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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 1 Feb 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (1 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141188367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188362
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Powerful new translations . . . Bassani began as a poet, and McKendrick's redelivery of this taut uncompromising fiction reveals resonance and generosity (Ali Smith)

About the Author

Giorgio Bassani was born in 1916. From 1938 onwards he became involved in various anti-fascist activities for which he was imprisoned in 1943. His works include The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles, The Heron, Behind the Door and Five Stories of Ferrara, which won the Strega Prize. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was awarded the Viareggio Prize in 1962.

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First Sentence
The tomb was huge, solid and truly imposing, a kind of temple, something of a cross between the antique and the oriental, such as might be encountered in those stage-sets of Aida or Nabucco very much in vogue at our theatres only a few years back. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By PJ Nasser on 27 April 2006
Format: Paperback
A luminous novel, all the more so for the storm that threatens.

It is set in Ferrara mostly between the autumn of 1938 and the summer of the following year. Interesting times. Mussolini's 'racial laws' have just come into force. Their impact on the life of the Jewish narrator is not, at first, that serious: he is ejected from his tennis club. Indeed, for the door that has been closed on him, another more interesting one immediately opens: that to the garden of the Finzi-Continis. This wealthy Jewish family has long led a reclusive existence, the parents leaving their grounds only for the sabbath, the two children educated at home. The narrator knows both Alberto and Micol (they come to his school annually for the exams) but has had very little contact with them. Nevertheless, Micol has always drawn his eye, and at the new 'tennis club' that meets now every afternoon of that autumn, the attraction grows and seems to be reciprocated. Yet, when the winter descends on the town, nothing has 'happened', and soon Micol departs for Venice to complete her degree. When she returns, and he tries to move the relationship on, she rejects him saying that two people so similar could not be in love. He makes a fool of himself in ways familiar to us all, but eventually is able to accept what can never be.

It's a tale of first love and of becoming a man. In the background, there is the social exclusion of the racial laws, the slide towards war and the impending holocaust. Obviously the character of the unnamed narrator (it is only in the film that he acquires a name, Giorgio) is not aware of all this, but the writer is. For this book is an act of witness, though not (as with Primo Levi) of the Holocaust itself, but of the many pasts that it wiped from the face of the earth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Martin on 6 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The narrator's passion for Michol is a mixture of idealism and awkwardness. The garden is a sanctuary but also a defence against everything the Finzi-Continis aren't. The story starts in the 1950s, looking back to the late 1930s but the war and the deportations of the Jews of Ferrara aren't explicitly dealt with. By depriving the Fascists and Nazis the limelight they so often get in stories of this period, Bassani concentrates on the families at the heart of this story. One of the most memorable scenes is at the synogogue where, as a child, the narrator is covered by his father's threadbare prayer shawl and watches Michol under her father's shawl. An intimate moment in a moving novel.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By T. Graham on 12 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well, I can see what might be lurking in the original to make this a minor classic, but I found myself repeatedly blown off course with irritation at the awful McKendrick translation. All forgein language novels need a fluid translation, but this is a book in many ways about an enchanted parallel universe, so it is particularly important than one should be able to enter it and live it with conviction. I found this quite impossible, however, because the translator's English prose is clumsy, stilted, wooden, unnatural, obstacle-strewn. It reads like a very literal, A-level standard translation, with no attempt at naturalism in English. Here is an example, chosen at random (it's easy to do so; open any page), describing an argument about politics:
"I submitted to him and smiled, occasionally rebelling, but more often not, overcome despite myself by his candour and sincerity, a bit crude and relentless without doubt - I'd tell myself - but in the end truly compassionate because essentially egalitarian and fraternal." Dreadful, isn't it ? It's like wading through treacle, only without the consistency.
Maybe this style is entirely deliberate. Maybe it is supposed to be scrupulously true to the original. Whatever the cause (and I would be genuinely interested to know), the effect for me was sadly to make this unusual book almost unreadable; all fluidity is lost. Even reading it on holiday not far from Ferrara (where it's set), with all the time in the world on my hands, it was with real reluctance that I would return to it. I knew very well that the way would be strewn with McKendrick's linguistic boulders, his looming thickets of awkward prose.
I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that this renowned Italian novelist has been well served by this particular translator.
I suggest that readers try another one.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Montigiani Mario VINE VOICE on 21 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
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 which represented their happy world.
Ghosts of a time past, happy young people unaware of what was waiting for them just round one of the corners of their lives.
I read that book a few years ago and I was impressed by the sad, but never tragic mood of the author Giorgio Bassani.
The story is a biographical recollection of the life of a Jewish family in 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 concetrantion camp somewhere in Germany where any trace of her and her family would be lost.
She is doomed and she knows it.
Mr. Bassani tells his children this story while visiting an Etruscan necropolis, 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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