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?

Cheese by Willem Elsschot

 

 

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Cheese  by Willem Elsschot

Dutch fiction

Original title – Kaas

Translator – Sander Berg

Source = review copy

I was contact by Alma books as they are want to highlight  some of their back catalogue gems , I choose this and a book by Louis – Ferdinand Celine . I choose this as I had a happy memories of Holland and cheese , My father has done a lot of business in the Netherlands over the years and  about twenty years ago got a gift of some Cheese socks which he passed on to me the had a Edam hole style cheese with a little mouse looking out of a hole on each one , I loved those socks so a book about cheese , which from my time on the borders of Netherlands and spend a number of days in Nijmegen and surrounding area I know the dutch take the cheese seriously.

This Mr Van Sconnbeke comes from an old, wealthy family .He’s a bachelor and lives by himself in a big house in one of our most beautiful streets.

he has plenty of money, as do all his friends. These are for the most part judges , lawyers , merchants or retired businessmen.every member of this company possesses at least one car, with the exception of Mr Van Schoonbeke himself , my brother and me .But Mr Van Schoonbeke could own his car if he wished, and no one knows this better than his friends. Indeed, they think it’s rather curious and sometimes speak of him as “that old devil Albert”

The main reason for Frans is his friendship with Mr van Schoonbeke

Frans Laarmans is the main character of this book , he starts as a clerk in the novel in Antwerp . But has a chance to further his career and becomes a merchant in a much larger company egged on by his posh friends to take the job . This is where the problems begin with this new job where in a chance to impress his bosses and prove that a simple clerk like him is worth the job . He gets in a tangle with one supply with ordering to many as he get confused over what he has ordered with him then twenty tons of cheese turns up . Then he tries to get it sold but with no hope , his wife and children suffer as he starts to fall apart in a way .

The twenty tons were waiting for me on four trailers in the courtyard. They’d quickly offloaded the cheese last night to avoid paying demurrage to the railway company . That’s how I was able to witness my cheese being locked away in my safe . I stood in the middle of the cellar, like an instructor in a manege, keeping a close eye on everything until the last crate had been brought in

The large pile of cheese he has to get rid off before it goes off .

This is meant to be a comic masterpiece of comic  dutch literature . This is a novel of social-climbing Frans is a man who is wanting to climb it is similar in some ways too Wodehouse ,Frans is one of those oddly name side character from Jeeves and Wooster in a way one of those small stories that get told as an aside in the Wodehouse stories  . this is a classic man trying to better himself but with a dry look at failing at it a man who hates cheese ,drowning in cheese. I not sure it fully works when I first mentioned I was reading this a connection on twitter said they had thrown it to one side half read . I said and still hold by it that humour is hard to translate, in parts it works . I feel there is another level that maybe we miss that is some what Belgium humour , I was reminded of what Jonathan meades observations about the odd ways belgium is so different yet so close to us the quirky way they have small museums for everything and the way each street is individual in their look . Laarmans is a character that Elsschot used in his other big novel and again in his other books he wrote , he was considered to be semi biographical reflection of the man himself.

 

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