Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, a young man of age twenty (at the time of the main events of the story), a member of a middle-class Jewish family of Ferrara and a student of literature at the University of Bologna. He is becoming aware of the impact of Fascism on his family and on all Jews. Sensitive and sympathetic to the trials of other Jews, yet barely grasping what the growing anti-Semitism of the Fascist regime may mean to Italian Jews, he witnesses the torments of Dr. Fadigati, who is in his own way just as much an outsider as the narrator is going to be in Italian Fascist society.

Dr. Athos Fadigati

Dr. Athos Fadigati (AHT-ohs fah-dee-GAH-tee), an ear, nose, and throat specialist who came from Venice and settled in Ferrara. Middle-aged and overweight, Fadigati became somewhat of a society doctor, for a time, until his penchant for young men became known. He takes one of the narrator’s friends to Riccione, on the Adriatic Sea, for a vacation, and is more or less despised by other families. As an outsider, he attracts the narrator’s pity, especially when the boy whom Fadigati takes to the seashore absconds with all of Fadigati’s money. The doctor by then has lost much of his fashionable clientele, and eventually he takes his own life.

Eraldo Deliliers

Eraldo Deliliers (ehr-AHL-doh...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Like other men in his situation with a professional reputation to uphold, Fadigati must live a dual life, divided between day and night: by day, the concerned throat specialist; by night, a lonely man withdrawing into the shadows of the ill-lit popular quarters of the city and the cheaper seats at the cinema. It is when Bassani draws his tragic victim out of the nocturnal shadows of Ferrara, and even out of the discreet monotones of the winter train journeys, into the blinding summer sun that bakes the bathers at Rimini that the reader knows that Fadigati’s collapse is imminent. Light is the medium of exposure, and from exposure to public disgrace is but a step. Fadigati’s decision to appear openly at Rimini with Deliliers seems such a calculated affront to public opinion, and so out of character, that the narrator rightly attributes it to Fadigati’s shameless companion. The narrator also discerns in Fadigati’s nature another quality that leads to his demise. When Fadigati shows his young friend the curt note left by his departed lover, he seems to revel in his own humiliation. The exultant tone in his voice reveals a self-destructive desire, derived perhaps from a corrosive guilt that demands some kind of expiation.

The narrator of the story is not a distant bystander but a participant drawn into the action by moral compulsion. It is not only his reputation as a dreamer (a “poet”) that sets him apart from his companions. It is also the fact that he is a Jew. He shares this isolation with Fadigati, and this melancholy similarity of experience develops into the book’s central relationship and illuminates its major theme. Apart from Deliliers, the narrator is the only member of...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Clay, G.R. Review in The New York Times Book Review. LXV (October 9, 1960), p. 54.

Grillandi, Massimo. Invito alla lettura di Giorgio Bassani, 1972.

The New Yorker. Review. XXXVI (December 24, 1960), p. 61.

Pacifici, Sergio. Review in Saturday Review. XLIII (August 20, 1960), p. 16.

Trevelyan, R., ed. Italian Writing Today, 1967.