Giorgio Bassani was born in Bologna on March the 4th, 1916 of a family from Ferrara, and that is where he spent his youth. He graduated in litterature along with Roberto Longhi. He lived in Ferrara until 1943 alternating litterary activity with clandestine political action. During the spring of '43 he was arrested on charges of antifascism; after the armistice he participated actively in the Resistance. Today he is considered to be among the most actively political authors, and although not considered to be very politically engaged he was editor of "Botteghe oscure" and "Paragone" from 1953. In 1956 he won the "Strega" award and in 1962 the "Viareggio" award.
His first truly recognized work was "Una città di pianura", in which Bassani , with his typically discrete style, engages in the litterature of solitude, contrasting with fascist litterature.
When Bassani published the three long stories of "La passeggiata prima di cena" (1953), Pasolini underlined in that type of narrative a sort of compromise between a memorial-lyrical measure and a way of facing reality not insensitive to post-war Realism, through a profound moralism, typical of the author. Afterwards Bassani, in "Cinque storie ferraresi (1956), putting together a few typical stories from the israeli community of Ferrara, would abandon the external aspects of his formal engagement to penetrate deeper into his subJect, until lyrically drawing forth his own sentiment of pain and the mournful contemplation of death.
After "Cinque storie", the first book which reveals Bassani's coming of age is "Gli occhiali d'oro (1958), marking a double qualitative difference with respect to his previous production: on the one hand regarding the equilibrium of themes and narrative tones, on the other because of the progress made in style - more cónstructive and incisively ironic in functional relationships. In the depths of Bassani 's soul there is always moral protest against the hypocrite, sick and conformist fascist society.
Here the main character is a human relic, Doctor Fadigati, whose homossexuality is in part hidden by his discretion, by his will to save appearances, and therefore bourgeois society tollerates him by considering him only strange. But when he falls in love with young Deliliers, a university student from Ferrara, that same provincial bourgeois society is scandalized by their public relationship.
"Where the choral tones of Bassani 's fiction try new measures, it's in the description of life in the summer village of Riccione that the Fadigati scandal explodes: a clear and precise description, with acute details, where reality always leaves open space for the incisive intervention of irony, as proof of the presence of moral judgment fitted however in the situation of the moment, in the meaning of the word" (Barberi Squarotti).
The young jewish narrator is the central character in an affair which becomes more and more complicated until turning dramatic, emphasizad by the frivolous seaside background. The consequences of that summer adventure will be tragic, because the young hebrew will be expelled by his own group, for reasons including those of racism;
Fadigati, on the other hand, will suffer the scandal of his homossexual affair wilh Deliliers who robs him and leaves him sentimentally destroyed when he runs away. His only alternative is suicide as a protest against a society so hypocritical as to exclude him.
The pages in which Bassani expresses the anguish of the two victims are marked by supreme narrative discretion, typical of his best style and an exceptionally eloquent sign of his bitter moral inspiration.
This long story was subsequently republished with the others in 1960 under the title "Le torri ferraresi", as if Bassani wanted to include in one narrative cycle all the precedent narrative experiences of "Cinque storie ferraresi". From this dissension between a mature historical conscience and an irresistible melancholic and consolatory vocation is born Bassani 's masterpiece, "Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini" (1962). With this novel Bassani restores the balance between traditional Realism and new experimental Realism in twentieth century Italian litterature, polemically offering his readers a novel based on matters of heart, elegy, idyll, compiled on a kind of tonal equilibrium between history and invention.
The manzonian epigraph "Che sa il cuore?" introduces a background theme which can be resumed as the following: "memory's intertwining of the affectionate and the solemn, of the unconscious and that which death has made sacred by stopping it forever (...). The beautiful prologue, the visit to the millenial etruscan graves of Cerveteri, has an analogous function. Those solid and massive places of death, where objects and images of that which rendered life beautiful and desirable were gathered, suggest to him the consoling image of eternity (...).
Immediately after (...), there is the portrait of jewish Ferrara, with the rich Finzi-Contini, (...) and their vocation to solitúde (...) and on the other hand modern jewish middle class, integrated in the fascist world, (...), in contrast with the closed, traditionalist world, faithful to the rites from which it came forth" (Pampaloni).
