Mirna Cicioni

Clara Sereni (Rome, 1946) and Aldo Zargani (Turin, 1933) share a number of appartenenze, the word used in contemporary Italian discourses on ‘identity’ to denote conscious belonging to one or more ethnic groups, religious faiths, regional origins, political allegiances. Both are non-practicing Jews and left-wing public intellectuals. Both have written autobiographical books, essays, articles, lectures and stories: cumulatively, they constitute two macrotexts, where each text positions itself against the background of the previous texts and is linked to them by numerous cross-references. Zargani, who lived through the Shoah as a child, writes mainly in order to explain to his – mostly non-Jewish – readers issues connected with the problmatic notion of ‘Jewish identity’. Sereni, whose formative years were the late Sixties and early Seventies, places herself at the intersection of four appartenenze: as a Jew, a woman, a ‘handicapped mother’ and a political utopian. Drawing on Nancy K. Miller’s distinction between ‘speaking as a ...’ (as an individual who identifies specifically as one thing in a specific context) and ‘speaking for’ (representing a group and speaking on its behalf), I examine aspects of both macrotexts with a particular focus on the connections between self-representation, public contexts and Jewishness. I also, drawing mainly on Linda Hutcheon (1994), look at the way Sereni and Zargani use irony – particularly self-deprecating irony – to emphasize their unfulfilled political expectations and their status as insiders or outsiders according to whom and in which public situations they speak ‘as’ and ‘for’.


Keywords: Sereni, Zargani, appartenenze, autobiography, irony