THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS — Friday, August 5, 1960 —
Bassani's Novel, 'Gold-Rimmed Spectacles',
Exposes Fanaticism of Religious Anti-Semitism
Atheneum Publishers have made an excellent beginning.
Their first novel, "The Inspector," by Jan deHartog (reviewed
by us June 17), is one of the great novels of the current year.
Now we are pleased to report on another excellent novel, as
well as several other splendid Atheneum books.
"The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles," by Giorgio Bassani, trans-
lated from the Italian by Isabel Quigly, is a major work. In
137 pages; the author narrates a tale that holds the reader's
attention uninterruptedly. It is excellently written, ably trans-
lated, and the theme is thought-provoking.
There are two heroes in this remarkable story—the man
who wears the gold-rimmed spectacles, Dr. Athos Fadigati, and
the narrator who relates it in the first person, a young Jew of 20.
It is a tale of the Mussolini years and of the time when
Hitler was beginning to inject his anti-Semitic venom into the
Italian' body_ politic.
Dr. Fadigati was the ear, nose and throat specialist who was
respected and well known in Ferrara, who knew everybody in
the community, whose "behavior was guaranteed to remain,
quite definitely, within the limits of decency."
But there were rumors about him. He was a bachelor who
was never seen with women, who was said to fraternize with
men, and suddenly took up with a student, Eraldo Deliliers, who
called him "an old pansy."
. Deliliers, a fortune-seeker and a woman-chaser, took ad-
vantage of the doctor. He finally robbed him of his possessions,
smashed his spectacles and beat him up. The affair led to dis-
repute in the community, Dr. Fadigati's loss of his patients, his
impoverishment and eventual suicide by drowning.
This portion of the story is sufficiently well told to make
"The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles" a novel of note. But there is
another angle that causes the book to stand out in additional
glory. It is the angle involving the narrator and his family and
the rise of anti-Semitism. The Lavezzolis, beach neighbors that
summer of Fadigati and the narrator and his parents, started a
discussion about Mussolini. Signora Lavezzoli is enthused about
Mussolini, but her husband, who did not comment very much,
"was no fascist." The story-teller relates, revealing for the first
time in the story that he was a Jew:
"Romantic, patriotic, politically ingenious and inexperi-
enced like so many other Jews of his generation, my father
had joined the fascist party when he returned from the front
in 1919. So he had been a fascist from the very beginning and
this in his heart he had remained, in spite of his mildness and
integrity. But since Mussolini, after his early quarrels, had begun
to make friends with Hitler, he had grown anxious. He thought
of nothing but a possible outburst of anti-Semitism in Italy too,
and every now and then, though suffering for it, he let fall
some bitter comment on the regime."
And so, Signora Lavezzoli spoke of Mussolini with admira-
tion, her husband remaining silent. Even after the liquidation
of Dollfuss by Hitler, the signora was still the admirer of the
fascists, condoning Dollfuss' death as "political necessity," stat-
ing with a smile that "in certain circumstances the head of a
government, a-statesman worthy of the name, must for the good
of his own people pass over the sensibilities of ordinary people
. little people like ourselves." At this point, the narrator
"Horrified, my father opened his mouth to say something.
But once again Signora Lavezzoli gave him no time. As if
she was changing the subject, she turned directly to him,
and went on to describe an 'interesting' article which had
appeared in the last 'number of Catholic Civilization, signed
by the well known Father Gemelli.
The theme of the article was the so-called Jewish ques-
tion. According to Father. Gemelli, she said, the recurrent
persecutions of the 'Israelites' in every part of the world for
nearly two thousand years could only be explained as a sign
of God's anger. The article ended with this question: May a
Christian, even if in his heart he hates the idea of violence,
pass judgment on historical .events through which God's will
"At that point, not very politely, I got up from my cane
armchair and left."
This may well be viewed as the crux of this novel's thesis:
Its intent to indicate the bitterness of recurring religious fanati-
cism—of a priest's approval of anti-Semitism "as a sign of God's
The young narrator remembers the signora's comments
"like a nightmare." He stopped appearing at the beach, to avoid
hearing Signora Lavezzoli 'blame the "Israelites" for Jesus'
crucifixion. - Meanwhile his father began to enumerate the pa-
triotic deeds of the Jews in Italy and their father's merits.
_ For the first time in his life, he began to feel the sting of
an approaching anti-Semitism. He took a ride on his bike, went
to the Jewish cemetery, ruminated about conditions, and in his
meditation he thought:
"The future of persecution and massacre that might await
us (since I was a child I had continually heard of it as an
eventuality that was always possible for us Jews) no longer
frightened me. And yet, who knows? I kept saying to myself
as I turned homeward. Who can read the future?"
- Another day, soon thereafter, the newsboy Cenzo was shout-
ing, as he unfolded a newspaper: "Grand Council's impending
measures against the Jews!" The Jews were in the limelight—
under threat. When the police chief tried to assure the Jews that
they would be protected, they found it difficult to trust him.
And the young narrator felt himself isolated., And so, two
elements were in isolation: first Fadigati, then - the young Jew.-
Bassani wrote his story with great power. "The Gold-Rimmed
Spectacles" is a polished novel: it also has elements -of• appeal
to social justice.
Morris L. Ernst's 'Touch Wood,' Silone's 'Fontamara'
Add to the list of notable Atheneum books the forthcoming
year's diary by Morris L. Ernst, "Touch Wood" (to be reviewed
later), and Ignatio Silone's "Fontamara."
The latter, translated by Harvey Ferguson II, is in a new
revised edition of the great novel, written in 1930 by the eminent
fugitive from Mussolini's tyranny. In a foreword to this great
novel, Malcolm Cowley calls attention to its "proletarian" and
"revolutionary" character. It is a powerful story that exposes
the oppression of the peasants by a ruling class. "Fontamara"
remains what it was when first written—an outstanding novel.
Expose of Religious
Anti-Semitism . .. Strange -,
Political Bedfol lows
Abba Eban Chosen
Richard H. S. Crossman 'A Nation Reborn'
Labor M. P. Richard H. S. Crossman actively opposed the
policies of the late Ernest Bevin in the British House of Com-
mons. As a member of the Anglo-American Commission on
Palestine, he had an opportunity to study conditions affecting
the Jewish community in Palestine and the Zionist cause.
His views already were expressed in an earlier book, "Pal-
estine Mission." He became deeply interested in Israel and Zion-
ism and met their leaders. He
befriended Dr. Chaim Weizmann.
He visited the Weizmann Insti-
tute of Science in Rehovot, Israel,
and delivered lectures there on
Weizmann, Bevin and Ben-Gurion.
Their texts are incorporated in an
important book, "A Nation Re-
born—A Personal Report on the
Roles Played by Weizmann, Bevin
and Ben-Gurion in the Story of
Israel." It is another of the valu-
able publications of the new At-
heneum Publishers (162 E. 38,
N. Y. 16).
The tribute to Weizmann is re-
plete with affection. Crossman de-
nies that Weizmann was pro-
British, but he emphasizes that
the first President of Israel "in-
creasingly believed in the mutual
value of Anglo-Jewish association."
He poses a question and makes
R. H. S. Crossman
this interesting point:
"After the Balfour Declaration had been signed and after
As predicted two weeks ago
in The Jewish News, in the
"Strictly Confidential" column
by Phineas Biron, Abba Eban
this week was named Minister
of Education of Israel. The ap-
pointment was made by the
Israel Cabinet. Eban has 'been
a Minister Without Portfolio
since the formation of the pres-
ent Cabinet. Before his election
to the Knesset he was Israel's
Ambassador to the United
States and the United Nations.
the Mandate had been set up, how long would the spell hold?
You can charm the British out of their national egotism for a
certain time. But would the charm last until the Yishuv has
grown strong enough to fend for itself? The supreme justi-
fication of Weizmann as a Jewish statesman is that the spell It's 'Huppa Hey'
he cast gave the Yishuv just enough time. When it failed,
his own people had grown up to the point where they were
Israel, Italy Share
strong enough to disown him as pro-British and accept as
leaders men fitted not to charm the British but to get rid of
He treats Weizmann as the man who possessed the Zionist
vision and passed it on to his people.
Bevin's meanness is interpreted as having been incorporated
in the anti-Semitic Foreign Secretary's belief that the Jews were
only a religion.
Crossman speaks of "Attlee's irritation transformed into a
cold anger and Bevin's into a violent passion." He states that
"it was the stubborn- refusal of the Yishuv to be grateful for
his protection and to conform to the plans he had made for it
that finally tipped Ernest Bevin into overt anti-Semitism. The
British do not normally develop_ this mania except under very
strong provocation . . ."
