Double life – Memory

fubiniBy Daniela Fubini

It started already. The annual Italian stream of consciousness on social and regular media: new shocking or plainly realistic testimonials, old books being revamped by the random editor who wants to be part of the memory business, theaters bringing Primo Levi back to life on stage, and an endless series of conferences, memorial evenings, quotes by politicians published on increasingly unread newspapers. First it was one day, then it became one weekend, then a week, now as soon as January begins everyone in Italy switches on the memory channel and starts broadcasting non-stop till the end of the month.

I belong to the generation that witnessed the 180° flip in the management of memory in the families and later in the public discourse. Once, we the nephews and nieces barely gathered all our courage to ask our grandparents what happened “then”. And we were absolutely not ready to understand the content of the response (when a response came at all). Silences and half sentences floated in mid air, and we had no tools to connect dots. There were no cemeteries to visit, so the memory of the Italian Shoah, who took away for example exactly half of my grandmother’s cousins, was something oral, based on words pronounced by the living.

Today, in many cities we can perceive the past physical presence of our family members who were taken by the Nazi-Fascists rulers, in the shape of shining small squares carved into the sidewalks, in front of the home or office where they were taken from. At the risk of making that chapter of our history too much part of the scenery, just another brick in the wall, it is a lot easier today to see our history with our own eyes, and point it to those who might find more convenient to forget or skip those pages in the book of Italian tragedies. And in the absence of another place dedicated to their memory, I can now easily visit the stumbling stones bearing names of my family both on my father and on my mother side, in very familiar areas close to where my family still lives today.

So my memory became personal and public at the same time.

*Daniela Fubini (Twitter @d_fubini) lives and writes in Tel Aviv, where she arrived in 2008 from Turin via New York.