il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

A tribute to Aldo Zargani

His narrative was unique and so his ability to take up many of the themes at the core of contemporary Jewish identity. Aldo Zargani, who died last Sunday aged 87, will be remembered an exquisite writer and an engaged public intellectual, as the readers of Pagine ebraiche – to which through the years he donated so many memorable writings – already know.
He was born in Turin in 1933. In 1995, after forty years of work at the Italian state radio and television corporation RAI, he debuted as a writer with the memoir “Per violino solo. La mia infanzia nell’Aldiqua. 1938-1945 – For Solo Violin. A Jewish Childhood in Fascist Italy”. The book, which was published by Il Mulino, reconstructs the lost world of his Jewish childhood during the perilous years 1938-45 when he and his family fled from Fascists and Nazis in northern Italy. It was an extraordinary literary debut. Not surprisingly, it won several literary awards and was translated in many languages
This haunting memoir is filled with irony and humor and displays a sort of cinematic intensity as the author crosscuts from Basel, where his father failed to find refuge for his family in 1939, to the scenes of the Allied bombing of Turin in 1942, to the freezing winter of 1943-44, which Zargani and his brother spent hidden in a Catholic boarding school deep in the countryside. In the meantime, many of his relatives were deported and perished.
For Solo Violin is filled with colorful portraits of Italian aristocrats and peasants, priests and soldiers, teachers and students, informers and partisans. It is a testament to resilience and hope during the darkest period in human history. At its heart is Zargani’s vivid depiction of his father, a concert violinist forced to give up his career when the Fascists came to power. Aldo Zargani also published Certe promesse d’amore (1997), which is the ideal continuation of For Solo Violin and deals with the post war period and the prospects for the generation that survived the Holocaust.
His most recent book, In bilico (noi gli ebrei e anche gli altri), was published in 2017 by Marsilio. It will be remembered as the last remarkable accomplishment by a great Italian Jewish writer.