Micòl and Beatrice: Echoes of the Vita Nuova in Giorgio Bassani’s Garden of the Finzi-Contini

  • Judith Woolf


While Micòl Finzi-Contini is not the central character in Bassani’s Giardino dei Finzi-Contini — that rôle belongs to the unnamed narrator/protagonist — she is undoubtedly its emotional and imaginative centre. Her beauty and vitality, overshadowed as they are by the reader’s foreknowledge of her terrible and anonymous death, together with the false glamour lent her by her family’s retreat into aristocratic seclusion, make it all too easy to see her as a purely symbolic, even a sacrificial, figure. For Marilyn Schneider, ‘her fate to die in a concentration camp is sacral, scapegoated “compensation” for her energetic love of life and the present moment’,1 while her brother Alberto’s death from Hodgkin’s disease in 1942 is seen as a wilful exiling of himself from the ‘sacral’ status that marks out the rest of his family and especially Micòl. ‘Having refused to share their (healthy) humanity during his life, in death he is excluded from participating in their moment of final sacrifice.’2 Such a reading risks misunderstanding more than just Bassani’s novel. If we sanctify the death of one fictitious victim in this way, how are we to respond to the real facts of mass extermination? It is those real facts and the problem of how to respond to them which form the underlying subject-matter of the book.


Penguin Book Real Fact Final Sacrifice Story Pattern Transit Camp 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bassani, Giorgio, Cinque storie ferraresi (Turin: Einaudi, 1956; reprinted as Dentro le mura, Milan: Mondadori, 1973).Google Scholar
  2. Bassani, Giorgio, Il giardino dei Finzi Contini (Turin: Einaudi, 1962; reprinted Milan: Oscar Mondadori, 1976).Google Scholar
  3. Bassani, Giorgio, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, trans. Isabel Quigly (London: Faber & Faber, 1965; reprinted Quartet Encounters, 1989).Google Scholar
  4. Charity, A. C., Events and their Afterlife (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966).Google Scholar
  5. Dante, Dante Alighieri: La Divina Commedia, ed. Umberto Bosco and Giovanni Reggio (Florence: Le Monnier, 1979).Google Scholar
  6. Dante, Dante Alighieri: Vita Nuova, ed. Giorgio Petrocchi and Marcello Ciccuto (Milan: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, 1984).Google Scholar
  7. Dante, bante Alighieri: La Vita Nuova (Poems of Youth), trans. Barbara Reynolds (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969).Google Scholar
  8. Hughes, H. Stuart, Prisoners of Hope: The Silver Age of the Italian Jews, 1924– 1974 (Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press, (1983).Google Scholar
  9. Manzoni, Alessandro, The Betrothed, trans. Bruce Penman (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972).Google Scholar
  10. Melville, Herman, The Piazza Tales, in the Standard Edition of the Works of Herman Melville (reissued New York: Russell & Russell, 1963).Google Scholar
  11. Petrarch, Francesco Petrarca: Canzoniere, ed. Gianfranco Contini and Daniele Ponchiroli (Turin: Einaudi, 1964).Google Scholar
  12. Proust, Marcel, Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (London: Chatto & Windus, 1981; reprinted Penguin Books, 1983).Google Scholar
  13. Schneider, Marilyn, Vengeance of the Victim: History and Symbol in Giorgio Bassani’s Fiction (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  14. Stille, Alexander, Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families under Fascism (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992).Google Scholar
  15. Unterman, Alan, Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Woolf

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations