The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

The Gold-rimmed spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

Italian fiction

Original title – Gli occhiali d’oro

Translator – Jamie McKenrick

Source – library book

I announced in January that I was doing Italian Lit month in March well here we go I have read a few books not as many as I had hoped but hope to bring mostly Italian books over this month and I start with A modern Classic. Giorgio Bassani was considered one of the best post-war Italian writers A Jewish writer he ended up during the war in the same town as this book as a teacher in the Jewish school there. He married briefly after the war edited a literary magazine for a number of years. Where he started publishing short stories and then this was his second novel he had written on in the war years published under a fake name.

Soon enough, going to Fadigati’s became more than a fashion, became a distinct pleasure. Especially on winter ebenings, when the icy wind, whistling, threaded its way from the Piazza Catterdrale down Via Gorgadello, it was with a frank satisfaction that the rich bourgeois, wrapped up in his fur coat, using the pretext of the faintest of sore throats to slip inside the half closed little door,would climb up the two staircases and ring the bell at the glass door.

Fadigati is the toast of the town early on in the book but then he takes a downward spiral.

The gold-rimmed spectacles is the story of a Jewish Doctor.Athos Fadigati is a doctor.He is the one the upper class in the town like to use as he is considered cultured. But there are two things about him that we learn early on the first is he is Jewish the second he is Gay. So he is a well-known figure in the town of Ferrara. He tries to fit in mainly by keeping his homosexuality undercover. He meets one man whilst going on the train, this is where the narrator sees him. We see in the townsfolk of Ferrara as this novella unfolds a changing attitude towards the Doctor from Open at first. But as a former Lover lets go that they were together and this is after a few years of Mussolini ruling. So his patients start disappearing. But the attitudes are starting to change the town has a Jewish community, but as the rest of the townsfolk are wanting to follow the new rules their lives start getting harder. The narrator is a fellow Jew watching the Doctors life fall apart in front of him over time. Til he is left with few options as the town turns against him.

For quite some time, during the whole journey, he kept apart in his second class carriage.

Taking it in turns, profiting from stops the train made at San Giorgio de piano or San Pietro in Casale, one of our grup would leap out with the task of buying something to eat from the bar of the small station: rolls filled with freshly wrapped, raw salami , almond-studded chocolate that tasted of soap, half-mouldy Osvego biscuits. Turning to look at the stationary train, and then walking past the carriage after carriage at a certain point we could distinguish Dr Fadigati, who from behind the thick glass of his compartment, would be watching people crossing the tracks and hurrying back to the third class carriages.

The narrator tells of his trips on the train and the doctor going with them.

This is a study of what Bassani must have seemed himself in the small towns where over the years of Mussolini the Jewish people living there found their lives were getting hard by the day. This is the first in a number of books and stories he wrote about the small time of Ferrara a town where he taught over the war years so the sense of hatred and turn against people that were once your friends must have been so real to him and as he wrote so much about them.The book was made into a film. This is an interesting novella from one of the best post-war Italian writers I’m lucky to have a couple of other books by him on my tbr so maybe I may get to him again this month.



Italian Lit month March 2018








I know I do Spanish lit month with Richard, but I was sat the other day in my book room and started looking at how many books from Italy. I thought I would love to do an Italian lit month since reading most of Zibaldone last year one of the defining books of Italian literature. I have been wanting to add a few more titles to my Italian list.So I decide March is a quiet month for me blog-wise I would suggest doing a lit month for Italy. I also like to throw in a couple of films at some point not quite made mind up which two to pick to watch.  I have on my shelves from Alberto Moravia and Italo Svevo









Both of whom I have read but neither is on the blog.Then I have read and reviewed a few books from Italo Calvino and a couple by Claudio Magris












Danube is one I want to feature after finishing river recently another book based around a river . Then I also have a couple of books by Giorgio Bassani and Giovanni Verga .Then I have a number of books by Europa editions which is an offshoot of an Italian publisher.








They have published crime novels, lit fiction and of course Elena Ferrante.HAve you a favourite Italian writer?

Some websites and lists

Best Italian novels on Goodreads.

Tim parks five books from Italy .

10 modern Novels from Italy 

15 Italian writers who aren’t Elena Ferrante

Italian cultural institute  .

Complete review Italian lit under review.

My Italian reviews.

OUP  blog why read Italian Literature 

Europa Editions



The story of the Lost child by Elena Ferrante






The story of the Lost child by Elena Ferrante

Italian fiction

Original title – Storia della bambina perduta

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – Personnel copy

Score B+ last of a four part series of two women growing up in Modern Italy works as a standalone novel just interesting insight into being a writer and woman in Modern Italy.

