Down and Out in England and Italy by Alberto Prunetti

Down and Out in England and Italy by Alberto Prunetti

Italian Non-fiction

Original title – 108 metri. The new working-class hero

Translator – Elena Pala

Source – Review copy

I ask to get sent this intrigued by the title a nod to the Orwell book about being poor and finding it hard to find a job. But when I looked up the original title was a homage to the John Lennon song Working-class Heron and the foundry where had worked when they made a 108-meter railing. Alberto has worked as a Pizza chef, a cleaner, and Handyman. He did these jobs whilst and after getting his degree he still wrote and has published five novels and has translated works by Orwell (Hence the nod to his book in the English title ) He has also worked on a series of working-class books for an Italian publisher.

We the cooks of United Kingdon solemnly swear before Her majesty the queen to fight the infamous pathogenic bacteria, given to all manner of vicousness and capable of inducing the most grevious bouts of nausea and vomitting. We will deny Clastridium perfingens access to the British soil – that ghastly, degenrate agitator that creeps into the restaurant and can count on the logistical support of Botulinum. The fearsome staphylococusureus- devious bowel terrorist.- will be pushed back accross the Channel, together with the so-called European Bacillus cereus, which cause abdominal pain and spasms as well as nefarious bouts of blouting.

The opening chapter called The Oath

The book follows the time in the early 200os when after his Graduation Alberto came to the Uk to earn money as he was from a working-class family his father was a steelworker from Livorno in Tuscany the side of the place we never see hen it shown here. I remember the town from its football team which is considered the most left-wing club in Italy historically. Anyway back to the book and we follow Alberto as he arrived in Bristol and he knocks door to door at the local Pizza restaurants when he got a job he falls into a weird brotherhood of the workers a mix of failed actors, Turks that pretend to be Italian.  He joins the club secret group the SKANK (Stonebridge kitchen assistant Nasty Kommittee) a gang of rogue fast food folks. He drifts then through cleaning jobs where he is watched as he goes around the shopping center where he is employed. Cleaning school toilets working with an opera lover toilet cleaner. What we see is that underbelly as he talks about the dying ember of Thatcher’s time still being felt I feel this is something that has grown Brexit has brought even more of a racist feel to our country.

The atomsphere was, in short , intoerably opressive for us Pizza chefs, and I had proof that my locker was being routinely searched for evidence of my wrongdoing.I remember losing my temper one day, shouting and kicking the furniture in the dining room. It was tin response to the umpteenth punitive task the signora, clearly moticvated by her hatred for the British waitresses, had imposed on the girls after an excruicating shift, she’d ordered them to scrub the legs of all the tables and chairs, it was through such measures that she aimed to puinsh the guilty, encourage the righteousm and warn off the evil-minded – predictably, however, thisonly earned her more insults and abuse

The italian owner of his first place of work in Bristol

I loved this book as it remind me of my own experience which was in the early nineties where I worked in a German packing factory. It opened my eyes to those people we don’t always see those restaurants workers, fast food, drivers who many assume are one thing but Like Alberto was and many of the friends I made working in a German factory a mix of students, Germans and a number of workers from the Balkans I had a great connection to a pair from Kosovohe worked in TV there in the football shows he was a huge Football fan. His wife was a professor of Literature. Like the gang of brothers, he made the way I  connected with these people hardworking and saw the other side of the fence being a foreign worker in a foreign country. even down to the acting Italian, my Kosovan friend had another job in an Italian cafe where he tried to look like he was Italian!!  This also reminds me of the description of the workers that Anthony Bourdain gave in his book Kitchen confidential hard working and on the whole workers from around the world working in the kitchens of New York. He captures those unnamed workers we all see but don’t know as well as we think we do. An eye-opening look at working at the bottom here that I feel is maybe worse now given the Gig economy and zero-hour contracts leaving people on the edge of nothing all the time.

Winstons score – A an interesting memoir about being a foreign and working in the UK !!

 

The Lying LIfe of Adults by Elena Ferrante

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Italian Fiction

Original tilte – La vita bugiarda degli adulti

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – copy for blog tour

 

I don’t often sign up for a blog tour but when approached to do one for the Cheltenham Literary festival it was always going to be a yes as the theme is reading the world which is something I always do here. But then I had no idea what the book was till it arrived at the house. So when the latest book by Elena Ferrante dropped on the doorstep of Wintonsdad towers.  I was in two minds as I hadn’t been bowled over by her. As in the past, I had read the first and last book in the Neapolitan series. I was also one to avoid hype and the time the first book came out My Brillant friend was everywhere in the blogosphere so I left reviewing it. There is still the question of who Ferrant is I love that even after all this success she or he or they has stayed hidden from the limelight in a way it has attracted me more to them as a writer as it shows they are in it for the writing. And  I am always willing to try again with a writer I hadn’t got on with a second chance and this time it was the right choice it is a standalone novel set in the Naples of the 90s and follows three teen years of Giovanna’s life. A coming-of-age novel.

