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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 240

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis begins by following the vast family history. It began with Moise Finzi-Contini, who built the family fortune, and ends with his great-grandchildren, Micol and Alberto.

The story continues after the implementation of Anti-Semitic laws in Fascist Italy. Micol and Alberto frequent the Eleonora d'Este tennis...

(The entire section contains 1048 words.)

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The Garden of the Finzi-Continis begins by following the vast family history. It began with Moise Finzi-Contini, who built the family fortune, and ends with his great-grandchildren, Micol and Alberto.

The story continues after the implementation of Anti-Semitic laws in Fascist Italy. Micol and Alberto frequent the Eleonora d'Este tennis club, but Jews are banned after a team which includes a Jewish man consistently win championships. Micol and Alberto invite all who have been banned from the tennis club to practice at the court on their family's estate. This includes the story's narrator, who has observed the family at a distance for most of his life.

The group spends several weeks gathering at the estate, and the narrator begins to develop feelings for Micol, though he never acts on them. As winter approaches, the political state of Italy worsens. The narrator's father is kicked out of the Fascist party, and his brother Ernesto is forced to leave the country to attend university. His sister Fanny is also banned from attending Italian public schools, and the narrator is banned from the city library.

The narrator's infatuation with Micol becomes more desperate and hopeless, and she orders him to leave the estate. Then, the federal secretary of the Fascist Party orders the Finzi-Continis to cease their gatherings; if they do not abide, they will be deported.

The family is sent to a concentration camp, but the details of their deaths are unknown.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 808

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is an elegy about the Finzi-Continis, Ferrara’s richest Jewish family, all of whom died soon after their deportation to Germany in 1943. As seen through the eyes of the narrator, a middle-class Jewish boy, the exclusive Finzi-Continis are the source of much wonder. He is fascinated by their possessions—from their imposing but tasteless family tomb to their stately, ornate carriage and their gloomy, neo-Gothic mansion surrounded by a huge park. He is even more fascinated by the Finzi-Contini children, who are tutored at home instead of attending the Jewish primary school and state high school and who speak in accents like those of no one else. On the other hand, the Finzi-Continis’ self-imposed isolation disgusts the narrator’s father, especially when the family withdraws from the Jewish community by ceasing to worship in the thriving Italian synagogue and by beginning to worship in the tiny Spanish synagogue which had not been used for more than three hundred years. The narrator’s father charges that the Finzi-Continis are guilty of an “aristocratic-type anti-semitism.”

In part 1, the novel traces the history of the Finzi-Contini family from the patriarch, Moise Finzi-Contini, who amassed the huge family fortune, to Moise’s great-grandchildren, who prove to be the end of the Finzi-Contini line. Part 2 begins in October, 1938, two months after the imposition of the first of what was to become a series of racial laws which forbade, among other things, Jews from marrying Gentiles and from employing Gentiles as servants. One result of the racial laws is that all the Jews are forced to resign from Eleonora d’Este, a private tennis club, when a mixed doubles team consisting of a Gentile woman and a Jewish man appear to be winning the club’s doubles championship. As a result, Alberto and Micol Finzi-Contini, who are in their early twenties, invite the ostracized club members to play on the private Finzi-Contini court. The narrator, who is about the same age as Alberto and Micol, is included in the group even though he does not know either very well and has had no contact with the Finzi-Contini family for more than five years. Giampiero Malnate, a Gentile whom Alberto befriended while the two young men were studying at the Polytechnic in Milan, also joins the group from time to time.

This clutch of tennis players enjoys several weeks of fellowship during late autumn, 1938, before the winter rains begin. Micol often pulls the narrator away from the group, ostensibly to show him the grounds of the estate. The turning point of their relationship occurs one day when the young couple escapes to the coach house, but the narrator cannot find the words to tell Micol of his love for her, and the moment passes forever.

Part 3 chronicles the winter of 1938-1939, during which the narrator falls in love with Micol more desperately while Micol draws further away from her lover. The vivacious Micol, who is writing her thesis on the poetry of Emily Dickinson at the university in Venice, insists that she will die, like Dickinson, an old maid.

Juxtaposed against what quickly becomes a hopeless, even painful, love affair is a catalog of the various ways that loyal Jewish-Italian citizens are gradually losing their rights, all the more horrifying because the tone is so matter-of-fact. The narrator’s father is expelled from the Fascist Party, the narrator’s younger brother Ernesto is forced to leave Italy in order to go to a university, and thirteen-year-old Fanny is banned from attending public school. In addition, the narrator is told that he can no longer study at the city library, a place that he has frequented since he was a very young boy.

Part 4 covers the period from mid-April, 1939, to August, 1939, during which the narrator’s hopeless love for Micol grows still more hopeless and even embarrassing. In frustration, the narrator alternates between stealing kisses at inopportune moments and picking fights. Instead of making a clean break, Micol simply orders her admirer to stay away for a few days, then a few weeks. Finally, the narrator’s pride allows him no more humiliation, and after one last surreptitious, nocturnal visit to the Finzi-Contini garden, he never returns.

Paralleling the disintegrating relationship of Micol and the narrator is the worsening political situation of the Farrarese Jews in general and the Finzi-Contini family in particular. The Fascist federal secretary decrees that the Finzi-Continis must stop the gatherings at their private tennis court. Failure to abide by the order will be cause for deportation to a concentration camp. As the epilogue states, deportation is precisely the fate that awaited Micol and her family. The time and place of their deaths are unknown. Only Alberto, who suffocated to death from a disease called malignant lymphogranuloma, is buried in the family tomb in the Jewish cemetery.

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