews were not enough like the others and then, having ascertained their almost total assimilation into their surroundings, [resented] the opposite: that they were just like the others."
It is, in the end (to paraphrase Amos Oz), about Jews who were not to be special and who were not to be banal; who were not to be.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By robert.j.tsai@ssmb.com on March 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
This text was on the Intro to European Literature reading list at Princeton University. Best book of the course, and one of my favorites of all time. This is a story of love and remembrance written from the vantage of an older Italian Jew looking back on the second world war. Micol Finzi-Continis is like every boy's first crush, and though we all move on in life from past to present, we always remember fondly those we loved before. Though written originally in Italian, I found the translation to be beautiful. A quick read, but it leaves a lasting impression.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on February 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
We know so much about German Jews and the problems they faced with the Nazism, and so little on the Italian Jews in the same time, that Giorgio Bassani's `The Garden of Finzi-Continis' stands as a remarkable thing. This is not the only reason to read and praise this novel. This book is filled with wonderful characters that make it a great work of fiction.
Set in an Italian small town called Ferrara, `Garden...' follows a couple of years in the life of the narrator. Years after the events, he is forced to remember the whole story, and that's the beginning of the narrative's journey. We follow him from a small and naïve boy worried with school grades until when he is a grown-up in love with the Finzi-Contini girl and has his political sense developed.
Bassani has a wonderful prose. Many pages of the book are devoted to beautifully evocative descriptions of things like the house, the city, the garden. That is one of the things that make this book so magical.
Another one is its vivid characters. Everyone seems to be real people and not literary creations, and this is a great achievement for a writer. The narrator is the person who goes through the most drastic transformation. Throughout his story he learns the importance of his past and roots, and how they are place in contemporary history.
`The Garden of the Finzi-Contini' is one of those books that don't take too long to read, but take a very long period to be forgotten. And to some people it will never be forgotten.
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