Price  £10.99
Format  Paperback
Published  November 2005
Length  288 pages
ISBN  9781870015691
ISBN  9781905559404 (ebook)

Click to order

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Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew: An Italian Story
Dan Vittorio Segre

Winner of the H.H.Wingate Prize for Non-Fiction 1987

Humour and irony characterise these memoirs of an extraordinary life, explored with the full awareness of the historical reverberations of this century. The author’s childhood was spent in Fascist Italy of the 1920s and 1930s. Assimilated Jews, the family’s relationship to their country was stronger than to their religion, and their subsequent fortunes and misfortunes were intricately tied to what would prove to be conflicting loyalties.

Nurtured in a world of aristocratic privilege, Segre emerged as an adolescent, naive and unprepared for the realities that awaited him. The crash of 1929 and the introduction of Mussolini’s anti-Jewish laws saw him on the boat to Tel Aviv, a rare immigrant with a first-class ticket, jacket, silk tie and detachable linen collar, thrust into the pioneering culture of Palestine in the 1930s. Segre’s humour and irony explore the pathos and contradictions of such situations which have characterised his life.

About Dan Vittorio Segre

Born in Italy in 1922, Dan Vittorio Segre emigrated to Palestine in 1938 and spent 50 years as a diplomat, academic and journalist in Israel. He later returned to Turin, pursuing his dual career as journalist and academic and founded the Institute for Mediterranean Studies at the Italian University of Lugano, Switzerland. He died at home on 27 September 2014. His death is mourned by friends and colleagues in Italy, Israel, the UK and beyond.

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‘Luminous, almost light-hearted, autobiography about a family of Italian Jews under Mussolini.’

     Frederic Raphael, Books of the Year, Sunday Times

‘The tone of Segre’s beautifully written autobiography, which reads like a Bildungsroman, is certainly ironic rather than tragic.’

     Adrian Lyttelton, The New York Review of Books

'Imagine an Italian Jew from a prominent but impoverished Piedmont family serving in the British Army alongside an Arab and under a Jewish Palestinian sergeant, and you have in a nutshell the cultural confusion Professor Segre so cannily explores in this labyrinthine, spell-binding autobiography, full of passionate tenderness.’


'A fascinating description of childhood in Fascist Italy, a moving account of adolescence in Mandatory Palestine, an extraordinary book, very sad and very funny at the same time.’

     Walter Laqueur

'A haunting tale, beautifully written and with a talent, reminiscent of Proust, to endow the past with a deep psychological meaning ... A stunning exercise in self-awareness.’

     Amos Elon

‘A spellbinding biography of genuine literary value that reads like an adventure story. Those familiar with the bitter and depressing tone of the Jews’ misfortunes in the maelstrom of wars and holocausts will derive a unique freshness from the irony, humour and sensuality of Dan Segre, who acknowledges that he is a fortunate Jew.’

     A. B. Yehoshua

'He is good at reconstructing events and even better at the more difficult art of recapturing moods and atmospheres ... an unusually attractive book - attractive in its irony, its energy and its moral insight. Mr Segre had some rich material to work with, and he has done it justice.’

     John Gross, The New York Times

‘The only thing most of us know clearly about Nazis is that they were the scum of the earth, but this pathetic, marginal, and in the end rejected Italian fascist does not fit into any Europe or any history that most of us know ... He must be a man of extraordinary moral courage and self-knowledge, since nowhere does he deal lightly with himself ... Maybe the final heroism was to write this book ... I think this book is unique and a sort of masterpiece.’

     Peter Levi, The Independent

‘This distinguished book has a structure as rigorously cut and shaped as any novel. Segre’s good fortune, which many a novelist would envy, consists in the end in his power to mould his diverse experiences into a deeply satisfying symbol of modern life triumphing over the forces of adversity. Even where so many were hideously defeated, we may rejoice over one who survived and who has celebrated his luck in such captivating fashion.’

     Patrick Parrinder, London Review of Books