Now when the longlist was announced I am sure there was one book each of us shadow folks hoped wouldn’t be on the longlist. Well for me it was this book. I have read My brilliant friend and part read The story of a new name, but haven’t quite got swept up with the world of Ferrante. That said the other side of her as a writer that has shunned the limelight and the fact people are now trying to piece together parts of this series of books to find out who she is, I find great. There was a recent piece in an Italian newspaper where A professor had taken dates and references in the books to events and worked out a year the writer could have been at university at that time and came up with a name of a professor of history, who has denied she is Elena Ferrante so the hunt carries on.

The evening was spoiled. Nino said it was my mother in law who told Lila that I was in Naples. He spoke with great embarrassment, choosing his words carefully, emphasizing points like: she didn’t have my address; she asked my sister for the phone number of my colleague; she telephoned a little before I was to leave for the station; I didn’t tell you right away because I was afraid you would get angry and our day would be ruined. He concluded, desolate

Early on Elena still has problems with Lila from the past .

Well this last book brings the two woman who have been at the heart of the four books into the modern age. Elena and Lila are now two grown up woman far different from the ones I read in the first part of the books Elena who was always the clever one is now a fully fledged writer, her narrative in this book I really enjoyed two-fold as it seemed Ferrante was toying with a writer most unlike her one that is in the public eye. Lila meanwhile has left her background but is still the fighter I remember in the first book but in this book has a distance from her old friend at the start of the book . But here at a point  she has left disappeared  and Elena is remembering their past and trying to find her in the present. This shows how the two have always been like two trains on different tracks but at certain points in their life to run close together and other be miles apart and then even nearly hit each others at some point. How does a friendship live through more than fifty year ?

That I had a sort of double identity was true. Up on via Tasso Nino brought me  is educated friends, who treated me with respect, loved my second book in particular, wanted me to look at what they were working on. We talked late into the night with an attitude of worldliness. we wondered if there was still a proletariat or not, we alluded to the socialist left and with bitterness, to the communists ( They’re more cops than the cops and the priests)

I love the line about double identity as Ferrante has been doing this for years.

Well I must admit I liked this more than I had thought I would it made me miss that I hadn’t read all the books. But for me this last book is maybe the best it seems Ferrante in some ways has maybe read Knausgaard and partly used his style of self confession in this last volume with the looking back at the earlier events they seem much more touched be a real childhood than in the first book. Maybe this is just me but given Ferrante seems very well read it is so far-fetched she had read him and he had influenced this last book. Does it deserve to be one the longlist well yes these books should have been  on the longlist before so this last volume deserves to be here as the three other books should have made the longlist. For me this will make actual shortlist who knows she may even be at the shortlist party next week !



Charlie Chaplin’s Last Dance by Fabio Stassi

charlie chaplin's last dance

Charlie Chaplin’s Last Dance by Fabio Stassi

Italian fiction

Original title – L’ultimo ballo di Charlot

Translator – STephen Twilley

Source – review copy

Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.

Francis bacon

Fabio Stassi is a Rome born Italian writer ,that grew up in Scilly .He start writing whilst working in Rome in oriental studies ,he would write every day on his trip to work .He has so far written six book ,this Charlie Chaplin’s last dance is the first to be translated to English .The book its self won the prestigious Italian book prizes Premio campiello , prize Cielo D’Alcamo,  Award Alassio Hundred Books and Premio Leonardo Sciascia Caves Racalmare .

Death : enough,it’s getting late.

Man : Wait ,not yet .I’ll .. I’ll make you laugh ,it’s the

only thing I know how to do

Death : No one has ever made me laugh ,

Man : I will .I’m sure of it watch this .

Charlie gets a glimmer of hope from death as he has never laughed before .

The plot of Charlie Chaplin’s last dance is really in the title of the book ,we meet Charlie Chaplin  at the time is probably the most famous person alive on christmas eve 1971 , he is 82 years old but a father very ,late in his life and he gets a visit from Death his time is up .Charlie has been waiting thou he was told this would happen in 1910 by a fortune-teller so is ready to face death .But no Charlie wants ,more time so they strike up a bargain ,death will give him an extra year if He Charlie the greats comic of his age can make him death laugh .So Charlie manages after a few times ,so he has another year and so this carries on as death keeps to the same bargain if Charlie can keep him laughing on christmas eve every year .In-between Charlie starts to write down his history and life for his son to read when he grows up .From his humble beginnings in London on the Vaudeville stage ,to his earliest  days in America struggling to get by .To the big breakthrough in Hollywood in the silent film era , then his marriages  the decline of his career and his final years

                              Corsier-sur-Vevey 24 December 1977

Dear Christopher James ,

This evening will mark my eighty-eighth Christmas .Once again ,I will spend it with my family , and the story I am about to tell is my gift to you .I know that I owe you a debt I cannot settle .You’re my last child barely fifteen years old , conceived when I was more than seventy you will grow up without me .So now I need to hurry , to pass this on to you , before the news of my demise sparks a global uproar .