The old Finzi-Contini family lives completely isolated. But the fascist anti-semitic laws manage in part to break through that isolation when some hebrew youths who have been expelled from the tennis club- are invited to play on the Finzi-Contini 's private courts. In this way the main character of the novel gets to meet Micol, her brother Alberto, their parents, Professor Ermanno, a friend of Alberto 's. Mainate and others boys.
The centre of attention is the mysterious Micol, with whom the character-narrator falls in love, but by whom he is rejected. Micol seems completely inhibited, unable to love, has no interest in dating, isn't able to enter the circle of normal life and, like her family, doesn't believe in the future, only in the present and the past. Her friendship with the main character is not founded on the perspective of a happy future, but is based above all on tender and melancholic evocations of the past, so much so that courting from anyone else only annoys her. But when the war breaks out she and her entire family, except for her brother who dies of an illness in 1942, are deported to Germany.
"The true dimension of Micol's character, (...) is actually death. (...). She has within her such vitality and so much future because in reality she has none, and the capricious games of her life leave no ashes...(Pampaloni).
The basic theme remains always that of solitude and exclusion from life; this existential condition in the novel is relived in the memory and in the delicate melancholic souvenir that permeates the dramatic events in the aura of a far off and almost unreal fable. All of that long ferrarese story remains as an idealization of a place of idyll and peace, while beyond its boundaries a most violent tragedy is unfolding, and the storm of persecution destroys this extreme dream- world refuge.
War has destroyed all; even this unique island of peace and love. And maybe the novel touches upon the yearning accents of elegy in this internal conflict that is developed in the mind of the writer between the fierce and violent myth of history and the clean and definite refusal of it, between the incapacity to burn the memory of the past in the fire of a mature historical and progressive conscience and the need for evocative consolation. Hence the intimate nature of this beautiful novel, which is one of the most significant dealing with the relationship between narrative and crisis of modern conscience.
The theme of isolation and solitude, begun with "Gli occhiali d'oro", continues on a level of existential suffering in the novel "Dietro la porta" (1964). The main character, a naive and sensitive sixteen-year-old from a bourgeois family, is betrayed by his best friend, who slanders him and his family, and he can no longer look at his father or mother the same way. That cruel contàct hes made him face life such as it is, with its perfidy, betrayal, corruption and sin. He's not even able to beat up his friend, bacause he understands that his idyllic childish world is entirely fictitious. Here "cruelty does not feed on courtesy, it is sustained rather by intelligence, by a strong desire to understand, to bring that world of such tenuous and fleeting memories to a level of reason and history" (Salinari).
Within these events a sort of masochistic vocation matures, through an undampered curiosity about the mysterious world of sex, and so is explained the main character's predestination to escape from responsability, remaining to only look "from behind the door", while others demonstrate reality as they wish.
The theme of solitude and suicide, in a metaphor according to which beyond death exists perfection, finds a new litterary dimension in "L'airone" (1963). This time the main character is a disenchanted and defeated hebrew farmer, Edgardo Limentani, a forty-five-year-old land owner in the Ferrara "bassa padana" region, who one winter Sunday lives the last parable of his life through to suicide.
In one day Edgardo goes over all the cosmic cycle from the life to the death. Bassani has minutely analyzed and represented all the actions and the meditations of his protagonist discovering the sense of the inevitability of his destiny of death.
Edgardo wakes up to the dawn of a Sunday to go to hunting. A little visit in his wifes room and a regard to his little daughter still sleeping.
Suddenly he was oppressed by an inexpressible anguish, by a desolation without remedy. He didn't know why. It was as if someone, unexpectedly and in silence, had thrown him. As he had been attacked by a beast.
He comes down in the porters lodge, then he goes to the coffee, he mentions to his familys misfortunes, then the meditation: Oh, if he had been able to stay there, to the heat of the porters lodge, hidden to his family and to whoever till the evening! In change he had given everything.
