The garden of the Finzi-Contini

The garden of the Finzi-Contini is a novel by Giorgio Bassani of 1962 . On this novel has been based the homonymous film directed by Vittorio De Sica .

The first draft of the novel was written in Santa Marinella , Rome , at the Hotel Le Najadi. The novel was published for the first time in 1962 in Turin , being winner of the Viareggio prize in the same year. The garden of the Finzi-Contini was later included in the series La novela de Ferrara , a work that Bassani published in the definitive edition of 1980 .



The beginning of the novel is set in 1957 in the Etruscan necropolis of Cerveteri , near Rome , where the protagonist is traveling with a group of friends. Watching the Etruscan tombs, think of the Jewish cemetery of Ferrara and, specifically, the monumental tomb of the Finzi-Contini, recalling the tragic fate of the family.


The Finzi-Contini are a rich family belonging to the upper bourgeoisie, who lives in the flourishing Jewish community of Ferrara. It is made up of Professor Ermanno, his wife Olga, his sons Alberto and Micòl (the eldest son, Guido, had died at six years as a result of an attack of infantile paralysis) and the old grandmother Regina; The family has many servants working in the large garden, among them the old and faithful Venetian peasant Perotti, who is the servant for everything in the house.

As a child, the protagonist (who is also a Jew but belongs to the middle bourgeoisie) manages to interact moderately with the two young Finzi-Contini, Alberto and Micòl, practically of their same age, thanks to a hyperprotective attitude on the part of the parents of these , Which forced them to live in a kind of isolation (for example, boys were studying at home instead of going to public school, since “their mother was always obsessed with microbes and said schools are made to spread The most horrible diseases … After Guido’s misfortune, it can be said that he never set foot outside. “). The few occasions of encounter are the Jewish festivities and the meetings in the “Temple”, that is to say, the synagogue . Nevertheless , in June of 1929 will take place a significant first encounter between the protagonist and Micòl. When the notes are published on the boards (the narrator attends the Italian gym ), the protagonist discovers that he has suspended in Mathematics; Desperate escapes and begins to wander the city, until exhausted, before the wall that delimits the garden of the Finzi-Contini. There he meets Micòl, who is then thirteen years old: Micòl is able to comfort him and invites him to climb the wall to enter the garden. For the first time, the protagonist experiences a stronger feeling towards the girl than friendship and dreams, despairing at the same time, to get a kiss, but then Perotti calls the girl and the occasion fades.


At this moment, the narration takes a temporary leap of about ten years, situating itself in 1938 , year of the promulgation of the fascist racial laws and of the consequent discrimination of the Jews. Because of these laws, the protagonist is expelled from the tennis club that used to frequent, the ‘ Eleonora d’Este . However, he is immediately taken to the tennis court of the « magna domus », as the Finzi-Contini house of Alberto and Micòl was called, inviting to play a group of young people, usually Jews and your age. Also related to the group is a certain Giampiero Malnate, a Milanese friend to whom Alberto feels a great admiration (at times leads to misunderstandings) and who works as a chemist in a factory in the industrial area of ​​Ferrara. All these guys spend wonderful afternoons in the enchanted and idyllic atmosphere of the garden, playing long tennis matches and delighting in the hospitality of the owners of the house.

During these mild days, the protagonist and the young Micòl have the opportunity to spend a lot of time together (often forgetting even the tennis match): they take long walks in the garden, talk and consolidate their relationship more and more, but shyness and The fear of rejection by the girl destroys the protagonist’s only opportunity to openly declare his love: the occasion in which the two are locked in the old car in the garage, away from everyone else.


The remorse for not having had the courage on that occasion is immediately aggravated by the sudden decision of Micòl to go to Venice to finish his thesis and to become licensed. Paralyzed by the improvised departure of his beloved, which takes place the day after the carriage episode, the protagonist continues to frequent the house Finzi-Contini, on the one hand, to be able to finish his own thesis (Professor Ermanno had put at his disposal The whole library), and on the other hand not to lose contact with Micòl (even if only through the objects and places she frequented in that house). During this period the protagonist deepens its relation with Malnate, participating actively in the halls organized in the house by Alberto.

On the occasion of the Passover , Micòl returns home and, having been warned by Alberto of “a great surprise”, the protagonist leaves the family dinner to appear in the house Finzi-Contini. Micòl receives him with his usual familiarity at the entrance: he rushes to embrace her and, overwhelmed by joy, finally kisses her. Nevertheless, Micòl rejects it, although without blaming it.