Charlie tells his life in a letter to his son .

Fabio Stassi has cleverly mix his childhood love of Charlie Chaplin ,he says in the back of the book since he was a boy and first read Chaplin’s autobiography ,he has reread it through out his life .He has taken the bones of that book and chucked in a mixer with Ingmar Bergman’s  Seventh seal and may I say the humour of Death from the teen comedy Bill and Ted’s bogus journey which of course saw death have a sense of humour and also play a mean double bass (although he doesn’t in this book ). Then he came up with a witty take on a man trying to avoid dying and looking back on his life .Also we see Charlie Chaplin match in his reason for wanting to live on ,in  what is  said in this article about the top five regrets of the dying .This is a fun book ,by a writer I hope gets more of his books translated if they are as fun as this one .

The break by Pietro Grossi


The break by Pietro Grossi

Italian fiction

Original title – L’Acchito

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – Personnel copy

I’ve been meaning to try Pietro Grossi ,after a couple of years ago Rob of Rob around books raved about his previous book Fists  .I also knew its would be a winner when I mentioned on twitter I was reading it for Pushkin press fortnight and two people from over publishers tweeted their love of this book .Pietro Grossi is an Italian writer ,he was born in Florence is a huge fan of Hemingway and J D Salinger ,started writing age eight ,he has won a number of prize in Italy and has written five books so far .Pushkin have translated two his previous book the short story collection Fists made the Independent foreign fiction prize short list in 2010 .

When Dino got home ,Sofia was at the far end of the living room ,making soup in the kitchenette ,surrounded by steam and sliced vegtables .

“Hi” Dino said .

Sofia turned with soiled hands ,a look of suprise on her face “Oh” she said. “You’re early ”

“Yes it wasn’t my night ,” Dino said

“Weren’t you winning ?” Sofia asked ,turning away again ,and although she had her back to Dino ,he knew there was ironic smile hoovering on her lips .

Great interaction of the couple .

The break is the story of Dino a stonemason and huge billiards fan .His life is steady ,he lives in a small town and does dream of travel and others things with his wife .But isn’t really going anywhere ,then his wife tells him she is pregnant .This cause Dino to maybe face up to his life and future more than he has done before ,he also enjoys a huge success via an old mentor in a billiards competition .Add to this secrets of bribes in the local area and Dino needs to pull himself together and start facing his life ,wife and future .

They had a big notebook with a thick  coloured cover ,where they wrote down  everything in preparation for when they left .They had called it The travel book ,which wasn’t much of a name when you thought about it ,and yet every time they mentioned it or took it in their hands there seemed to be something great about it

Dreams can be great ,like Dino Amanda and I have many we need to start living .

I connected with Dino ,I am not a billiards player of talent ,but have played snooker and pool in my time so that part of the book I could connect with but the billiards is also used as a metaphor because Dino suddenly discovers clarity at the game but also maybe discovers clarity in his own  life  at the same time .I also connected with Dino as a person I myself find my life at this point as rather like Dino’s at a point of treading water ,I like dino have maybe settled for a simple easy life and have let life pass me by at times .I enjoyed Grossi vision in this Dino is a character that anyone in mid-life can connect with the book is about those huge turning points in people’s life ,in Dino’s it is a baby on the way and the responsibility that will bring  and wanting to live out some of his dreams .I like Dino need to finds some drive in my own life and maybe stop treading water on my life .The book is a small part of the modern world ,his trade a stone mason dying out but also overlooked due to corruption ,coping with a new baby ,getting on in the world these are all questions that face all of us in some ways in the modern world .

Have you ever really connected with a character in a book like I did with Dino ?


Every promise by Andrea Bajani

every promise Andrea Bajani

Every promise by Andrea Bajani

Italian fiction

Original title – Ogni Promessa

Translator – Alastair McEwan

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letter box last year I read the blurb and in a way didn’t grab me ,I loved the cover but as happens it fell down the TBR pile to the other day I decide to pick it up and had missed the quote on the rear of the book from Antonio Tabucchi ,which is a writer I love so who is Andrea Bajani ,well he was born in Rome and moved round Italy growing up finally end up in Turin ,where he is both a journalist and writer he published his first novel in 2002 .this is seventh novel and won the Premio Bagutta prize in italy one of italy top literary prizes .

