First Words: A Childhood in Fascist Italy

Rosetta Loy, Author, Gregory Conti, Translator Metropolitan Books $22 (186p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6258-8
Born in 1931, Loy (The Dust Roads of Monferrato) grew up in a prosperous Catholic family in Rome, happy with her friends, her school, her orderly life. Now one of Italy's leading novelists and journalists, she looks back on the years between 1936 and 1943 to write a memoir in which she alternates between poetic memories of her privileged childhood and an embittered account of fascism in Italy, an evil to which she was then oblivious. While she played with her dolls and vacationed at the seashore, terrible events gradually overwhelmed the country--a press campaign to get the Italians to think about ""race,"" stringent laws restricting the activities of Jews, Italy's entrance into the war, and its acceptance of the Final Solution. Loy's own family shifted between German-occupied Rome and the countryside; her father, an engineer, closed his office rather than collaborate with the Germans; food and clothing were scarce; and order disappeared from her life. But Loy writes that, as a child, none of these events made an impression on her. She was never really unhappy: life went on blissfully. She remembers especially her Catholic school and the nuns who arranged for the children to have an audience with Pius XII, who seemed to her then to be ""circumfused by a sacred halo."" Yet as an adult, she condemns the pope, who, unlike his predecessor Pius XI, made no statements decrying the Holocaust and remained stubbornly silent even concerning the extermination of Polish priests and clerics. Loy explains that, as a Roman Catholic, she carries an ""unbearable burden."" Her scathing denunciation of the Vatican's support of Hitler and the willful passivity of Italy's intelligentsia forms a powerful act of atonement. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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Paperback - 186 pages - 978-0-8050-6738-5
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