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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 243

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.

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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.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 712

Micòl Finzi-Contini

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

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 free run of his large Renaissance library in which to do research. The narrator accepts because it places him in daily contact with Micòl. As he learns the distressing fact that she will never return his love, he also discovers the manifestations of economic and racial prejudice that exist within the Jewish community.

Alberto Finzi-Contini

Alberto Finzi-Contini, Micòl’s brother, a young man in his early twenties. He is passive and unsure of himself; bored with his existence, he is too much of a follower to risk interest in anything. He has a materialistic bent and shows some talent in reproducing antique furniture. He takes little pleasure in his...

(The entire section contains 1417 words.)

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