Augusto Segre (Translator: Steve Siporin), Memories of a Jewish Life, University of Nebraska Press, 2008
Professor Steve Siporin is a folklorist who holds a joint appointment in English and History. He teaches a wide variety of folklore classes, including Jewish Folklore and Folklore and Religion. He is the author of American FolkMasters: The National Heritage Fellows (Abrams, 1992) and co-editor of Worldviews and the American West: The Life of the Place Itself (Utah State University Press, 2000). His translation of Augusto Segre’s Memories of Jewish Life: Casale Monferrato-Rome-Jerusalem, 1918-1960, from the Italian, is due to be published by the University of Nebraska Press (2008).
In this lyrical memoir, translated for the first time into English, noted Jewish historian, author, translator, and activist Augusto Segre not only recounts his rich life experiences but also evokes the changing world of Italian Jewry in the twentieth century. Raised in the traditional Jewish community of Casale Monferrato in the former ghetto, Segre depicts the changes wrought on his people by emancipation, fascism, world wars, and the Holocaust.
Segre was a vocal opponent of Italian fascism and a combatant in Italy’s partisan war against the Nazis. With the help of Italian peasants, he and his family spent eighteen months evading German and Italian fascist soldiers during the German occupation of Italy. Segre also was an ardent Zionist who helped refugees escape to Israel and ultimately immigrated himself in 1979. He spent three months in Israel in 1948, chronicling Israel’s War of Independence. With an ethnographic eye, Segre interweaves his own memories with those of his rabbi father and uses newspapers, public documents, and letters to reveal the shared emotions and moods of a people and the impact the greatest events in European and Jewish history had on them all. The trend of Italian Jews toward assimilation was evident in Segre’s time, and an awareness of it pervades this work. Memories of Jewish Life provides a rare glimpse into a traditional, religious and vibrant working-class Jewish community that no longer exists.