The Pope from the Ghetto
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Told in the style and manner of a medieval chronicle, The Pope from the Ghetto presents the legendary history of the family of Pier Leone, the Jewish financiers of the popes over the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Intimately detailing the life of the ghetto, dispersing copious allusions to Hebrew scripture and ritual, and evoking the spirit of Messianic expectancy, Le Fort produces an impartial, realistic observation of Pier Leone’s conversion to Catholicism and its tragic consequences of persecution and schism.
This history lies scattered in many fragments, large and small, of the golden city of Rome: where it is still possible to read them, they have been pieced together, and where it is no longer possible to do so, Night writes in the spaces between.
Regarded as “a piece of historical fiction of outstanding importance,” The Pope from the Ghetto first appeared in print as the virulent anti-Semitic sentiment of Nazism was ascendant in Germany. For Le Fort, the novel represents a Christian retort to that evil—a recall to the promise made to Abraham and a reminder that “St. Peter too was a son of Israel.”
Gertrud von Le Fort (1876–1971) was a German novelist, poet, and essayist. A convert to Roman Catholicism, Le Fort focused her writings on the faith and transcendence. Her work was widely and critically appreciated: Le Fort received a nomination (from Hermann Hesse) for the Nobel Prize in Literature and was was awarded the Gottfried-Keller Prize in 1952.