The Gold-Rimmed Eyeglasses

by Giorgio Bassani

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Last Updated on June 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 262

In The Gold-Rimmed Eyeglasses, Giorgio Bassani offers an insightful look at Italian society in the 1930s as the nationalist policies of Benito Mussolini took hold. Bassani further explores Jewish issues, as he did in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, later adapted into a film directed by Vittorio da Sica. In this novel, Bassani unveils the breadth of Italian Fascist discrimination based on criteria other than religion; in particular, the anti-gay discrimination dominates Bassani’s narrative.

Discrimination against Jews is among the most well-documented aspects of Fascist (and Nazi) campaigns that targeted specific sectors of the population. Bassani draws attention to discrimination based on sexuality, specifically through the character of Dr. Fadigati. The physician has made a name treating routine children’s ailments, such as tonsillitis, among the elite of the city of Ferrara. The reader gradually learns that Fadigati is not only gay but has a sexual preference for young men.

In addition, the character of Eraldo brings the social and personal conflicts to the fore. Eraldo exploits the doctor’s sexual preferences to enrich himself. The overwhelming prejudice against gay people benefits Eraldo, as he manipulates the older man and even steals his money so he can escape to Paris—where, presumably, he expects to indulge in café society’s excesses without repercussions.

Bassani’s bleak view of Italian society in the grim late 1930s suggests that the Italian bourgeoisie, not just German influence, was responsible for the disastrous social policies enacted under Mussolini. He further raises questions about the likelihood of any individual escaping the extensive reach of government forces.

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