Two years before leaving home my father sid to my morther that I was ver ugly. The sentence was uttered under his breath, in the apartment that my parents new,y married, had brought at the top of Via San Giacomo dei Capri, in Rione Alto. Eveything – the spaces of Naples, the blue light of a frigid February, those words – remained fixed. But I slipped away, and am still slipping away, within these lines that are intended to give me a story, while in fact I am nothing,nothing of my own, nothing that has really begn or really been brought to completion: only a tangled knotm and nobody, not even the one who at the moment is writing, knows if it contains the right thread for a story or is merely a snarled confusion of suffering, without redemption

The opening lines told in retrospective by Giovanna years after the event.

The book starts with the 13-year-old Giovanna hearing at the crack of a door her father says she was Ugly and becoming more like his sister Vittoria. This is the first thing she has heard of a family. Her parent’s successful couple life up the hill in Naples in a middle-class area. She loves and has her father as her idol so when she hears this it sets her on a path to first find out why her father compared her to the auntie she knew nothing about and after much persuasion, she is allowed to meet her aunt and this leads to the discovery of her parent’s origins a working-class neighborhood and a family of aunts and uncles that she never knew existed and the Aunt at once enthralled and vibrant draws the young girl in and shows her the working class place her family was from. But then she sees her in the way her father does over time. Add to this her parents start to unravel over this time and drift apart. Giovanna also blossoms over this time and discovers boys. Add to that the truth behind a family Heirloom this is a glimpse into three years that will change her life forever.

I learned to lie to my parents more and more. At first I didn’t tell real lies, but since I wasn’t strong enough to oppose their always well-ordered world, I pretended to accept it while at the same time I cut out for myself a narrow path that I could abandon in a hurry if they merely darkened. I behaved like that especilly with my father, even though his every word had in my eyes a dazzling authority, and it was exhausting and painful to try ti deceive him.

fter she meets Vittoria she has to start telling lies to her parents as she is drawn into a new world.

It is fair to say this impressed me more than the other two books by Ferrante I have read. I have always been a fan of Bildungsroman works those important teen years are the years that we become the adults we can be and here we have so many threads it makes the story more than that. First is why did her father call her Ugly like Vittoria and was that the right term to use. Why did the parents hide this other family this is all about Class and how they tried to escape their past and class moving to San Giacomo when they married a middle-class place far removed from the home. Add to this a girl discovering herself as all this goes on it and also falling in love for the first time as her family falls apart. Then there is the other character to this book the city Naples as in her other books this is a story of a city of class and the city about how people move on. A story that isn’t just a Naples story but it is told so well by Ferrante her love for her home city of Naples that always leaps of the page. Has it converted me to Ferrante well I will try some of her other stand-alone works? What are your thoughts about Ferrante?  Do you read the world?

Winstons score –  A – a brilliant coming-of-age novel with family secrets at its heart!

 

Come with me by Nicola Viceconti

Come with me Nicola Viceconti

Italian fiction

Original title – Vieni Via

Translator – Laura Bennett

Source – review copy

I have reviewed one book from the new publisher Aspal Prime that has here a prize-winning Italian novel from the writer-poet and sociologist Nicol Viceconti a writer of over ten books. A lot of his works have focussed on Latin America where he has worked particularly in Argentina where he was award an honor by the people of Buenos Aires and was called an Italian with an Argentina soul. He likes to travel and has a real interest in Human rights his writing has been called Novelas por la identidad”  which means in search of identity here it is an old professor looking at his past as he hunts an old flame.

Someone had taken Irina to Vladivostok, away from me forever. What if that was really happed, I wondered in a low voice.

Even just the vey thought of this theory sent a shiver down my spine. I dropped the coat on the floor and, still clutching the note in my hand, sank into the chair ]. I closed my eyes and fell back into the seat. I began to wonder about what had haoopend to her. While my eyes followedthe words from one side of the paper to the pther. I heard their sound, as if she was saying them. Suddenly eveything had imagined about her vainshed, bursting like a bubble.

