A self-portrait of a middle-class Italian Jew whose life and world were transformed by the rise of fascism and the events of World War II; What did it mean to be a Jewish child in Italy at the beginning of the century? Carla Pekelis asks herself as she sifts through her early memories. Her answer is: As a matter of fact, thing, absolutely thing! But shortly, as fascism began its march through her homeland and racial laws slowly constricted her world, Carla would learn that being a Jew in Italy might indeed have a profound meaning, and dire consequences. Pekelis's recollections, pieced together in My Version of the Facts, form an absorbing, delicately nuanced portrait of a life transformed, and a world transfigured, by the relentless currents of twentieth-century history. Pekelis recalls her childhood in a household more middle class than Jewish - her grandmother's mysterious observances, her favorite tutors and first love - disturbed only subtly by the war that ended with the fall of the wicked Hapsburgs, the liberation of Trento and Trieste, the marching of children, Carla among them, through the streets of Soria al Cimi waving flags and singing patriotic songs. As the thrust of these events, and the dangers and implications of fascism, become less subtle, Pekelis's story becomes one of awakening, of flight - first to Florence, then (as a mother escaping with her children) to Paris, then to Lisbon before Nazism's advance, and finally to New York - and of growing consciousness and courage as the challenges of sustaining herself and her family intensify and multiply. My Version of the Facts comes full circle as Pekelis, after years as a widow and an exile, by w an expert in reversals and revivals, returns to italy in search of a clearer sense of what happened to her, and to her Italy.
Carla Pekelis (1907-1985) was born Carla Coen in Rome. In 1931 she married Alexander Pekelis, an Odessa Jew who had escaped from Russia in 1917 and had become a lawyer and professor of law in Italy and then, in the United States, a leading figure in the Zionist Labor Party. In 1946, Carla was left a widow and from then on supported her large family singlehandedly, teaching Italian language and literature at the university level. In addition to the two journals that comprise My Version of the Facts, she was the author of short stories and writings on linguistics. George Hochfield is the translator of Claudio Piersanti's Luisa and the Silence and was nominated for the PEN West Translation Prize for Giampiero Carocci's Officers Camp, both published by the Marlboro Press/Northwestern. He lives in Berkeley, California.