MEMOIRS OF A FORTUNATE JEW: An Italian Story by Dan Vittorio Segre


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Child of an Italian fascist family which happened to be Jewish, the author's story of a life of comparative ease in an Italy still unaware of Mussolini's dark side is richly observed and full of strange contrasts. Servants, beautiful homes, positions of power and a devotion to Risorgimento did not in the end protect this family and others like them. Their Jewish heritage was reduced to bare essentials. The father fasted on Yom Kippur, they ate matzo during Passover and usually married other Jews, but they considered themselves very Italian. Their ancestors had supported the greats of Italian nationalism--Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi--and considered themselves patriots; Zionism interested them little. The father, a staunch fascist, never did leave Italy and somehow survived the war to have a touching reunion with his son, who returned in a British uniform as one of the conquering allies. There is exquisite detail here in the transformation of a 16-year-old assimilated Italian Jew into a Kibbutz resident, then a British officer, finally a man in contact with his roots. Segre escaped the Holocaust, but his own pereginations, physical and psychic, are illuminating and memorable. There is an honesty and sensitivity here, a warm evocation that is rare; the texture and the smells of an idyllic Italy before fascism bared its true face. This threnody of loss and painful enlightenment comes alive on every page. An unusual reminiscence, riveting and full of forgiveness.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1986
ISBN: 0226744779
Publisher: Adler & Adler--dist. by Harper & Row