The note is found is his imagined version of what happened right or was it different

Eighty-year-old franco Solfi had completely forgotten about a young Russian girl he had met in the sixties when he was a communist in Paris and not as tainted as he was now.  when she disappeared he thought she had died Irina. But when he finds an old note, that had been left for him in a coat he hadn’t used since that time and the discovery is like a Proustian Madeline as it reignites something he had forgotten.  he is convinced it is a sign and decides to go on a journey to discover what happened to Irina a journey that goes into the past and mix history the cold war and these two peoples journeys as he first goes to Paris and then into what was Irina Homeland as he tries to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago was it was he imagined was all that it seemed at the time as this is a flip of being a communist in the Paris and living under communism in the sixties in Russia the trip will take him to Moscow then through to Siberia and then even to Mexico city. Will he find out if Irina is alive will the present heal the past?

I decided to travel by tain for two reasons: on the one hand I wanted to enjoy the landscape of Europe I had almost forgotten on the other, I needed to give myself the time needed to reflect on some episodfes of my life spent with Irina, A thrity six hour journey seemed to take stock of the situation before I suddenly found my self catapulted into the past.

I have always lived travelling by train. I must have inherited the passion for it frommy uncle Renato, my father’s brother, who spent fifty years of his life as a train driver on the line that went from Rome to the lake as Castel Gandolfo. It was the fifties and to the delight of romans, this, one of the most scenic routes in central Italy had recently been open.

He heads into his past as he tries to foind put what happened to Irina all those years ago.

One of the things I have found over the years is there are so many books not translated you only have to look at the blog the untranslated that covers those gems that have yet to find a translator or have been signed up and never got to us in English so many great books await us so we have books like this a writer that has published a number of books but given his style which is a mix of Latin American and Italian in his style. this book finishes in Mexico and this is all parts that he wanted to bring into the bok the militants of the sixties a certain type of Italian that is marked by Franco then he wants to touch on certain events in Mexico in the 40s, 50s and 60s and then he wanted to use Irina as a way of connecting all these ideas as we follow Franco as he looks for her and in a way discovers what happened to make him the disillusioned 80 years old he is on a quest a short of Odessey into the truth. This is another perfect example of why small publishers do such a great job.

Winstons Score – B is a gem about one man’s journey into his past

Meeting in Positano by Goliarda Sapienza

 

Meeting in Positiano by Goliarda Sapienza

Italian fiction

Original title – Appuntamento a Positano

Translator – Brian Robert Moore

Source – review copy

I move to Italy and a book by Goliarda Sapienza a piece of auto-fiction set on the Amalfi coast. Sapienza starts her life in a small Italian town before moving to Rome to study at the academy of dramatic arts. She then had a successful career as an actress as firstly in Pirandello plays then as a film star, which is how she meets the main character in this book as they were scouting locations for a film. She then concentrated in her later life on her writing she had a number of works published her life but what is considered her masterpiece the art of Joy was published after she died as at the time it was written the female character was considered to unrestrained in her life.

Everyone was held spellbound as she walked down the strps to the dock where a skiff waited for her to push out to sea. Or when upon her return, at no later than one o’clock. Nocola – the son of Lucibello, called the monkey, the oldest and most audacious ex-fishermen in Positano, who like the rest of them had switched to renting beach umbrella and lungersx – helped her down from the boat, and with admiring eyes followed her steps on the carpet of wooden planks which made a snug living room of the ancient , rocky bay.

Every time, Nicola was left breathless by that “Thank You” barely whispered from two harmoniously shaped lips, perhaps too full to be perfect. The teenage boy couldn’t help but stareuntil she went out of view, slightly hurrying up the large steps through the feverish and bustling crowd, the men all in trunks, the women ion their beach outfits, too colorful to bear the contrast with her sober sarong o her trouser pants.

The opening shows the power this mystrious women “the princess ” whart caused her sorrow .

The book starts in late 1940 when Goliarda scouting for a filming location take her to the small town of Positano and the princess a woman of mystery to all those that live in the town Goliarda connected with this older woman and what started in a friendship that lasts over thirty years and what we have here is the story of these two women growing closer over the years as the story of Erica life from her family that had been nobles hence the people of Positano calling her the Princess. A sorrowful life of love in various forms from a lover that she never had  Ricardo she wants him to love her but he never did so she then fell into a marriage with Leopoldo a connection of her father that turns out to be a controlling man that stifles Erica. What we have is a sketch of a life that is weighted down with regrets and mistakes all set against the beauty of the Amalfi coast and also the changes in post-war Italy.

