A Childhood in Fascist Italy
By Rosetta Loy
Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805062588, 224pp.
Publication Date: August 1, 2000
An internationally acclaimed novelist and journalist movingly chronicles her childhood in Rome during World War II, providing a rare account by a Catholic of Jewish persecution and Papal responsibility
In 1937, Rosetta Loy was a privileged five-year-old growing up in the heart of the well-to-do Catholic intelligentsia of Rome. But her childhood world of velvet and lace, airy apartments, indulgent nannies, and summers in the mountains was also the world of Mussolini's fascist regime and the increasing oppression of Italian Jews. Loy interweaves the two Italys of her early years, shifting with powerful effect from a lyrical evocation of the many comforts of her class to the accumulation of laws stipulating where Jews were forbidden to travel and what they were not allowed to buy, eat, wear, and read. She reveals the willful ignorance of her own family as one by one their neighbors disappeared, and indicts journalists and intellectuals for their blindness and passivity. And with hard-won clarity, she presents a dispassionate record of the role of the Vatican and the Catholic leadership in the devastation of Italy's Jews.
Written in crystalline prose, First Words offers an uncommon perspective on the Holocaust. In the process, Loy reveals one writer's struggle to reconcile her memories of a happy childhood with her adult knowledge that, hidden from her young eyes, one of the world's most horrifying tragedies was unfolding.
". . . It comes many years after the fact, but that in no way diminishes its passion or its quiet power." (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World)
". . . gulf between a child's steady, daily understanding of the world and the reality of the terrible momentum of hatred astonishes . . ." (Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times)
"Armed meticulously researched detail, Loy wastes no words, allowing the facts to speak for themselves . . . with profound eloquence." (Peggy Earle, The Virginian Pilot)"