Page 28 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
20
through—and they hadn’t. Although he survived Buchenwald,
people avoided him like the plague. Nobody understood, and
nobody wanted to understand.
Bassani forces us to try to understand his people in these stories
and in his novels. The books are slender, if you count them by
the thickness of their pages. But you don’t. Somehow, the city of
Ferrara is scratched into your memory and so are its people: the
victims and the killers; the friendless and gregarious ones; those
who belong and those who know they don’t.
I read all his work in continuous sittings and they all blend
into a single over-all work of fiction, yet they seem real and not
made up out of a man’s mind. Instead, they appear to be part of
our own lifetime, our own experience. Like Wiesel, Bassani is ob-
sessed: the agony of the Jews in the 1930’s and ’40’s haunts them.
There is no shrillness in Bassani; but there is the unuttered
scream behind all his pages. It struggles to make itself heard.
If you listen closely, you too will hear it.