"Parussa has written a fascinating and compelling reevaluation of these important authors through the perspective of specifically Jewish concepts of memory and history. His book speaks eloquently to the situation of Jews in the post-Holocaust Diaspora and will make an important contribution to an understanding of Italian Jewish culture."—Nancy Harrowitz, Boston University
"Parussa’s major achievement is to show, in a mix of high conceptual analysis and close textual reading, the subtle complexity of each author’s oblique, characteristically modern engagement with their Jewishness, both pre- and post-Holocaust, shaped as a sort of ‘remnant’ (Agamben) and forged within the literary voice."—Robert S. C. Gordon, University of Cambridge
In Writing as Freedom, Writing as Testimony, Sergio Parussa explores the relationship between Judaism and writing in the works of four twentieth-century Italian writers: Umberto Saba, Natalia Ginzburg, Giorgio Bassani, and Primo Levi. Parussa examines the different ways in which each author’s work responds to Judaism and the notion of Jewish identity. With great detail, he shows how their writings reflect a change in attitude toward Judaism that occurred in Italian society between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, from a perception of Jewish identity as a constraint to one’s freedom to an understanding of it as a tool of intellectual freedom that can contribute to one’s sense of identity. For these authors, the recovery of Judaism consists not only of telling stories with Jewish subject matter but also of the repeated act of remembering, a process by which, as Parussa puts it, “the past is salvaged from oblivion by means of its reactualization in the present.” Through memory, one becomes free to affirm difference and to make Jewish traditions an integral part of Italian culture.
Sergio Parussa is associate professor of Italian studies at Wellesley College. He is the author of Eros onnipotente: Erotismo, letteratura e impegno nell’opera di Pier Paolo Pasolini e Jean Genet. He translated L’orso maggiore by Ginevra Bompiani into English and L. P. Hartley’s novella Simonetta Perkins into Italian.
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