Micòl Finzi-Contini (mee-KOHL FEEN-zee-kohn-TEE-nee), a young and wealthy Jewish woman of twenty-three, accustomed both to the adoration of her family and friends and to having her own way. She is unenthusiastically working on a graduate thesis about Emily Dickinson. Anti-Semitic feelings, propaganda, and regulations in her hometown of Ferrara, Italy, force her to socialize with other Jews, rather than with Gentiles of her own social and economic station. She lives with her parents, brother, and grandmother on the large ancestral estate belonging to her father’s family. Micòl is having an affair with Giampiero Malnate. Although she speaks publicly about Malnate as boring and unattractive, she secretly meets him at night in a farmer’s hut in the park of the estate.
The narrator, a young, middle-class Jewish man who has decided to take an advanced university degree. He finds himself involved, at a transitional phase in his life, with the wealthy Finzi-Contini family. They have fascinated him since his childhood, when he watched them during Sabbath services at the local synagogue. When the Fascists come to power and restrictions are placed on the Jewish population of Ferrara, the narrator becomes friendly with the Finzi-Contini children. He has never socialized with them because they have been tutored at home and have kept apart from the less wealthy Jews in town. What begins for the narrator as a pleasant interlude of tennis and camaraderie grows into an obsession with Micòl and the subsequent realization that she does not love him. Micòl’s father offers him the...
(The entire section is 712 words.)