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Taking place at the time when the Italian Fascist government passed the racial laws, Giorgio Bassani's novel is a clear indictment of the racial prejudice that, from 1938, became the foundation of the regime. The garden of the Finzi-Continis details several aspects in which the lives of Jews were affected by these laws, such as the prohibition of mixed marriages, of studying at schools and universities, of hiring non-Jewish maids. The book also portrays the ways in which the leaders of the Jewish community were unable to see these as signs of a much larger and ominous danger that was looming on their community: that of deportation and the Holocaust. So, while Bassani obviously critiques Fascism for its politics of hatred and for not taking into account the role of Jews in the formation of a united Italy as well as during the First World War, he also targets the behavior of those Jews who pretented not to notice what was really happening. The narrator's father embodies the contradiction that several Jews felt at the time: the felt Italian and Fascist, but they were forced out of the party and put at the margins of Italian society. The town of Ferrara thus becomes a microcosm for Europe as a whole. The garden where the wealthy Finzi-Contini family invite fellow Jews who have been expelled by the local tennis club to play is a symbol of a self-imposed ghetto, a self-deceptive refuge that is about to crumble tragically.
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