Category: Italy Page 1 of 5

Marino Magliani: Soggiorno a Zeewijk (A Window to Zeewijk)

The latest addition to my website is Marino Magliani‘s Soggiorno a Zeewijk (A Window to Zeewijk). This is a novel in the tradition of writers such as W G Sebald and Esther Kinsky in that Marino Magliani has moved to Zeewijk on the Dutch coast and writes about his impressions, the people, the landscape and the architecture of the area, while also comparing it (to some degree) with his home region of Liguria in North-West Italy. We first meet him with a local, Piet van Bert who explains the history and geography and the pair become flâneurs (though he uses the Ligurian word scutizusu), looking through people’s windows, hanging out at the mall people-watching and, in Magliani’s case, taking occasional trips to Liguria, comparing the two areas (in favour of Zeewijk). As with Sebald, Kinsky and other similar writers, Magliani can make the ordinary fascinating, while telling his stories about the people and the landscape of Zeewijk.

Maurizio Maggiani: Il romanzo della nazione [The Novel of the Nation]

The latest addition to my website is Maurizio Maggiani‘s Il romanzo della nazione [The Novel of the Nation]. Despite its somewhat arrogant title, it is, in fact, primarily the story of the author’s family and, particularly his father, a man who fought in World War II, became a Communist, is austere and never shows any affection – indeed barely even talks to his wife and son. The key event for his son is the death of his father, though we learn a lot more about the father (a secret poet!) as well and other family members as well as about father-son relations, not showing affection, a life well lived, then and now, old age and its problems and, of course, death. The book has not been translated into any other language and, I suspect, may not be, as it is a mishmash and very Italian.

Corrado Alvaro: L’uomo è forte (Man Is Strong; later: Fear in the World)

The latest addition to my website is Corrado Alvaro‘s L’uomo è forte (Man Is Strong; later: Fear in the World). This novel, first published in 1938, tells of an unnamed country which is clearly, to a great extent, the Soviet Union, though neither the country nor any of the cities are named. Both Barbara and Dale are former citizens of this country but they had moved to the West. Barbara returns first and, later, Dale, tired of the decadent West. They have an affair but are clearly concerned that this is not allowed, particularly as Dale has recently returned from the West and is therefore highly suspect. We follow their anxieties about their relationship, the Inquisitor who follows them around and events in the country, such as people arrested and shot for being enemies of the people and a Stalin-like leader. Dale and Barbara must choose – end the relationship, turn themselves in or risk being also enemies of the people. It is not Nineteen Eighty-Four but the similarities are there.

Andrea Bajani: Se consideri le colpe (If You Kept a Record of Sins)

The latest addition to my website is Andrea Bajani‘s Se consideri le colpe (If You Kept a Record of Sins). Our narrator is Lorenzo who learns of the death of his mother in Romania at the beginning of the book. She had been treated as the black sheep by her family and then kicked out of the family when she had an affair shortly after her wedding to a man approved by her mother. The man disappears after Lorenzo is born. She remarries but helps develop a weight-loss machine with another man Anselimi, and the pair move to Romania to make the machine. It is clear that their partnership is not just commercial. She visits and phones but less and less as the time goes by. When she dies, Lorenzo, who had been brought up by his stepfather, had not seen or heard from her for a long while. He goes to Romania for the funeral and to try and learn something about his mother but does not like the country and does not like Anselmi. Like his mother and step-father,he has been abandoned but is unclear what to make of it.

Antonio Moresco: Canti del caos [Songs of Chaos]

The latest addition to my website is Antonio Moresco‘s Canti del caos [Songs of Chaos]. This is the second book in his monumental trilogy. The book weighs in at well over a thousand pages and has not been translated into any other language. We follow the publisher of this book struggling with writing the preface to this novel before it is written and an advertising agency discussing the mechanics of the book, before taking on a new client – God – who wants to sell the planet as he is fed up with it. But to whom can they sell it? At the same time a software designer is designing, the writer is writing and various numbers of characters both appear as characters in this book as well as characters in the book being written and the software designer’s video game. When God gets really fed up, he decides to uncreate and immobilise the world and then things really get chaotic. It is complex, post-modern, madcap, pretty well incomprehensible in parts and a thoroughly original masterpiece, but unlikely to appear in English.