The next morning, obeying her enticing command as if it had come from a goddess- and trying at the same time to laugh at my childin=sh side always straved of fairy tales – I push open the heavy, dark curtains and then the light muslin drapes tinted gold by the sunruse. The french doors of crisp glass open onto a terrace completely covered in red flowers that have fallen from a bougainvillea. My bar feet slide happily on the terra-cotta floor. I’ll stop wearing shoe, too, I think with conviction , even if it’ll make me come accross as a real positanese snob like her .

Her  freiend had a real air about her another suimmer spent in positano

This is another of that rediscovered writer that we have seen a lot in recent years from Natalie Ginzburg, Tove Ditlevsen strong female writers that deserve a wider audience, and here is another on that vein. I want to read Art of Joy when it came out as it sounds like a great read so when I was offered this I decide to try this out and I was right this is a simple story of a friendship. of a woman that had a life so different from the writer of the book but also as the story of her life unfolds The Princess grows close to this modern woman Erica that is what is so great and real in this is how different the two women are it is a story of two women who if not for chance would have never met but then they form a thirty-year bond. Maybe if you missing a certain Italian writer here is a book that could fill the Ferrante gap a sun drench tale of two women from different worlds. A great rediscovery from an interesting writer that sadly died over twenty years ago.

Winstons score – -A  The tale of two women is tounching.

Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig

Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig

Italian fiction

Original title – Il gioco degli dèi

Translator Anne Milano Appel

Source – review copy

Paolo Maurensig first published a book in the sixties but it wasn’t till his second novel the Luneberg Variation that I had reviewed very early on in this blog in fact just over ten years ago. That book came out in 1993 and since then he has written a string of successful novels. That this book like this book revolved around Chess and the world of chess. Because if in fact if there is a master of the novels that involves chess it would be Paolo Maurensig as it says on the front cover he had written four books that had chess involved when he felt drawn to writing this book. The novel is partly based on the real chess player Mir Sultan Khan.

In past years, I had already collected quite a bit of material about Sultan Khan; photos and articles from newspapers dating back to the thirties when he had arrived in Europe in the service of Maharaja Sir Malik Umar Hayat Khan. After four years of successful matches, howeer his career was suddenly interrupted, and once he’d left the circuit of the great international tounaents, he’d been quickly forgotten, No one knew what he might have done in the meantime, and had it not been for the “scandal” related to the legacy of Cecilla Abott, one of the wealthiest women in America.

How did he come to America wjat happened over those years?

The book finds Norman La Motta a writer from the Washington Post that had been sent to cover the growing trouble between India and Pakistan in the mid 1960s. He comes across the old man as he was then Mir Sultan Khan a chess master that had come from Punjab this is the opening into us finding out the life story of Mir Sultan Khan from his humble background as he described how fragile that life was at the edge such as when the Elephants got spooked. He is taught at a very early age the Indian form of Chess Chaturanga from being 9 he eventually comes to the attention of the local Landlord a Maharaja who decides he wants to see if the young boy now becoming a man can play western chess just as well as its Indian counterpart. He is just as good at the other version and this leads the village boy to the heart of Western chess and is brought by the Maharaja to England to beat the best of the western players. but as this is just in the pre-war years he is drawn onto the dark side of world war two where they want to use his mind to build strategies for the war how does he get on how did he end up in the US and how far can he get in the chess world.

That was how I came to move to Delhi, to enter the maharaja’s court as a servant. Going from the humble clay and bamboo hut, where I had lived until then, to the magnificence of his residence seemed like a dream to me. All my miserable clothes were replaced with silks and fabrics ablaze with bright colours. I no longer moved amid the dust and dung of the poor village in which I was born, but in the midst of unimaginable luxury. Sir Umar Khans attendant – genrallyyoung boys from age fifteen up – did not have soecific duties, but had to be able to anticipate his every need and desire: to bring him a thrist-quenching beverage at the right time, arrange a pillow behind his back was comfortable, or cool him with a fan when he appeared to be suffering from the heat

He is let into the Sultans world but with a cost !!

This book like his earlier book is set in the time around the war the earlier book used a game of chess between a younger and older chess master here we see the culture clash of east and west as the situation. It is also a classic tale of someone getting to the top from nothing and also the outsider what Maurensig does is weave those stories together through La Motta meeting and wanting to know the turban-wearing chess master end up in New York but also the journey he had taken from Punjab a lowly stable boy to chess master. The real character was a great player of his time in fact the Elo ranking of him meant he would have beaten most players easily. He was never a master or grandmaster maybe another nod towards the clash of culture and how he was viewed as a lesser player when he came with his Maharaja to play the best of the west but then shock people with his talent. Have you read any of his books ? he had now had a couple of books come out from World editions.