The protagonist realizes that he has caused a deterioration in his relationship with Micòl, who from this moment adopts a totally cold and disengaged attitude towards him. However, he does not renounce his love and so he continues to frequent the garden and the company, tormenting Micòl with continuous attempts to touch her, hold her in his arms and kiss her (giving rise to what she calls “conjugal scenes”), trying Even to induce her to concede, but Micòl continues to reject him and, at this point, reveals the motive for her behavior, the same as a time before had driven her to flee to Venice without saying anything: explains that the day they had Had remained locked in the chariot had realized that their relationship of friendship was becoming something more, and that this had frightened her to the point of inducing her to escape hoping that the situation would resolve itself and everything would be like before. He also explains that, although she had felt something for him as a child, between the two there could be no more than friendship since they are two similar people, almost like brothers, “stupidly honored both, equal in everything and for All as two drops of water “and both with the” vice “of resorting to the past. The protagonist refuses to believe the truth he has just heard and instead prefers to seek an explanation easier to accept: the existence of another man. He tells Micòl quite frankly, and she reacts by begging him to space his visits until he does not appear again. This marks the definitive break in their relationship.

Away from the home of the Finzi-Contini, the protagonist begins to frequent the company of Giampiero Malnate, becoming his friend (although both showed themselves as bitter rivals during the halls of Alberto, at least in political matters). During one of his meetings, Malnate takes him to a brothel , which is the culmination of the process of degradation in which the protagonist is plunged after the rupture of his relationship with Micòl.

Upon returning home, the protagonist maintains a sincere conversation with his father, to whom he explains everything, including the stormy relationship with Micòl. The old father, showing himself above all affectionate and understanding, advises him to put an end to any kind of bond with the Finzi-Contini, excessively different from him, and also with Malnate, instead urging him to think about his future. Despite his firm decision not to appear again at the home of the Finzi-Contini and to devote himself to his duties and his vocation as a writer and writer, the protagonist, during one of his nocturnal walks, is unconsciously again The wall of the magna domus , practically evoking the episode of ten years before, when a young Micòl perched on the wall invited him to climb to enter the garden. Unlike then, this time he decides to leave for a final visit to the place. There he is awakened by a strange sense of peace, and, having arrived at the garage, suddenly finds himself convinced that Micòl was secretly receiving Malnate at night, which would effectively explain the presence of a ladder leaning against the wall As if he intended to facilitate the escalation), his sudden air of confidentiality and complicity towards the Milanese, as well as the sudden hostile behavior of Alberto (who had always admired him), but ends up doing the idea without altering, almost serenely :

“What a beautiful novel,” I said with a mocking smile, shaking my head like an incorrigible child. And, turning my back on the Hütte , I moved between the plants on the opposite side.


The novel concludes with the bitter remembrance of World War II . Alberto, long ill of a malignant lymphogranuloma, will die in 1942 and will be the only one to rest in the family grave. Giampiero Malnate, who had enlisted in 1941 the Italian expedition corps sent to Russia ( CSIR ), will never return. The entire Finzi-Contini family will be captured in the fall of 1943 by the Nazi-fascists and deported to concentration camps in Germany .


  • I narrator : all the events of the novel are narrated in the first person and contemplated through the eyes of the narrator, who is both director and character in the novel. The narrator does not provide any information about his identity (although it tends to identify him as Giorgio Bassani himself ), apart from the detail that he is a Jew of the middle bourgeoisie, belonging to the Israeli community of Ferrara late in the thirties . It manages to evade the horrors of World War II. Intelligent, shy and sometimes introverted, from childhood he feels a secret admiration for the family of the Finzi-Contini and attraction to the beautiful Micòl.
  • Micòl : she is a very beautiful and intelligent girl, she likes to talk a lot, even going so far as to invent a familiar language, finzi-contino, which she shares especially with her brother. She loves literature, especially the works of Emily Dickinson , on which she focuses her undergraduate thesis. It has a very energetic and pragmatic character , to the point that the domestic organization is entrusted to it. She loves the objects of Murano glass decoration, which she collects in her room. It feeds a deep love for the past (“sweet past”), while it aversion for the future, almost as a premonition of the tragic end that awaits her and her family.
  • Alberto : is the older brother of Micòl. Despite leaving him little to graduate in engineering, he never gets to finish the race. He is an esthete who feels a great admiration (sometimes, ambiguous) towards Giampiero Malnate. He falls ill with a malignant lymphogranuloma and dies in 1942 , a year before the deportation of the whole family to the German lager .
  • Giampiero Malnate : he is the same age as the protagonists and comes from the city of Milan , but has lived for two years in Ferrara, where he works as a chemist in an establishment of the chemical company Montecatini, waiting to be moved to the headquarters of Milan. He is Alberto’s close friend, whom he has known since the time they went to university together in Milan. He has a strong personality and is a fervent communist . Violent political discussions between him and the protagonist are often fired, with more moderate political opinions, despite which he becomes a sincere friend of his. In 1941 he enlisted in the CSIR (Italian Expedition Corps in Russia), from which he never returns.
  • Professor Ermanno : he is the father of Micòl and Alberto and shows great esteem towards the intellectual and intelligent protagonist, opening the doors of his house and private library to the young student. Accused by his fellow citizens of being sophisticated and arrogant, he proves to be capable of deep humanity and solidarity, showing himself a brave disdainful attitude to the commitments to the fascist regime .
  • Perotti : he is the butler and raised for everything in the Finzi-Contini family.


  • This work contains a translation derived from Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini from Wikipedia in Italian, specifically from this version , published by its editors under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License