Yet we made love and no child came along .It was our we fell to the ground every month and broke in two ,and by dint gluing it together again it couldn’t be fixed anymore .The first months had been normal ,going down the whole route evry time , getting past menstrual cycles without wondering about anything , nopt even thinking about it ,just making love because we couldn’t do anything but searc for each other under our clothing as soon as we were close .

Maybe the lack of a baby coming was the start of their problems .

Every promise is the story of a man coming to terms with himself and the world around him Pietro the man in the story starts the book with his partner Sara leaving him ,we later find out she is expecting a baby to another man but still is very close to Pietro mother .Add to this Pietro does what most men in this position do he becomes a bit of a layabout and lets his live become a mess .Now around this time an old man who had fought in Russia during the war Olmo appear ,this leads Pietro  going to Russia himself but also this leads into another story his mother’s father ,his grandfather Mario a man who had problems with hios family after the war and had also been in Russia during the war has died .

Olmo asked me if everything was still there in Russia ,he said it like that ,with a little anxiety in his voice , as if he had far from home and had sent someone to check things out .

Russia holds many secrets but also truths for Pietro .

Well that gives you the bare bones of the story and that is it ,this book has many a twist and turn and more than one thing going on .When I started it I found myself doing that thing of flicking back to check what was happening  but most of all the story is of a man who has to lose everything to discover who he is by leaving his homeland and see the world through different eyes and his home in a new light and also what happen in his families past  .I am shocked that I have discovered yet another wonderful Italian writer Niccolo Ammanti , Pietro Grossi and Davide longo and Andrej Longo are  Showing what appears a rich vein of younger Italian writers coming through slowly as ever to us in English .This book links love ,loss ,secrets ,family ,death and life so well with a vulnerable but fun edge to his writing Andrea Bajani shows what it is to be a modern Italian man by looking at the past and the present to show the future  .This is one of those books that have slipped under the radar and maybe shouldn’t have .

Have you a current Italian writer you like ?

Blindly by Claudio Magris

blindly Claudio Magris

Blindly by Claudio Magris

Italian fiction

Orginial title Alla cieca

Translator – Anne Milano Appel

source – library

Well sometimes you wander your local library just hoping for inspiration and that next great read to jump out and into your hand ,well I was actually looking for a couple of great Japanese novels when I came accross Blindly ,I saw it was one from the Margellos World Republic of letters book  ,which is a collection of books  from Yale that are designed to bring poets writer and voice from around the world to the English readers attention ,a few  that I had my eye on for a while so I thought give it a whirl and so pleased I did .Anyway Claudio Magris is an Italian scholar ,writer and translator ,he studied German lit at University and has been well-known for promoting Central European  culture in Italy .Blindly is his sixth book .

SO THEN , you want to know if my names is Tore .I see there a lot of you asking me that .Do I know what online means ? – aye-aye captain is still the language of the seas and even the Argo ,as  you decided to call this contraption , just to be funny is the name of the ship

Tore is a patient or is he and wasn’t the Argo Jason ship ?

Well now to blindly ,what is it ? well it’s a novel about a man in a  mental hospital called Tore  ! no , it’s not its a book about a man in a Yugoslavian prison island ,no its about a Jorgen Jorgenson a king of Iceland ! no .Well actually it is about all of the above this book is a wonderful mix of a mad man telling his story about his life ,then drifts into the King of Iceland in and around Hobart and the new colonies down under as they are beginning .A man who travelled to help Tito post world war two and set up the New Yugoslavia  but ends up on this prison island .The sea and build new kingdoms whether in central Europe or on the edge of the known world in 18th century Australia .

The Alexander rounds Cape Horn in October .The horizon very near , closer and closer .A wall of water advances and surges over our heads ,a single colossal wave curved like a vaulted arch close in behind the ship ; thunderous bursts shatter that  horizon raising columns of foam that crash into the sky

Sailing to Australia via the Cape

Well that’s it partly in a nutshell Magris prose are that drifting sort ,I was reminded at times of Seblad ,the way he flowed from one storyline to another also the sense of place and history of places like Sebald did so well . I was also  heavily remind of another Italian writer Diego Marini ,the fact the narrator of this book could be one or could be three  or two people ,we aren’t sure who is telling the story or even what is true and what is false of the history we are being told .Did remind me partly of the narrators in the two  Marini novels I have read that like this one get caught not knowing who they are ,but also caught between worlds .What we also see is the tales folding in on one another and the fact that in all the narratives we see the need for a safe world .Complex themes are touched on politics ,utopian dreams ,madness ,sanity .Well I will be trying more in this series of books  ,I have read two so far the first being Diary by Gombrowicz

Have you read any books from the Margellos world republic series ?

March 2018
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