The Catholic School by Edoardo Albinati

The Catholic School by Edoardo Albinati

Italian fiction

Otiginal title –  La scuola cattolica

Translator Antony Shugaar

Source – personal copy

I brought this when it came pout and was just daunted by its size and had read about 200 pages and then put it too one side which is a shame so when on Christmas eve I was looking for a book to read I decide to pick an epic and this was the book I decided to read and I am pleased I did. Edoardo Albinati started as a translator of books from English he has translated works by Nabahkov and Robert Louis Stevenson. He has written a ni=umber of novels but this is his best known it won the Strega Prize the Italian equivalent of the booker prize. The idea for the novel is that he went to the same school as the men that were involved in the rape and murder that became known as the Circeo Massacre. He also has taught in the prison where the same men were sent after they were convicted.

I never masturbated until I was old enough to be drafted and serve in the Italian army. Probably no one will believe it, but it is truth. I mean to say, it’s not as if I had never tried. I gave it a go many times, starting when i was just a kid. I  knew that my contemporaries were doing it, and I couldn’t stand the the idea that I was somehow different from them, But by the end of half an hour of autostimulation, woth my sex erect and flame red from rubbing, nothing happened. The application of mechanical movement hadn’t produced any effect, and I was just worn out and disappointed. It all struck me as strangfe and I was afraid I hadn’t really understood what I was supposerd to do, what t could try tthat might be better, might be different. I continued to have wet dreams or pollutions, as the terminology went, as I slept in the night, but if I tried to repriduce the phenonenon in a waking state, i could never bring matters to a fitting conclusion. Not once

Early one his own admison about his younger years and sex !!

This isn’t a straightforward novel I mean it is third in before the case and deaths are mention they elude too what the book is a dissection of the years that in Italy are called Anni di piombo in the seventies when Italy was in political chaos and violence ran free. The connection he has with the case is that one of the men that raped and murder one girl and left another for dead in a seaside town in the September of 1975 had been in the same year as Edoardo himself so this is him looking at the School upper-class catholic boys school a sort of Italian Eton but with added religion, San Leone Magno the school in question occupies a lot of the book he remembers the priest how they talked to the boys in a way he is looking why the boy’s men did what they did and he went another oath in life they were Neo-Fascist this is something he saw a lot in the bourgeois boys of his generation he describes arguing wh=ith his father he was of the left from a young age. Elsewhere he questions how they were taught to view women which were as sex objects this is held up when he sees one of his own priests a teacher hiring a prostitute whilst at school. A history of the school, Italy at the time, Catholic church the boys he knew the different paths they took everything is questioned why they did this maybe this is more an investigation and at its heart is the age-old question of nature versus nurture here and it comes out on what they were taught but also the atmosphere within an all-boys school the lack of having a female he even says those with sisters at home were better placed in the long run as they knew about women more than those that hadn’t. This isn’t a novel it is the quest for answers really and over 1200 pages you feel he has none but you can see why what happened with the killing was an accident waiting to happen to certain of his schoolmates.

The event that gave rise to this book is the so-called Circeo Rape/murder, spetember 29 1975: here in after the CR/M

What can rbe rightly asked about the case of the CR/M is whether the murder was a continuation of the sexual violence , one further step, more or less planned out on a contiunuum withthe abuse and toture and rape, or whether instead the rape was nothing more or less than a prelude to the murde, a prepartory phase. Beofre killing the girls, they wanted to have some fun with them. Or else: Having decided  to kill them.

He explains the orgin of the book in the case and we learn that he was in the same year as one of the men.

I loved this I love books that drift from here to there and books that haven’t story this is mostly told in the first person it is one man doing an autopsy on his life but also one of those three men that committed the crime. like Gunter von Hagens he takes apart the body of his life bit by bit and the society he grew up in. All in a quest to answer the simple question of why the rape of two girls and murder of one of them by these privileged three young men shock Italy to its core. It is hard not to see the influence of Knausgaard MY struggle came out a good 6 years before this book. But then there is also the same questioning mind that we see in Leopardi Zibaldone which questions things and also has a lot of Aphorisms Albinati has written forwards for books by Leopardi so for me there is a small element in the way he questions the events and life or SLM and his growing up, the church, being a male in Italy the male Italian view of women at the time. He drifts but it is highly readable almost like a documentary series in a novel form. Have you read this book or heard of the crimes involved?

