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

  • Judith Woolf

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Dust Smoke Germania Burial Tempo 

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Woolf

There are no affiliations available

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