Antonio Moresco: Gli Esordi [The Beginnings]

The latest addition to my website is Antonio Moresco‘s Gli Esordi [The Beginnings]. One of my favourite blogs was The Untranslated which sadly retired (though the old posts are still accessible and Andrei continues to tweet as @TheUntranslated). Andrei reviewed a number of fascinating books which, as the title of his blog suggests, have not been translated, at least into English. However, quite a few, though certainly not all, were written in or are available in languages I can read so I shall be giving some of them a go over the next few months.

This one has made it into German but not any other language. It is a long novel, divided into three parts with a reticent narrator who, like Moresco himself, is first a novice priest, then coordinator for a left-wing group and, finally, a would-be novelist. The whole novel is absurdist as our hero takes a vow of total silence in the first part and simply observes, finds the region of Italy where he is active to be almost deserted in the second part, apart from a few decidedly odd characters, and struggles to get his novel published by his former monastery prefect in the third part and ends up partying with Pushkin, Cervantes and Emily Dickinson. It is totally absurd, funny and serious and highly original. No surprise that it is not available in English.

Viola Di Grado: Cuore cavo (Hollow Heart)

The latest addition to my website is Viola Di Grado‘s Cuore cavo (Hollow Heart). This s a very clever work about a twenty-five year Italian woman, Dorotea, who kills herself. We follow her story up to her death and the history of depression in her family but, more particularly, we follow her story after her death, how she adapts to being dead, her relationship with her corpse and with other dead people but also with some living people, and how she learns how to be dead. While there is some humour, it is essentially a serious book and works very well, thanks to the skill of Di Grado treating her as a character with her own problems, which are not the same as those she had while alive though, as she says, Life goes on, as people say, and death too goes on and on and on.

Viola Di Grado: Settanta acrilico trenta lana (70% Acrylic 30% Wool)

The latest edition to my website is
Viola Di Grado‘s Settanta acrilico trenta lana (70% Acrylic 30% Wool). This is a depressing novel about two Italian women, Livia and Camila, mother and daughter, who live in Leeds, England. At the beginning of the novel, Stefano, husband and father of the two is killed in a car crash. The accident plunges the two women into a serious depression. Camila was planning to study Chinese at Leeds University and abandons that, while Livia, a successful flautist, abandons her career. Camila forages clothes from a skip and meets the owner of the clothes shop, Wen, who is Chinese and volunteers to teach her Chinese. It goes wrong, firstly, when she thinks he was after more than teaching her Chinese and then when she meets his somewhat mentally disturbed brother, Jimmy. Despite Livia going off on a photography class, both women seem to struggle to escape their depression. While at times quirky (though not always in a good way), the book is generally fairly sad to read though very well written.

Piero Chiara: La stanza del vescovo (The Bishop’s Bedroom)

The latest addition to my website is Piero Chiara‘s La stanza del vescovo (The Bishop’s Bedroom). This book, now published in English for the first time forty-three after it was first published in Italian, is set in 1946. The unnamed narrator owns a yacht on Lake Maggiore and, as he has some money, is putting off the day when he has to go work and, at the same time, trying to recover the youth he lost in the war. He meets a man called Orimbelli who owns a villa on the lake, where he lives with his wife and sister-in-law. Orimbelli soon becomes the narrator’s crew and they sail round the lake, often with women, with whom they have casual sex. However we and, eventually, the narrator realise that there is something shady about Orimbelli. When a tragedy occurs, our suspicions are reinforced, despite Orimbelli’s alibi. Chiara gives us a good portrait of one part of post-war Italy, while also giving us a story where we gradually learn that all is not as it seems.

Esther Kinsky: Hain [Grove]

The latest addition to my website is Esther Kinsky‘s Hain [Grove]. LikeAm Fluss (River), her previous work – this novel is about the travels of an unnamed narrator, clearly Kinsky herself, in this case in Italy, but off the usual tourist track, to Olevano Romano and the Po Valley. This book is coloured by the death of her husband (Kinsky’s husband Martin Chalmers died in 2014). She does observe nature but she also visits cemeteries and sees many images of death, from dead birds to the local undertaker. More in the Po Valley, a wetlands area as in Am Fluss (River), she observes nature and its effect on man. There are no fireworks in this book but a beautiful reminiscence of nature and of death. It has not been translated into any other language.

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