“Nel mio romanzo, insomma, ogni personaggio degno di questo nome e’ una forma del mio sentimento.”
This statement comes from an interview Italian author Giorgio Bassani (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis) gave to the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, and which was published last year by Nuovi Argomenti.
Bassani is talking in the interview about what portion of the indelible characters he created in the novel, Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini, are real. But if there is an easy answer, he eschews it.
"What's true?" He asks. "Did these characters actually exist?"
He continues, "I could talk on and on until tomorrow morning about how the shorts Micol is wearing really belong to a young woman I saw one day who made a big impression on me when I was a boy. Or the sweaty face of Malnate, which really belongs to a friend of mine who isn't called Malnate but rather Vincenzo Cicognani, who lives in Lugo. His face sweats when he argues, and he's also very tall."
At the risk of being repetitive, Bassani summarizes his thoughts in this way: "Basically, in my novel, every character worth considering is a manifestation of my own personal feelings." (Original Italian above)
To wit, he says, "The main characters are manifestations of feelings of the person who wrote the novel, which is to say, more or less Micol is me, Professor Ermanno is me, Rovigatti is me, the father, it's me."
In the Italian, Bassani has a novel way of putting it -- he actually uses French to express himself: "Sono tutte forme del sentimento di chi ha scritto questo romanzo, cioe’ effettivamente Micol c’est moi, il professor Ermanno c’est moi il ciabattino Rovigatti c’est moi, mio padre sono io."
Here's the original Italian which I transcribed from Nuovi Argomenti:
"Cosa c’e’ di vero? Questi personaggi sono effettivamente esistiti?"