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Abstract

In his article "Bassani's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and Italian 'Queers'" John Champagne argues for a reading of the novel as not gay, but queer. Champagne argues that such a reading strategy emphasizes the ways in which the novel deconstructs normative gender, sexual, and even religious identities in an attempt both to resist the tyranny of the normal and to cope with the trauma of the Italian Shoah. A psycho-analytically inflected queer theory in this instance gives us access to the complexity of the novel's portrayal of Italian Jewish identity in fascist Italy and opens up onto a reflection upon Jewish history and memory. In Bassani's novel, Jewish and "queer" identities are linked in an effort to deconstruct (in the rigorous sense of the word) a version of the Italian Shoah that would hold Jews like the Finzi-Continis responsible for their own fate. It is thus misleading to suggest, as some other scholars have, that the novel is simply critical of the family. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is read appropriately as Jewish not only in its content but in its form and queer in its invitation to understand an abnormal, anti-social world where "useless" pursuits like love (and art) justify and sanctify everything.

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