The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

by Giorgio Bassani

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Giorgio Bassani weaves allusions into The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. The novel opens with an allusion to the now dead Etruscan civilization, once vibrant in Italy, and a parallel to the lost Jewish community. Against the sentiment that we don't feel sorrow over the loss of the Etruscans because it is as if they never lived, the Etruscan cemetery they visit bears mute testimony to the fact the Etruscans, like the Jews, did live. They went about the ordinary activities of life, using items such as spades, scissors, and knives still familiar to us.

It is also worth noting that Micol is writing her thesis on Emily Dickinson, the famously reclusive American poet. While Micol feels the extension phone in her room keeps her in contact with the world, her choice of thesis topic points to her isolation and withdrawal from the larger society.

Anachronism also shows up in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis: One of the interesting aspects of reading a novel set in another time period is the way its time differs from our own. Items, world-views or customs that are anachronistic are those that are different from ours. For instance, for most people in our culture, traveling by buggy would be anachronistic. Anachronism also means misplacing items, ideas, and ways of behaving typical of our time period into another time period. For example, people living in 1900 would not have televisions because television had not yet been invented.

Anachronism occurs in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis in terms of world-view. The narrator's father in the novel, for example, is happy that by 1933 ninety percent of Ferrarra's Jews have joined the Fascist party and angry that Micol's father has not. This is a political view that is jarring in our day and age, where the expectation would be that Jews would uniformly reject fascism. Yet, that is anachronistic thinking on our part: Jews in Italy in 1933 did not anticipate the Holocaust, and in fact, many Jews there and elsewhere subscribed to the idea that they could be included in a superior elite. Gertrude Stein, for example, a historical figure and modernist writer, was strongly drawn to the elitist aspects of fascism despite being both Jewish and a lesbian. It is interesting while reading to note other aspects of anachronism and to try to understand that the way we look at the world is not absolute nor the way it always has been. In more prosaic terms, we might note that Alberto's collection of state of the art hi-fi equipment looks antiquated to us—as it would have to Bassani's audiences in 1962 when the novel first appeared.

Through allusion and anachronism, Bassani adds depth to his novel.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Critical Essays