The Guardian of Memory: Aldo Izzo and the Ancient Jewish
Cemetery of Venice

By Marjorie Agosín

Photographs by Samuel Shats

Translated from the Spanish by Alison Ridley

Marjorie Agosín is an award-winning poet, essayist, fiction writer, and activist, as well as Professor of Spanish language and Latin American literature at Wellesley College. The United Nations has honored her work on human rights, notably for women’s rights in Chile. Professor Agosín has won many important literary awards and in this book she, once again, uses her evocative poetry and distinctive voice to illuminate a hidden history of Venice that so richly deserves to be recorded and remembered.

The Guardian of Memory chronicles the meetings between the author and Aldo Izzo, the eponymous “Guardian of Memory,” a man who has tended the Venetian Jewish cemeteries for over 30 years. However, this work goes far beyond a mere homage to Aldo Izzo’s tireless work and becomes a sensory journey through the ancient city of Venice that is interleaved with memories and stories of those who have gone before.

Venice, perhaps the most liminal of cities, serves a backdrop to this meditation on the profound aspects of human existence. The elemental contrasts of light and dark, water and land, past and present, life and death, are enhanced by the atmospheric black and white photographs of Samuel Shats to provide an unforgettable and unique insight into the mysteries of the city.

As the book progresses, so the strange and, at times, ominous aspects of this history of Venice unfold, thus making this book so much more than a mere walk through the ancient streets of La Serenissima.

203mm × 203mm; 124 pages; 37 black-and-white photographs

Paperback 978-1-910146-83-5

Hardback 978-1-910146-84-2

Ebooks also available

Published 3 July 2023

Available from your usual supplier or

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

(Edition in Italian here)

Praise for The Guardian of Memory: 

I started a journey with the author as I read The Guardian of Memory and traveled through time in the streets of Venice as she led me through the narrow passages of time, memory of a once-vibrant community, and “engaged in a dance with words” … 

This book is a masterpiece!!! Each of Marjorie Agosín’s books elevates her writing to new heights of reckoning, discovering, and remembering.

I feel as though I’m in conversation with the author across time and space—her voice so tenderly opens doors to new possibilities and knowledge.

Jacqueline Abramian

Further praise for The Guardian of Memory: 

Secluded, and writing at the time of the pandemic, poet Marjorie Agosín takes the reader on a journey to a place of light and water, into her own mind and private thoughts, and through her eyes, to a glimpse of Aldo Izzo, a man whose face resembles a living, carved, rock outcrop. It is Aldo who is the guardian of the gated Jewish cemetery of Venice and the Guardian of Memory for this ancient community. It is author Agosín who conjures up his image and spirit through poetry and words: "… your face contains who you were / And who you are …".

Slowly, lyrically, and at times humorously, as when the author is met by a rather smug journalist, this story of two human beings meeting in the water-lapped city unfolds. While much is left unspoken between the poet and the Guardian, much is discerned by the reader; this is part of the magic of this elegant book, a pleasure to hold, touch, and view. 

Sensitive collaborative photography by Samuel Shats draws the reader into Venice, its light, its shadows, the sea on which it is built, and to the relationship between Marjorie Agosín and Aldo Izzo. The Jewish cemetery casts its aura. The Guardian of Memory left this reader looking carefully into her own heart at the memories she guards and wants to guard. 

Ellen D. Shapiro

© Solis Press