Ten by Andrej Longo

ten Andrej Longo

Ten by Andrej Longo

Italian short stories

Original title Dieci

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Andrej Longo was called Andrej after a character in War and peace ,he studied in Bologna .Before writing he had worked as a lifeguard ,waiter and  cook .He published his first book in 1992 ,Ten is his fourth book ,it won the Prize Bagutta in Italy .He  has also written plays and  for radio and television .

I used to have dark, smouldering eyes and a tenor voice .and when I sang people got cold shivers even if it was forty degrees .At first I sang in church ,during the mass ,or else at christenings ,and at Christmas and Easter .They used to say I was an angel sent from heaven ,nobody in the neighbourhood had ever heard a voice like that before ,with that voice I had to be an angel of God

the opening of the story thou shalt not take the lord thy god in vain ,a singer has high hopes .

Ten is a collection of ten short stories that are based around the Ten commandments and set in the working class underbelly of Naples .The stories all in theme follow the actual commandment the are based on .A singer tries to become more than he is which is a wedding singer release and album but then starts on a slippery slope of decline in his fame and starts using drugs (this one remind me so much of those singers caught up in the reality shows in the uk and how sometimes there dreams turn sour ) this story was used to illustrate the commandment thou shalt have no other god .So we see a man on the run with his son  for the commandment thou shalt not Kill .A man in a Ferrari is killed by three men to demonstrate the commandment Thou shalt not covert thy neighbours property .

Tell him now ,I thought .But it wouldn’t come out .

Tell him now.But I didn’t say anthing .

“How old are you ?” He asked.

“Fourteen next month “.

“And what could possibly be upsetting you at the age of fourteen “?


I took a deep breath .

“I’m three-month pregnant “I blurted out .

The priest sigh

“Who’s the baby’s father ?”

A young daughter has something to tell but who is the dad ?

As you see compelling stuff ,I was reminded of the other great Italian writer of the underbelly of Italian Life Leonard Sciasscia  his Scilly is here replaced by Naples ,I read wine dark sea  by Sciasscia and was reminded of those stories in these stories,as they are  not exactly to do with the Mafia ,but they show the violent undercurrent than can run in so many large Italian cities especially in the poorest parts of these cities. they are t he same people  that, crop up in the true life stories of both Petra Reski and Roberto Saviano .These stories also show what great short stories can be and  that is a slice of the world, with  a bare frame-work of facts and  how the characters are  ,but we see people lives for the briefest moment .So we meet the parents want a better life for their kids ,the brothers standing up for one another ,a daughter with a huge secret .And through these Naples comes alive in these pages not the one you see on the holiday shows or the umpteen travelogue shows their seems to be on tv these days ,no this is the Jeremy Kyle ,ASBO kids  ,chav of  italy  .We see the real town and yes  it is scary and wonderful painted in Longo’s words and yet again a wonderful translation from Italian by Howard Curtis surely one the hardest working translators around .

Have you a favourite Italian novel/ short story collection  that displays the underbelly of Italy ?

May 2013


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