On the other hand, we learn, Bevin viewed the Arabs as "a
simple, straightforward people with a deep liking for the British
and respect for their leadership. These illusions were system-
atically fed by Foreign Office advisers and a flow of fantastic
misinformation .. ."
That's how the meanness of Sevin developed, an anti-
Semitic attitude that led to disaster for his policies.
(Direct JTA Teletype Wire
to The Jewish. News)
ROME.—Israel and Italy were
awarded jointly Tuesday the
first prize at the International
Song Tournament held in Pe-
saro. Thirteen nations partici-
pated in the competition, which
was televised on a European-
wide 'network. The winning Is-
raeli song, "Uuppa Hey," by'
Naomi Shamer, was sung by
Israel's Z i m r o Ormatt and
Italy's leading popular singer
Gino Latina. This marked the
first time that an Israeli song
and performer appeared at an
international festival of popular
Crossman expressed the view that "one consequence of
The Italian critics praised the
the (Israel) war of independence for which Ernest Bevin can
take full credit was the final transfer of leadership from song as the "most modern and
Chaim Weizmann to David Ben-Gurion . . . Leadership now brilliant of all foreign compet-
passed to men who were versed in armed resistance."
The song has a march-like
He adds that Ben-Gurion wanted cooperation with Britain
quality, is well composed and
as much as Weizmann, but the difference was in methods.
Crossman's essay on Ben-Gurion is, in reality, an evalua- easily singable.
tion of the experiences and accomplishments of the Jewish State
since its emergence.
U.S. Young Zionists
His analysis of the Sinai Campaign and his criticism of Ben-
Gurion at that time, his tributes to the over-all attainments, his on Israel Study Trip
evaluation of Israel's handling of domestic affairs as well as
(Direct JTA Teletype Wire to
The Jewish News
_foreign relations makes interesting reading. He states, in the
TEL AVIV — A 95-member
course of his treatment of the Sinai Campaign: "Once again
American youth delegation
necessity has been the mother of invention and the Yishuv
was compelled, if it was to survive at all, to become a nation not representing the Young Zionists
of individualistic shopkeeperS and peasants but of Socialist of the Zionist Organization of
America began an intensive
settlers, trained to war."
month-long study tour of Israel
Strange and Amusing Bedfellows in Politics
There are many strange bedfellows in politics. Often they
After a reception and general
briefing at the ZOA house here
A typical example is the position that was taken by a the group visited the Kfar Sil-
Negro mortician in his attempt to defeat two distinguished Con- ver Agricultural -.School: Later
gressmen from this area by pressing for the-nomination of their they visited southern Israel and
Negro opponents. TO accomplish his purpose, he invited a spent the evening with Israeli
Southern Senator—none other than the Democratic candidate soldiers in a recreation. camp
for Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson—to address a planned at Ashkelon.
Of course, the elder Diggs said he had planned to invite all
Democratic candidates to his proposed rally, but he was speci- Arab League Leader
fic in stating that "our purpose is to stimulate Negro voter Invited to Moscow
interest." And since his original motive was to defeat two
LONDON, (JTA) — Moham-
white men in order to elect his two Negro candidates, the
med Abdul Hassouna, the Sec-
ludicrousness of the idea was apparent.
There is a Yiddish saying: "Az men dad dem ganef, nemt retary General of the Arab
men ihm arunter fun t'liyeh"—"if you need the thief, you take League, will visit Moscow for
him even frOm the gallows." The local Negro politician needed two weeks at the invitation of
an ally, for the purpose of putting an end to white representa- Nikita Khrushchev, head of the
tion in two districts which, he claimed, have majorities of Soviet Union, it was reported
Negroes, and he called to his aid a white Texan!
Viewing practically the new issue involving the rise of the
The r eport also said that
Negro population in our midst and the campaign to elect more Hassouna announced in Cairo
of their representatives to public offices, there must be recog- he is convoking the Arab
nition of a natural turn of affairs: that Negroes will vote for League Council on Aug. 8 to
Negroes, just as many Irish will vote for Irish and many Catholics discuss Iran's de facto recogni-
and Jews will vote for their coreligionists. Besides, Negroes are tion of Israel. From Amman it
entitled to a voice in public affairs. It is when able and good was reported the Jordanian
men like Dingell and Machrowicz stand in danger of defeat that Premier Hazzaz Majali told a
the new developments cause concern: that highly qualified in- press conference that the Arab
cumbents stand in danger of losing their positions because of the League was dominated by
Nasser and was a failure.