Distant light by Antonio Moresco

Distant Light by Antonio Moresco

Italian fiction

Original title – La lucina

Translator – Richard Dixon

Source – – personal copy

Today’s writer gives us all Hope the Italian modernist writer Antonio Moresco had written for years. As his work was rejected this later in his life was shown when he published his letters over the years. So he was in his mid-forties when his debut novel came out he is often compared to the American writer’s Don Delillo and Thomas Pynchon. The Italian writer Roberto Saviano described him as a Literary heritage. This book came out in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Impac prize in 2018. He has published thirteen novels and other works including work around a 44 day Camino walk he did, which appealed to me lets hope that gets picked up some time!

” Whar light could that be ?Who’s been switching it on ?” I wonder as I wal along the cobbeld streets of this small village where no one is left, “A light filtering from some isolated cottage in the woods ?” The light of some remaining streetlamp in another village abandonded like this one, but obviously still connected to the pwer suppl, swithched on automatically, always at the same time,

All that can be heard is the sound of my fotosteps echoing in the streets, I glimpse a flight of uneven stone steps, the broken door of a stable, ruined slate roofs collapsed and overgrown with creepers, from which emerge the topsof fig or bay trees growing amoung the rubble, two stone troughs full of water, streets doors of bright peeling paint

The light is seen by the narrator he questions what it is ?

Distant light is a strange book there is another worldliness to the book. The narrator lives in a village in a heavy forest area. When one night he sees a light in the distance where no light should be he starts to wonder where the light is so he looks at the map and starts to record it and next day he sets off to find what is happening heading out he discovers a small child near to where the light was the night before., But this is where the story takes a twist the child seems to live alone ion an abandoned village running the house he lives in doing everything the child even tells the narrator they go to school at night then he makes a discovery at night with the child and the other children in the school.  This is told with the sense of the forest and nature just looming in the background as though the world the narrator knows is disappearing and nature is filling the gap.

it is night now. Several dyas have gone by since I went there. I look at this little light, knowing now where it comes from, sitting behind this low stone balustrade, while the clear moonless sky is filled with stars, and not very far away can be heard the cries of nioght animals and birds of prey and the occasional gaunts of wild boars= moving about in the thick undergrowth.

“And perhaps” I marvel, “perhaps thst boy can also see the light from my house up there, at night, on other side of the gorge, in the middle of all thisdarkness as far as the eye can see, of all the darkness of the world, in the same way that I can see his. i forgot to ask him if he can see it… ”

This is later in the book when he has answered where the light is and who is behind it !

This reminds me at times of Dina  Buzzati’s Tartar steppe there is something about our narrator and the sort of bleak and lonely world is akin. There is also a feeling of otherworldliness with the child and what happens is the narrator in this or another world? what has happened there is a sense of post-disaster post-apocalyptic view with the way Nature is creeping in this again made me think of the lyrics to the Talking heads song Nothing but flowers, where the world is turning back to nature, hear paths are disappearing behind moss and plants. So as we never get any names this is a world of the unknown and we float between life and death in this distant light where is that the present or the past or ? . This is one of those books that you read and go what happened so then read it over which I did still think the book is an unusual not strong story more a sense of feeling and questions and maybe not the answers it is as thou he leaves them for the reader to answer. This was the first book to be translated into English.

Fear in the World by Corrado Alvaro

Fear in the world by Corraldo Alvaro

Italian Fiction

Original title – L’uomo è forte

Translator – Allen Cameron

Source – review copy

I love reviewing books from new publishers to the blog and this is pone from Vagabond voices whom I have a few books already I have brought over the last couple of years but when I got the chance to review this book from them I jumped at the chance. The writer of the book Corrado Alvaro isn’t very well known outside Italy he was a journalist and writer from 1910 through to just after the second world war when he died of Cancer his best-known book is Revolt in Aspromonte looked at the plight of peasants at the hands of corrupt landowners is considered a masterpiece and a prime example of the Vermiso style. But he wrote this after a visit to Russia but it was considered to be both critical of the Russian system and the Fascist system it was banned in German when it came out the title in the original edition was changed to Man is strong from fear in the world which is the title Alvaro had wanted for the book.

Dale found Babara at the station, as he’d instructed her, He was to hand over a package and a small amount of money from her aunt who lived abroad. Dale had lived much of his childhood abroad and was no longer a teenager when he found out that his country was embroiled in a civil war between two factions; the partisans and the combatants. The partisans had won. One day fifteen years after these events, he visited his country of origins stand at the international exhibition in the city of P. , where he lived.He was impressed by the eight-meter tall statue of a couple – man and woman – advancing with determination and gazing confidently at the future that awaited them,

This is a great intro as the statue is maybe a foreboding for the pair of them moving forward !!

