Ferrara is a magnificent Renaissance town which is really close to Bologna, where I live. It's a shame that for 24 years of my life I've never been there when it takes just 30 minutes by train to reach it.
Then, months ago, I've finally been to Ferrara, but unfortunately in my memory that short trip is still deeply connected with the girl who went there with me. The girl I've loved, the girl I've lost.
The Garden of the Finzi Continis takes place in Ferrara. This novel speaks about love, as well, and it does in a gentle and romantic way which is really mine too. From this long assumption don't expect an ordinary weepy book, because Bassani has written more than a novel about rejected feelings.
Actually The Garden of the Finzi Continis has a fundamental historical frame, being set just before Fascist dictatorship weight in Italian life became too heavy with the persecution of Jews on the wake of infamous "Racial Laws". Both the narrator of the novel and his beloved Micol Finzi Contini are young hebrews. They spend their days going to school and playing tennis in the big and mysterious garden of Micol's family noble palace.
The anonymous narrator (probably an alter-ego of Bassani himself) is attracted by the blonde, full of life and determined Micol gradually falling in love with her. But she doesn't share the feeling. She looks at the narrator only as a good friend and she doesn't want to get involved in a relationship with him. As the narrator writes about Micol's point of view:
"I...I'm standing on her side, did I understand this? I wasn't the one who stands in front of her, while love is something for people who want to take advantage of each other; a cruel and ferocious sport, a lot of times more cruel and more ferocious than tennis!"
Instead of understanding the impossibility of his love, the narrator insists on it becoming more and more annoying and more and more jeaulous until Micol gives up with him.
Then history's jaws begin to swallow up everything.