THE NEPPI MODONA DIARIES by Kate Cohen

THE NEPPI MODONA DIARIES

Reading Jewish Survival Through My Italian Family

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Four touching and tragic stories revealing the paradoxical nature of Italian fascism. By skillfully juxtaposing the tales of four distant cousins, Cohen, a freelance writer, recreates the texture of life for Italian Jews under the fascist regime. The Neppi Modona family consisted of patriarch Aldo, a classical scholar; his wife, Rachel; their son, Leo; and their daughter, Lionella. Each saw the experience of fascism from a slightly different perspective. Cohen wisely lets each of them speak for him- or herself, with just enough deft commentary to orient the reader. Aldo's recollections are drawn from his memoirs. The stories of Rachel and Lionella are derived from oral histories. Perhaps the most interesting of the four sets of recollections is Leo's ``fictionalized'' account of his experiences. Like many of his position and class, Aldo was adamant in his devotion to both his country and his Jewish roots. Until the advent of Zionism, most Jews in Italy did not see any conflict between their nationality and their religion. Even the fascist regime did not question the loyalty of Italy's Jews until the mid-1930s and the growing alliance with Nazi Germany. When the regime passed anti-Semitic legislation in 1938, most of the country--Jew and gentile alike--was stunned. Although historians often point out that persecution in Italy was nothing like that in Germany or in Nazi-occupied Europe, Italian Jews were effectively divorced from the political, cultural, and social life of the nation. Each member of the Neppi Modona family confronted this new turn of events in his or her own manner; each dealt with suffering and persecution in his or her own way. Deprived of their home, jobs, and possessions, they eventually had to go into hiding. The voices of the Neppi Modona family are interwoven with their discussions with the author. The frequent shift of focus enlightens rather than obscures. Four stories that remind us of the human dimension of history. (10 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-87451-783-4
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996




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