The novel is a love story of Dale an Engineer who has spent a long time away from an unnamed country that has just finished a civil war. He has returned to rebuild the country. The Partisans won the war and he returns to find the positive side initially of the new regime hope for a bright future sees this via statues and the rebuilding of the country which he is part of the rebuilding. Early on his return, he meets Babara she was on the opposite side of the war. So when the pair fall in love this is the start of the downfall of Roberto Dale as this relationship is seen as unsuitable by the regime. They start to watch the pair and try and stop them by various means of both physical intimidation and psychological means. In the end, things turn bleak as Roberto is caught and then falls foul of the regime in full.

Dale started to tell him that some people with malign intentions were spreading discontent, and they used objects brought in from foreign countries to give the impression that over there things were better. Foreign money provided the suggestive image of an unknown world which even appeared designed figures in the banknotes, While he spoke, he completely forgot that he had behaved in precisely this manner and by these means, he had been able to influence Olga, the young chambermaid who he had become hi slave. But Ilga knew nothing and was too foolish. Dale also had his subordinates who tremble before him and he needed as much as he needed life itself.

A look at how caught up in this world he had got caught at one point.

This is in the line of Dystopian classics it is a forerunner of 1984 as mentioned on the cover it was written ten years before that book this is in a vein of the earlier books that looked at the Soviet system like Brave new world by Huxley it shows the horrors of totalitarianism but it also likes his fellow Italian writer Pirandello Alvaro could foretelling the  way the way both Fascist and communist totalitarian states would go this could be seen as either The height of Italy under Mussolini with mistrust of all those opposing Il duce all around or even later East Germany where everybody watches each other and the lover in this book would be under constant observance from the regime. So if you take part in brave new world throw in a bit of the film lives of others and add to that a blossoming romance we get this lost classic out in English for the first time a simmering book of how the perfect dream of a brave new world post-war when the world Dale saw was a hopeful place in the exhibit he saw the statue of a couple holding hands overly symbolic when viewed after reading the book. Have you read or heard of Alvaro?

MR Palomar by Italo Calvino

MR Palomar by Italo Calvino

Italian fiction

Original title – Palomar

Translator – William Weaver

Source – personal copy

Italo Calvino is book review 1001 on the blog his books have featured on the blog five times before.  He is a writer whom I will have his whole cannon on here I have at least four other books on my tbr and a couple I need to get hold off. As a writer He had two periods of writing the first was a more realist writing then, later on, he became involved in the OULIPO group and his writing became more experimental. This is from that later period. It started before his famous work if on a winters night but was finished and published after that. This is a story that is based around the numbers and the world three lots of chapters in 9 sections which is 3 x 3 itself etc.

Mr Palomar is walking along a lonely beach. He encounters a few bathers. One young woman is lying in the sand taking the sun, her bosom bared. Palomar, discreet by nature, looks away at the horizon of the sea. He knows that in such circumstances, at apporach of a strange man, women often cover themselves hastily, and this does not seem right to him: because it is a nuisancefor the woman peacefully sun-bathing, and because the passing man feels he is an intruder, and because the taboo of nudity is implicityly confirmed; becausehalf respected conventions spread insecurity and incoherence of behavior rather than freedom and frankness

The opening of the naked bosom and he ponders what happens when you meet a topless lady.

I read a few pieces about this book the most interesting piece I read was about his original choice of the cover which is an Albrecht Durer of an artist drawing a woman using a frame with boxes and a piece of paper with corresponding boxes and that is what this book is in a way Palomar is the name of a man whom we see observing the world in various ways and situations. Each section is set in a place or later on things like silence, society, and meditations. The stories start with him on holiday. with observing waves but also the pattern of the waves he is observing then as he walks along the beach he observes the various topless ladies on the beach and the naked bosoms. are a couple of vacation tales.  Then in his garden, he observes a pair of tortoise making love. Then he looks at the sky for three more tales one about a moon visible in the afternoon one imagines a supermoon that we have seen a lot the last few years. Palomar is a deep observer of life and his world but there is also a sense he is a little like Mr bean or monsieur Hulot someone that views the world a different way a comic way at times to those around him. One story that touched me was that od Snowflake or Copito de Nieve the only Albino gorilla in a zoo to live to age. The stories are all between one and ten pages long little vignettes.

