The Jewish Husband

( 1 )

Overview

It is 1938 and fascist Italy has imposed its infamous race laws. A young Jewish professor entertains a tormented passion for the beautiful and enigmatic Sonia. She is everything that he is not: the privileged daughter of a family that is wealthy, prominent, and above all, gentile. He wins her affections, but the price is great. He must deny his origins in order to enter that jealously guarded circle of intimates composed of her family and their friends. It is a world that has no use for him and forces him into ...

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Overview

It is 1938 and fascist Italy has imposed its infamous race laws. A young Jewish professor entertains a tormented passion for the beautiful and enigmatic Sonia. She is everything that he is not: the privileged daughter of a family that is wealthy, prominent, and above all, gentile. He wins her affections, but the price is great. He must deny his origins in order to enter that jealously guarded circle of intimates composed of her family and their friends. It is a world that has no use for him and forces him into humiliating and painful compromises.

Winner of the Moravia Prize for fiction, The Jewish Husband is a bittersweet story of passion and hatred, cruelty and oppression. It is an account of a country and a time about which too little has been written, and the terrible consequences of that period's race laws. Above all, however, it is a tender love story set at a time in which the world and its inhabitants appeared to have completely lost their ability to show tenderness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Levi subjects love to the inexorable tides of history in this articulate and resonant novel. In 1930s fascist Rome, Dino Carpi encounters Sonia Gentile when she breaks her leg at his parents' hotel on New Year's Eve, and as the Italians say, it's amore a prima vista. But their burgeoning relationship appears mortally wounded when Sonia discovers that Dino is Jewish. Sonia's father is a devout Catholic and well-connected supporter of Il Duce. Faced with the possibility of losing the object of his ardor, Dino enters into a compromise with Sonia's father in which he effectively denies his heritage in order to secure her hand. At first merely anxious about the personal implications of this bargain, the real consequences for the couple, their extended families and their young son Michele become increasingly harrowing as the Fascist regime imposes evermore restrictive laws on Italian Jews. The historical milieu performs admirably as the catalyst for a shrewd meditation on love's spectrum, from turbulent passion to petty jealousies. Though the beginning is slow going and disordered, Levi's crystalline prose gradually generates an emotional groundswell of unexpected intensity. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Levi's English-language debut, 2001 winner of the Moravia Prize in Italy, uses a romance to dramatize the plight of Jews under Mussolini. It's love at first sight when Dino Carpi approaches the beautiful young woman lying on the ballroom floor in his parents' hotel in Rome. She has broken her leg in a fall. Dino is a teacher, a classicist and an admirer of the Greek poet Pindar, who prized the harmony which Sonia exemplifies. This happened in 1930. It's now 1967, and Dino, an old man in Tel Aviv, is writing his life story as a long letter to a recipient in Italy whose identity will remain unknown until the end. (It's an awkward device.) The story hinges on the fact that Sonia is a Gentile and Dino is a Jew, though only the twice-a-year kind (Yom Kippur and Passover). She reciprocates his love, and the nonobservant Dino accedes to the demands of Sonia's father, a wealthy banker and ardent fascist, that their marriage be Catholic and his Jewish roots stay hidden from their prospective children. Such a wimp does not make a stirring protagonist, and there's no drama in Dino's plodding account of his relationship with the equally passive Sonia. Their wedding and honeymoon barely rate a mention. Sonia's family are reactionary bores, with the exception of rebellious kid sister Lorenza and witty, iconoclastic cousin Gherardo. They provide the only sparks of life until 1938, when Mussolini turns up the heat with his anti-Semitic proclamations. Dino is fired; his father sells the hotel. Pliant as ever, Dino goes along with Sonia's plan (hatched by her father) for him to disavow paternity of his six-year-old son Michele; he even agrees to the annulment of his marriage. Only when militantlyantifascist Lorenza dies in a suspicious "accident" does Dino express his outrage, but it's too little, too late, and his solo flight to Palestine is anticlimactic. Dramatic material that has been better explored elsewhere, notably in Giorgio Bassani's 1962 novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933372938
  • Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/25/2009
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

: Lia Levi is the editor-in-chief of the monthly magazineShalom and the author of many books for children and adults. She has been awarded the Elsa Morante First Novel Prize (1994), the Castello Prize for Fiction (1994) and the Moravia Prize (2001).She live in Rome.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read

    This is a lovely book, well written with 3-dimensional characters and a good plot. I am very selective about what I consider a good read and this book definitely qualifies

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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