Prisoners of Hope
Silver Age of the Italian Jews, 1924-74 New edition
By (author) H. Stuart Hughes
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Prisoners of Hope by H. Stuart Hughes
Book DescriptionThe cultural historian H. Stuart Hughes examines the works of Italo Svevo, Alberto Moravia, Carlo Levi, Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzburg, and Giorgio Bassani - six Italian prose writers of Jewish or part-Jewish origin - and shows how these writers combine in various measures their ancestral Jewish heritage with recent experiences of antisemitic persecution.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780674707283
(210mm x 136mm x 12mm)
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Apr-1996
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author H. Stuart Hughes
View all books by H. Stuart Hughes
US Kirkus Review » In this study of Jewish intellectual currents of the pre- and post-war years, cultural historian Hughes sets out to define "what is left of identity when language and religion are gone." His first brisk, informative chapter is a cogent introduction to Italian Jewish history. For instance, 50 percent of Italian Jewish last names are also Italian place names; although Italy formally introduced the ghetto, a natural heterodoxy of rite among the Jews precluded tight self-definition and led to extreme assimilation; under Mussolini came "a half-decade of mitigated persecution" (until 1943, at least), when Jews were more ostracized than excluded or exterminated. Thus Italian Jews, gradually cut off from religious traditions, assimilated only to find themselves unnaturally shunned in a country where anti-Semitism was traditionally feeble. To construct an illustrative model of this special kind of Jew-coping, Hughes focuses on six Italian Jewish writers: Italo Svevo, Alberto Moravia, Carlo Levi, Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzburg, Giorgio Bassani. It's not quite successful, though. Hughes, no literary critic, merely synopsizes the individual works and tacks on weak analyses. In Svevo and Moravia (both baptized, it turns out), he finds senilita - a sense of being older than one actually is - and, in the two Levis, a certain indistinct fellow-feeling, sympathetic and non-judgmental. But these writers do not provide a solid wall against which Hughes could lean a provisional conclusion, even if he had one. The first chapter, a graceful and succinct historical digest, will make the book worthwhile for many; the rest doesn't hang together as a literary study or a portrait of Italian Jewry. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - H. Stuart Hughes
H. Stuart Hughes is Professor of History, Emeritus, University of California, San Diego.
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