Two Italian Tales

The ending of Marco Vichi’s, Death in Florence was such a letdown. I was hoping for a happy one. Fifty-six year old Inspector Bordelli did not capture the culprits of the crime he was investigating.

The young boy who had been missing for days was killed. Two of those involved committed suicide. Two others began their own vendetta. His young lover leaves him after an excruciating experience, for which he had not taken steps to prevent. He turns in his badge and Beretta and retires to the countryside. He has failed, failed his lover, himself and colleagues.

The novel takes place in 1966, the year of the massive floods that ruined parts of the city of Florence and its historic treasures. The streets were filled with mud and the litter of the rampaging Arno. The rain never stopped. Food was scare, so was water, there was no electricity, heat or telephone communication.

The city seemed ruined. Bodcelli was ruined. And the pleasure I had in reading the novel left me somewhat ruined too. It will pass for me. But not for Inspector Bordelli. “He didn’t feel like asking himself any more pointless questions. It made no sense. He should let whatever happened happen.” He was alone again.

“…the nobility and greatness that are at times hidden within mental illness.”

Giuseppe Pardo was an Italian Pardo, a leader of Jewish individuals in the community of Pisa. He lived there at the time of Nazi Germany’s occupation of the country during World War II.

Silvano Arieti, now an American psychiatrist, also lived in Pisa then and was a member of the Pardo’s synagogue and a close friend. Arieti describes Pardo’s life in The Parnas, A Scene from the Holocaust.

It’s a short book, primarily focused on Pardo’s great fear of animals, especially dogs whenever he went outside. The origin of his serious phobia is unknown and, while Arieti attempts to give a psychoanalytic interpretation, it isn’t very persuasive.

“I am constantly in a state of expectation that animals will come after me, jump on me, bite me, torture me, or even kill me.”

Arieti makes clear that Pardo was at his best, quite normal, with the group of individuals who gathered in his home. “No trace of his illness remained in him when he was with them. He was no longer the afflicted man, but a much respected person…” This was particularly true of the young people who were part of his group and with whom he engaged in debates both as leader and peer.

What’s important in Arieti’s account is that Pardo refused to leave his home for a safer place as the Nazis retreated from the advancing American troops and began to wreck havoc on the towns in Italy they left. Eventually they discovered Pardo and remaining friends, all of whom were killed during a Nazi raid.

“Am I more afraid of my illness than of the Nazis? Is that all there is in this matter and no more? Had I not been ill, probably I would had left.”