Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew: An Italian Story

Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew: An Italian Story

by Dan Vittorio Segre
     
 

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“I was probably less than five years old when my father fired a shot at my head.” From this first line, Dan Vittorio Segre’s memoir moves from one startling turning point to the next. The child of aristocratic parents, Segre fled Fascist Italy and Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws only to be thrust into the pioneering culture of Palestine,

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Overview

“I was probably less than five years old when my father fired a shot at my head.” From this first line, Dan Vittorio Segre’s memoir moves from one startling turning point to the next. The child of aristocratic parents, Segre fled Fascist Italy and Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws only to be thrust into the pioneering culture of Palestine, completely unprepared for the dangers of life in Israel during World War II. Beautifully narrated, Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew is an ironic, philosophical meditation on the historical reverberations of the twentieth century.
 
“Taut and illuminating . . . memorable . . . written with the humility of he who confesses himself and with the honesty of he who bore witness.”—Primo Levi
 
“The writing of memoirs is a difficult art that Dan Segre fully possesses. Under his pen, history and psychology merge in one captivating narrative which illuminates the turmoils, fears and triumphs of his generation.”—Elie Wiesel
 
“Beautifully written. . . . [A] labyrinthine, spell-binding autobiography, full of passionate tenderness.”—New York Review of Books
 
“An unusually attractive book—attractive in its irony, its energy and its moral insight. Mr. Segre had some rich material to work with, and he has done it justice.”—New York Times 
 

 

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books
[A] beautifully written autobiography."

 

 

 

 

— Adrain Lyttelton

New York Times
[The author] comes to learn . . . that life 'is stronger than evil.' Such knowledge, in a book that registers moments of profound alienation and pain, is no small achievement. That Mr. Segre has been able to accomplish so much in a story filled with significant historical as well as personal detail is everyone's gain."

 

 

 

 

— Alvin Rosenfield

London Review of Books
This book is unique and a sort of masterpiece.

— Patrick Parrinder

Primo Levi

“Taut and illuminating . . . memorable . . . written with the humility of he who confesses himself and with the honesty of he who bore witness.”

Elie Wiesel

“The writing of memoirs is a difficult art that Dan Segre fully possesses. Under his pen, history and psychology merge in one captivating narrative which illuminates the turmoils, fears, and triumphs of his generation.”

John Gross

"An unusually attractive book—attractive in its irony, its energy and its moral insight.Mr. Segre has some rich material to work with, and he has done it justice."
Amos Elon

"A haunting tale, beautifully written and with a talent, reminiscent of Proust, to endow the past with a deep psychological meaning. . . . A stunning exercise in self-awareness."
A.B. Yehoshua

"A spellbinding biography of genuine literary value that reads like an adventure story. Those familiar with the bitter and depressing tone of the Jews' misfortunes in the maelstrom of wars and holocausts will derive a unique freshness from the irony, humour and sensuality of Dan Segre."
New York Review of Books - Adrain Lyttelton

“[A] beautifully written autobiography."

New York Times - Alvin Rosenfield

“[The author] comes to learn . . . that life 'is stronger than evil.' Such knowledge, in a book that registers moments of profound alienation and pain, is no small achievement. That Mr. Segre has been able to accomplish so much in a story filled with significant historical as well as personal detail is everyone's gain."

London Review of Books - Patrick Parrinder

"This book is unique and a sort of masterpiece."
New Republic - Joseph Frank

“I bought the book without anticipating that I would not be able to put it down. Why did the book strike me so forcibly? It is beautifully and sensitively written, but more importantly it traces the author’s remarkable journey from the very heights of Italian Fascist society to a kibbutz in pre-Israeli Palestine, and finally back to his native land as an officer in the Palestine (Jewish) regiment of the British Army. One of the chapters is entitled ‘My Jewish-Fascist Childhood,’ and the combination of these two adjectives best expresses the extraordinary nature of the circumstances that Segre evokes. . . . Segre’s later chapters, which deal with his bewildering encounter with Israel, are fascinating. They provide an engrossing picture of the ferment, both personal and intellectual, that the hitherto sheltered Italian youth encountered. . . . These chapters are filled with indelible portraits of the striking and sometimes disturbingly eccentric individuals that crossed young Segre’s path, some of whom had come to Palestine out of idealistic conviction and others only seeking to escape from oppression.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author, now in his 60s, is a Haifa University professor, a Jew who grew up in Fascist Italy. With a sharp eye for vivid details, Segre recounts his comfortable childhood in the Piedmont, where his parents were at once assimilated Jews and vigorous Italian patriots. The crisis that sparked his quest for self-identity came in 1938, with the passage of Italy's first antiJewish laws. Once sheltered amid a natural-seeming Fascism, Segre suddenly discovered his ``Jewish condition.'' At 16, virtually ignorant of Judaism, he fled to Palestine, where on a kibbutz and in the British army he worked to understand ``the meaning of the new life facing me.'' Segre's reflections on people and incidents give considerable depth to this unusual story of coming of age. (February 26)
Library Journal
Born into a wealthy, assimilated Italian-Jewish family that supported fascism in the interwar years, Segre has written an absorbing memoir reflecting on the feelings and reactions of a 16-year-old whose idyllic adolescence was interrupted by race laws, and who ventured in 1938 into an alien Zionist collective society in Palestine. Focusing primarily on a six-to-seven-year span, the book is no mere chronicle. Rather, as a collection of vignettes of people and events, it serves as an occasion for a wiser, introspective adult, a professor of Zionism at Haifa University, to reveal retrospectively the fears and inner debates of his soul in a tumultuous historical era. This captivating memoir illuminates the problems of modern Jewish sensibility in its struggle over the meaning of Jewish identity, messianism, and Zionism. Benny Kraut, Judaic Studies Dept., Univ. of Cincinnati

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226744773
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
04/01/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
284
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Dan Vittorio Segre (1922-2014) was president of the Institute of Mediterranean Studies at the University of Lugano, Switzerland. The author of numerous books, he spent over fifty years as a diplomat, academic, and journalist in Israel.
 

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