Although Giorgio Bassani (bah-SAH-nee) began writing in Italy in the mid-1940’s, his international reputation became established only after the 1962 publication of the novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. The subsequent filming of the novel (directed by Vittorio di Sica) also enhanced his standing as an important novelist. Bassani was born in Bologna on March 4, 1916, but reared in Ferrara, a prosperous mercantile city about thirty miles northeast of Bologna. Bassani focused his fiction on the city of Ferrara, specifically on its large population of Jews; he chronicled their fate during the Fascist rule of Italy, from 1920 to 1944. Bassani’s family was a prosperous middle-class Ferrarese Jewish family, and Bassani himself knew well the milieu of the Finzi-Continis, so keenly described in his novel. Educated at the University of Bologna, he studied journalism and wrote reviews and poetry in the 1930’s. In 1943 he was married to Valeria Sinigallia and left the city, moving to Florence and then to Rome. Up to this point his only publication had been a novel, Una città di pianura (a city on the plains), in 1940, published under the one-time pen name of Giacomo Marchi so as not to reveal its Jewish author.
After the war Bassani took occasional work as a screenwriter and a film dubbing editor, as well as an editor for the avant-garde review Botteghe Oscure in Rome, from 1948 to 1960. He was also coeditor of the art and literature journal Paragone from 1953 to 1955. It was in the 1950’s that Bassani began issuing the short novels later collected in the 1956 book...
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