Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Micol Finzi-Contini is a wealthy, 23-year-old Jewish woman and graduate student. She is accustomed to a life of luxury, but the anti-Semitic propaganda and regulations in Italy force her to mingle with other Jews of a lower economic status. Micol is secretly having an affair with Giampiero Malnate, whom she meets at night in a secluded area of the family estate.
Malante is a large man and a chemist who works in the rubber factory. He is also a communist, and he befriends the narrator, with whom he discusses this ideology.
The narrator is a young Jewish man, also in graduate school. He has been fascinated by the Finzi-Contini family for most of his life, and he comes to know the children after the fascists take over Italy and the Jewish community is isolated. He is taken into their luxurious life and becomes infatuated with Micol.
Alberto Finzi-Contini is Micol's brother, a dull young man who lacks self-confidence. His passivity becomes worse when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. His only pleasure in life is building furniture. He begins to doubt the idea that he is superior to other people because of his family's status.
Professor Ermanno is Micol and Alberto's father, who always wears a suit and a panama hat. Eager to pass on his knowledge, he allows the narrator to access his expansive library in order to do research. Ermanno turns to books to escape the political turmoil of fascist Italy.