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?

The Penguin Classic book week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was sent this lovely Hardback book by Henry Elliot of the history of Penguin classics which covered all the books Penguin classic have brought out over the years little pen pictures of writers and some of the books. This is the sort of dip in and out of the book you can have for the rest of your life. I decided the best way to get it across would be maybe a personal but open to all reading week. I have decided the second week of April to have read these four books from my Tbr that are all in the Penguin Classics book. So if you have a chance between the 8th April and the 15th to read a penguin classic you are welcome to join in .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up and I go way back to Ancient Greece and my copy of the Iliad by Homer and my 70’s edition which is translated by E V Rieu. A book that is considered the greatest work of Greece and my first foot into Classical literature on this blog. I’m not sure how good this version is or if it is but the Penguin Classic book says it has had the most translations of any Penguin classic over the time they have been bringing the book out.I often feel I have a huge gap in my reading from so little classics I have read so this is a time to change that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I go now forward to Victorian times and to Charles Dickens I choose A tale of two cities by him as it is one that isn’t talked about as much as other and also given its setting partly in France fits nicely in the blog and it is one of the few by him I hadn’t read years ago. I was at his museum a few years ago for a book launch and said then I need to read him and especially as my best friend is a huge Dickens fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the first Italian novels tells the birth of Modern Italy.  Confessions of an Italian tells the great story of the Italian Risorgimento through a sweeping tale of Love, betrayal, villainy, and heroism. I also love the cover of this book for me the picture on the cover just wanted me to buy this book when it came out a few years ago. italo Calvino was a huge fan of this book. An epic at more than 800 pages this is one I have been wanting to get to but keep putting aside now seems a good time.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last off I go to Russia and an Outsider in the time he wrote Nikolai Leskov story collection Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and other stories. I was grabbed by the fact he had used Shakespeare’s characters for his fiction. A chance to read one of the most unique voices of Russian literature in a book that came out in 1987 for the first time in Penguin Classics.

With 1200 books being published by Penguin classics I’m sure everyone has one or two li=ying around and maybe getting Henry Eliot’s book would be a great intro and guide to them!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lampedusa by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

Lampedusa.jpg

Lampedusa gateway to Europe by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

Italian Memoir

Original title –  Lacrime di sale

Translator – Chenxin Jiang

Source – review copy

Its take a while to get to this book. I did stat it when I was sent it last year but it got put to one side as I got caught with other books. Which was a shame as I was enjoying the few pages I had read? The book is written by Pietro Bartolo the doctor in the Island Clinic on Lampedusa. Where he has treated and helped many of the refugees that have arrived on the coast from North Africa. He was helped by RAI journalist Lidia Tilotta in writing this book.

One red shoe on Favaloro Pier. That one shoe and so many others like it lie there, scattered like pebbles in a trail thatleads nowhere, breaking off abruptly like the migrants”hope of coming ashore in a different world. Those shoes appear in my nightmares. So do all the little pendants, necklaces, and braclets on all the tiny bodies I examine. It is my job to unzip them, one by one, from those horrible green bags.

Pietro haunt by those dead childs bodies he has to see day after day.

The book is formed of a number of short memoir pieces as Pietro as he describes the world he lives in where he runs the clinic on Lampedusa. Where he has treated and seen most of the quarter of a million refugees that have arrived on boats to this small Italian Island over the last 25 years in a growing number. From the deaths hitting home in the second piece which talks about the one read shoe that he sees on the beach. For me, it evokes the famous words from Hemingway bay shoes for sale never worn. a single read shoe is all that is shown of a life lost at sea. Then we see his own life his father and the boats they took to sea in. Two women in another tale Faduma and Jerusalem one from Somalia and the other a younger one from Eritrea as he tells there tales Faduma 37 seems much older paralyzed struck by the emotional and mental trauma of her life. Then Jerusalem 15 thinks she may be with child but thankfully this young girl tyha\t thinks she is a woman isn’t. Each is touching brutal images a bay found attached to the mother still by the umbilical cord both buried with a teddy that Pietro had put in it. One man and his island trying there best to get the best care for these new arrivals but struggling under the sheer numbers at times.

Faduma: aged thirty-seven, Somali. Jerusalem: aged fifteen, Eritrean. The list grows longer. My USB drive fills up every day with names and faces of women, some of whom are adults, other little more than children. Mothers, daughters, wives. I catalgue their names and preserve their stories with merticulousness of an archvist.

