Il pane del ritorno
“What frightens me is that slowly time goes enveloping everything in a fine dust that blurs the contours, dulls the colors. Even the most faithful of photographs yellow and crumple at the corners […]. From the more distant past, on the other hand, if you are willing to dig deep, you can bring out broken memories, perhaps in patches and shreds but sharp, even alive. Perhaps memory really knows what it needs to preserve.” So reflects Frida, who lives in a nursing home in Tel Aviv but has nothing of the tired, resigned old woman: with tenacity and humor she digs into the past to tell us about her journey, a small piece of the big story that affects us all. Little more than a child, left alone with her sister Abigail in a remote Central Asian village, Frida finds salvation in Bukhara, in the home of the wealthy merchant Asherov, a Jew like them. But in Soviet Uzbekistan, too, fate turns against the Jews, and the two sisters together with their acquired family begin an adventurous and bitter “aliyah,” which traverses Iran, Afghanistan and India, reaches 1940s Palestine and leaves again for Italy. Drawing on a testimony of lived life and mixing it with an imagination ignited and nourished by readings, Franca Cancogni recounts the destiny of a twentieth-century Jewish family according to surprising paths and brings to life a harsh world yet still open to many possible futures. This novel full of youth and hopes for peace written by an author in her nineties is like a “non,” the “bread of return,” placed in Uzbekistan at the entrance to the house to offer to those who undertake a long journey, so that they may taste it and one day return to eat the rest.