Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew -An Italian Story, by Dan Vittorio Segre (Peter Halban, £12.95).
DAN Vittorio Segre is an acute observer, with a vigorous style and a keen eye for the comic. Humdrum middle class life, the rigours of a kibbutz, above all the warmth and humour of family and friends are etched with such sharp clarity that the reader is drawn into the heart of every scene.
The brutality of war seldom impinges, giving the two or three graphic sketches an abruptly shocking horror.
The book can be opened at random, for the memories delve here and there, with the thread never lost, in a period that moves with ease from the Risorgimento to the end of Fascist Italy.
Segre is both engaged and disengaged, for as he says... "I experienced the splitting of my personality... I saw myself as from the outside."
His confused and lonely adolescence, observed with wry humour, takes place in the harsh reality of British occupied Palestine. His reflections on the disparate groups of Jews with their diverse practice and aspirations is masterly.
This is a book to treasure: it entertains, informs and above all inspires hope. "Don't be afraid, little soldier," it concludes, "life is stronger than evil".
Frances Makower rscJ