Stories of Jewish Life
Casale Monferrato-Rome-Jerusalem, 1876-1985
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The first half of the book takes place in Casale Monferrato-a small provincial capital in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. The second half, continuing in Casale in the late 1920s but eventually shifting to Rome then Jerusalem, follows the experiences of a boy named Moshe (Segre's Jewish name and his stand-in). Moshe relates episodes of Italian Jewry from the 1920s to the 1980s that portray the insidiousness of fascism as well as the contradictions within the Jewish community, especially in its post-ghetto relationship to Italian society. The painful transformation of Italian Jewry manifests itself in universal themes: the seductiveness of modern life, the betrayal of tradition, the attraction of fashionable political movements, the corrosive effects of totalitarianism, and ultimately, on the positive side, national rebirth and renewal in Israel. These themes give the book significance beyond the "small world" from which they arise because they are issues that confront any society, especially those emerging from a traditional way of life and entering the modern world. Students, scholars, and readers of Jewish history, Italian history, and fiction with an autobiographical thread will find themselves captivated by Segre's stories.