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Bassani's six classic books, collected for the first time in English as the epic masterwork they were intended to be.
Set in the northern Italian town of Ferrara before, during, and after the Second World War, The Novel of Ferrara brings together Bassani's six classic books, fully revised as a single volume by the author at the end of his life: Within the Walls, The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Behind the Door, The Heron and The Smell of Hay. These interlocking stories present a fully rounded world of unforgettable characters, memorializing not only the Ferrarese people, but the city itself, which assumes a character and a voice deeply inflected by the Jewish community to which the narrator belongs.
'Exquisite . . . from his boyhood Ferrara and the families he knew, Bassani has carved out a corner of Italy that rises above regionalism with fiction that can stand alongside the most lingering written in Europe to day' The New York Times
This momentous volume from Bassani (1916 2000), set during, before, and after WWII, is not quite a novel: it's built from four short novels (the most famous is The Garden of the Finzi-Continis) as well as a story collection (Within the Walls), and a series of short stories that were initially published separately (The Smell of Hay). It all hangs together, though bound less by plot or characters than by focus, milieu, time period, and atmosphere. All are set in and around the Jewish community of the northeastern Italian city of Ferrara. All are suffused with grief, dread, and a desperate ambivalence, as the characters try to work out whether war is coming; how to respond to the 1938 racial laws that stripped Jews of their civil rights; and, later, whether post-war life in fascist hotbed Ferrara is possible. Bassani masterfully conveys a creeping moral rot in the story "A Memorial Tablet in Via Mazzini," the sole surviving deportee returns after the war and becomes a scandal of reminder; in the novella "The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles," the town's beloved doctor, a homosexual, is driven to suicide. In "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," the town's richest Jews, the Finzi-Continis, abandon public life, while the narrator is tormented by his crush on their daughter; the protagonist of the novel The Heron spends a lugubrious day hunting, beset by worries. Many of the characters evade the Nazi death machine, but all feel their separateness and powerlessness (despite being middle- or upper-class), along with the failure of their neighbors not just to save them, but to admit their complicity. Bassani uses his intimate knowledge of Ferrara to build a memorial composed of equal parts grief, affection, frustration, and muted but palpable fury.