The phone call in the house of his cousin Ulderico, allowing him to exchange some sentences with one of the children, gives him all the measure of his desperate affective thirst. So he stays in a state of mental idleness since when the labourer Gavino, who comes with him hunting, kills a heron
In front of the heron wounded to dead Edgardo starts to recognize the psychological condition of himself..
] destined to die, [
], he still seems be able in the memory of a boundless liberty, [
].His poor fragility, bones and feathers, is transformed in an image of the holy, ransomed to the truth from his same being victim. There is a beyond of the history where the defeated until the lost, finds justice, for the their simple to have been [
].The death is not only the peace liberator from the boring boredom of life, but something of more intoxicating and decisive, the truth. The poetry of the Airone finds his place in the circle of such metaphor" (Pampaloni).
His novitiate was long and meditated, falling in the years of the second world war, the Resistance, the jail, the tragic event of the victims of the Nazism; then there was the poetic training, that going up to Montale, it cant not sing the evil to live and the prayer to God Who governs the fates of the history and leaves to the souls their destine of death.
His first poetries oscillate between an hermetic intonation and a crepuscular sensibility. His inspiration has fed of deep moral demands, justified by his condition of antifascist and Israelite that has drawn from the reality of his experience a bitter sense of the defeat and pain, also without renounce the protest of the spirit. Obviously this experience, suffered by him in the meat and in the spirit, meditated through a fine.sense of critic, wasnt transcribed in the documentary forms of the Neoralism, but filtered through a long and cultural meditation; for which can be affirmed that the first proses and poetries of Bassani, in a certain sense they advanced, also in a chronological plan, the thematic and the lyric nature of the style of his mature narrative work
Bassani, after a brief lyric traineeship he is given almost to the fiction with the intention to represent the reality, but through the filter of the memory, interpreting, facts and real figures of city lifein function of his own inside story, of his elegiac loneliness on the background of a documented perspective of a society and of a bourgeois custom.
But his poetic brings him far from the memorialism such us the Realism, since" that memory never has be leaved, or quite never, go to the pleasure of the evocation for the evocation, its not a magic memory but a memory judge, permeated of critical sense and irony, even if hes introspective idea winds the facts a thin net of refractions; and the chronicle, the document, other side, are directed to mean, his conception of the life, pessimistic of a pessimism that is in a narrow relationship with Bassanis Israelite origin, with that sense of loneliness, of sadness really of his ancient people.
A conception, that the racial persecutions of the Fascism sharped, bringing him to a rebellion that, still before to translate in a partisan action, it was ideological and moral: and this explain as his fiction is connected to the literature of the Resistance, with special respect, note, to the Jewish community of Ferrara [...]. Fiction born with the full awareness of what was established, without uncertainties and wastes,: under the urgence of those dramatic event his literary education was an unic thing with his moral formation; and him, also keeping away from every sentimental renouncement or polemic outlet, and proposing himself in a classic formal rigor, he remains sensitive to the romantic demand of a literature as confession and human document. Therefore, if psicological and deep idea are the principal elements of his art, the objectivity, the expressive separation remain his end: not at all the writers of whose lessons more it seems has served to him, are James from a side and Flaubert from the other" (Bocelli)
Central subject, by now definitely assumed by him, is the Jewish world of Ferrara during the fascist regime; the protagonists are almost always widows, racial persecuted, socialist teachers, so all people from the simple heart, overcome by the historical circumstance and win ab aeterno, for a sad destiny of race.
" The history, the society of man, shape himself as a mysterious enclosure that the man can refuse to think acceptable but from which cant go out, to whose construction can deny his collaboration but from whose wall he cant continued to be forced. History and individual conscience are set as two world not in communication between themself, places of the hardness of the true and the charm of the dream, of the permanence in the play and the escape in the idyll" (Manacorda).
In conclusion, we can say that in Bassani - differently from Cassola, also him poet of the loneliness - lot of decadent suggestions survive, not only for the constant preference for the bourgeois classes and his difficulty to stick to the proletarian world, but especially for his religious disquietude , for the obsessive sense of the death and the frailty of the things, for the taste of the memory that rebuild in the elegiac recalling of the past the instability of the loved things, and for his always present autobiography idea understood as dramatic and pessimistic conscience of the life.