I do this because I do not want them to be forgotten. I travel all over Europe telling their stories , and I want to give each of them the space they deserve. I do not want to leave any of them put. I hope their gripping tales will help people to understand what is happening . They have certainly helped me understand what has changed over the years, and what kinds of problems we can expect to confront.

The tale of two women and their world is what Pietro is trying to keep alive when he talks to people or here has written about them.

There have been a few books about the situation in Lampedusa but this one is very touching from a man that has been at the heart of the crisis that is facing Lampedusa. The mix of his own past and the present flesh out him and those near him. This is a man that has sen a trickle of people from around the world tries to enter the promised land of Europe via boats some not even getting there in overcrowded boats or just being too worn down by getting to the coast of North Africa. Form Africa and places like Syria. His clinic has been a become of hope but as the local mortician, he sees everyone as he records all the people he has seen over the years to his USB. A crisis that hasn’t really been given the full coverage of the Horrors they have to endure. I remember the shock of the Vietnam boat people ok the journey was long but these short journeys are so dangerous and the dream isn’t there for most. I

Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte

Kaputt

Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte

Italian Novel

Original title – Kaputt

Translator – Cesare Foligno

Source – personal copy

Now, it is a nice coincidence that my last read for NYRB fortnight happens to tale in with the 1944 club that officially starts tomorrow. There is a lot of talk recently about Autofiction being a trend but it has been around for years and here is a perfect example of Autofction. Curzio Malaparte was an Italian writer he was sent by an Italian paper to cover the eastern front. This book is what he observed and is an account of the inner workings of the Germans and how they were in eastern Europe during the final years of the war as he saw the end was near.

During the summer of 1941 i was in Pestchanka, a village in the Ukraine, and one morning I went to visit a large Kolkhoz close by  the village; the Kolkhoz Voroshilov. The Russians had left Pestchanka just two days before. It was the largest and richest Kolkhoz I had ever seen . Everything was left in perfect order but the cattle shed and stables were empty; there was not agrain of wheat in the granges, not a blade of hay in the lofts. A horse was limping  around the farmyard; it was old , blind and lame. At the end of the yard, under a long shed, were ranged hundreds upon hundreds of agricultural machines , mostly of Soviet manufacture, but many were Hungarian and some were Italian, germans , swedish and American. The retreating russian had not set fire to the Kolkhoz, to the ripe crops, or to the forest of sunflowers seeds.

He shows how the Russians didn’t leave behind ruins when the Germans taken over the countryside.

The book starts as the reporter at the center of the story is in Sweden after spending time in Finland this is a reporter with connections as the opening page sees him in the company of a Swedish prince. Then he is sent to Ukraine where he first sees the brutal side of the \german forces. this is based around real events he saw in 1941 in Ukraine. Then in the Balkans, as he goes around he chronicles the brutal and violent nature of the Germans and their views of the people whose countries they have occupied.as the book moves on he starts to see the cracks in the German regime. When Leningrad happened it seems in this as it proved a turning point. One of the hardest scenes in the book is where he is shown around the Ghetto and how proud the Germans were of this but he shows how there were so many people living in such a small space. This is a glimpse behind the lines of world war two and the Nazi when they were still at the top but the downfall had started by the end of the book.

The German soldiers returning from the front line, when they reached the village squares, dropped their rifles on the ground in silence. They were coated from head to foot in black mud, their beards were long, their hollow eyes looked like the eyes looked like the eyes of the sunflowers, blank and dull. The officers gazed at the soldiers and at the rifles lying on the ground, and kept silent. By then the lightning war, the blitzkrieg, was over, te Dreigjahrigerblitzkrieg, the thirty year lightning war had begun. The winning war was over, the losing war had begun.

Malaparte sees the war turning in the face of the soldiers returning from the front.

This is one of those books I wasn’t sure I would like to read Malaparte himself is a questionable character. But he did manage to get inside the German regime and see far more than many other people did the inner workings from the Generals and leaders hobnobbing it and living it largely to those in charge of the Ghetto, those SS troops and the horror of what was happening to the Jews and others around Eastern Europe. Through the disdain, the troops on the ground felt as the war was turning near the end of the book. What makes this readable is the way Malaparte describes the world and the is unblinkered in the full horror of what he was seeing. You feel the decay decadence sheer horror of this world where the people were turning a blind eye to the horrors or saw what they were doing as normal. Malaparte used his own experience in this novel and he used them to make the episodic nature of the book it has no real plot as such just follows a narrator as he observes the places he is sent to and the people he meets. The cover is also wonderfully creepy. This is a great example of Autofiction and makes some of the modern versions seem pale in comparison.

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