In the Barcelona zoo there exists the only example known in the world of the great albino ape, a gorilla from equatorial Africa. Mr Palomar picks his way through the crowd that presses into the animal’s building. Beyond a sheet of plate glass, ” Copito de Nieve”(“Snowflake”, as they call him), is  a mountain of flesh and white hide. Seated against the wall, he is taking the sun. The facial mask is a human pink, carved by wrinkles, the chest also reveals a pink glabrous skin, like that of a human of the white race, with its enormous features, a sad giant’s face thurns evry now and then towards the crowd of vistors beyond the gkass, less than a meter from him, a slow gaze charged with desolation and patience and boredom, a that expresses all the rsignation at being the way he is, sole exemplar in the world of a form not chosen, nor loved, all the effort of bearing his own singularity, and suffering at occupying space and time with his precense so cumbersome and evident

The sad life of snowflake so touching capture in the opening paragragh of The albino gorilla.

I enjoyed this on the level I read it I know there is a lot more here and I think this book would welcome a second reading in a few years I would unlock more about the finite connections between the stories and how they build a picture of the wider world the question is what are we here and what is the world and the way we see it in  Palomars eyes is different. From his qh=uestion of waves, the sound of a blackbirds singing,  the mechanism of Tortoise lovemaking, a gecko in the sun His shopping goose fat for example echoed with the artwork of the time from Beuys his throwing of fat against the wall for effect. An albino gorillas world and life. Then the world and its place in question as he observes the stars and the planets and our solar system. This is only 100 pages long a slim novella but like the other collection from him in this style I read The castle of cross destinies, there is a lot more than first seems here. Have you a favorite work from Calvino?

 

A Perfect Hoax by Italo Svevo

A Perfect Hoax by Italo Svevo

Italian Fiction

Original title – Una burla riuscita

Translator – J.G Nichols

Source – Library book

I have two books on my shelves from Italo Svevo but I saw this in the library and decide to give it a try it is part of a series of books Alma Classics had brought out where the books are all 101 pages long. Italo Svevo or as it means in English Italian Schwabian was the pen name of Aron Ettore Schmitz an Italian writer born of a Jewish German father and an Italian mother. He lived in the Austro Hungarian town of Trieste. He was good friends of the Irish writer James Joyce. Joyce championed him his early books weren’t hits and it wasn’t til later in life he found real success as a writer he was in a way the model for the character of Leopold Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses. This book also contains a character that is a thinly veiled version of Svevo. Mario Samigli is the main character in this novella it is also a name Svevi used as a  pseudonym in articles he wrote at the time.

The two brothers lived strictly regular lives. Their way of life was not disrupted even by war, which threw therest of the world into disorder. Gulio had been fighting successfully for years against the gout, which threatend his heart. Going ti bed early, and counting his mouthful of food, the old man said good-humouredly, “I’d love to know whether, by keeping myself alive. I’m cheating life of cheating death. This brother was not a man of letters, but one can see that, by the repeating of the same actions every dayone finshes up squeezing out of them all the wit that is in them, Therefore a regular way of life cannot be recommended too highly to the common man

His brother is also a Bloom like character.

Mario Samigli is a writer in old age he has never really had any success as a writer he lives with his brother he is a fan of his works. His greatest work A youth he had published as a book with his own money. He spends his time writing Fables all about birds that are like other writers his brother tells them they are good but he never admits accept at night when in the darkness of the night he is struck by the utter failure of his life. But when he is approached by what seems a figure from a prestigious German publishing house th\t wants to translate this lost novel into German. Now, this is the pinnacle of his life but as the days go on he starts to wonder is all that it seems this is sees the highs and lows of one old man’s life as he is drawn in on a hoax.

Gaia, Mario and Westermann’s representatives were all so punctal that they arrived at the door of the cafe together. They stayed there quite a while, as they made up quite a little tower of Babel. Mario managed to say a few words in German to express his pleasure at making the acquaintance of the representive of such an important firm. The other, in German, said more, much more, and it was not all lost because Gaia translated assidously “The honour of meeting… the honour of dealing … the famous work which his boss wanted to posses at all costs”

The Hoax and the first meeting with the german publishers.

This is a book that in some ways it echoes Svevo’s own life as a writer it wasn’t to the very end of his writing life and his best-known work the Confessions of Zeno which only came out five years before his death and is held up as a classic of Modernist writing. This work came out a few years after that and one wonders if he had been taken in by a Hoax and if he is like Bloom whom had been described by others as “a nobody”, who “has virtually no effect upon the life around him” and this was maybe the case for Svevo even after the Great Joyce put his weight behind him it still took a number of years for Svevo to reach a wider audience. This is a book of its time as Svevo was also a fan of Freud and the is a lot of psychoanalyst in the way Mario Samigli looks at his life and his failure from his night terrors and the fables even reflecting his own life in a way to his relationship with his brother. A great little novella and it left me to want to read the other two books I have from Svevo. Have you read his works?

Previous Older Entries

December 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: