New Life by Dante Alighieri is one of the most elegant short works of poetry and prose in Western literature. This book is around eighty pages, but it...moreNew Life by Dante Alighieri is one of the most elegant short works of poetry and prose in Western literature. This book is around eighty pages, but it is one that inspires the spirit eternally. This work precedes Dante's timeless masterpiece Divine Comedy by over ten years, and if you want a glimpse into that work, but don't have the time to read that lengthy collection now, this work will completely satisfy your needs. It is the perfect starting point into the beautiful world of classical Italian literature. This is one of the best books I've read in my life and I strongly recommend it to all.(less)
Delightfully declared! Antonio Tabucchi's Pereira Declares is an amusing story about an aged man, Dr. Pereira, who works as a journalist for the Lisbo...moreDelightfully declared! Antonio Tabucchi's Pereira Declares is an amusing story about an aged man, Dr. Pereira, who works as a journalist for the Lisboa newspaper in Portugal during the time of the Spanish Civil War. He is in charge of the culture section - mostly a one-man show - which keeps him satisfied, busy, and out of harm's reach - at least momentarily.
Tabucchi's character sketch of the protagonist is well-balanced and nuanced. Dr. Pereira is a rather simple man, a shade superstitious, with odd habits and a passion for French classics, who seeks little more than some peace and quiet with his two loves: good books and time with his deceased wife. He does his best to ignore the speculation and rumors concerning the revolution which surround him by being immersed in his work and studies. However, with the arrival of a mysterious young man, he reluctantly becomes involved with the rebellion, abeit indirectly. This sets off a transformation as his stubbornly held beliefs are changed for good.
Tabucchi's power lies in understatement. He never writes more than is neccessary. This is evident by the brevity of his oeuvre. In addition, his tone is light and humorous, his learning broad and his wit compelling.
In usual fashion, Tabucchi's inclusion of food is more than a minor detail; throughout the story Dr. Pereira visits his favorite cafe for his usual omlettes and lemonade as a way to distract himself from politics. Tabucchi cleverly makes use of food and drink as a device to diffuse the seriousness and tension that invariably follows when tyrants, revolutionaries and journalists mix - a mix as virulent as any molotov cocktail.(less)
The Duel is primarily an account of a game of one-upmanship, between "The Venetian" and a Polish Officer. It is eloquently written and cleverly recoun...moreThe Duel is primarily an account of a game of one-upmanship, between "The Venetian" and a Polish Officer. It is eloquently written and cleverly recounted by, arguably, the most renowned man-about-town in all of Europe: Giacomo Casanova. Although remembered for his way with women, he was also a man of humor, compassion and erudition.
This tale, whether it be judged as, mere fiction, or, authentic autobiographical history, is a fascinating rarity, for it's told from dual perspectives - the third and first person - not by two different people, but by the same one - "The Venetian" or Casanova. This fact is, in itself, interesting, but more importantly, reveals the method in which he wished to present his (fair) conduct to others.
Futhermore, the duel referred to in the title, is more than one event (or series of events) between adversaries; it is two duels, one with pistols, and the other with words. Casanova demonstrates that rhetorical skill can be, just as advantageous as, adroit marksmanship in battle, a battle, in which, he is as gracious as he is graceful. His strict adherence to a code of honor between gentlemen is one worthy of admiration. (less)
Contempt, Alberto Moravia's famous novel is a work of raw psychological force, that reverberates long after you're finished, abandoning you in a cold,...moreContempt, Alberto Moravia's famous novel is a work of raw psychological force, that reverberates long after you're finished, abandoning you in a cold, dazed state.
Any man who has known ruthless and abject rejection without (apparent) cause or reason will be able to relate to the main character, script writer, disillusioned idealist, Riccardo Molteni, who desperately searches for an answer - any rational answer - to his wife's uncharacteristic apathy, and subsequent, unremitting contempt towards him.
Moravia borrows from Homer's The Odyssey, the conjugal relationship between Ulysses and Penelope, and uses this analogy, an analogy, through various valid and possible interpretations, to help Molteni understand the relations between himself and Emilia, his young wife. Moravia interweaves these two relationships together in such a potent and persuasive way, he almost has us believing that these are the only choices among which an anwswer can be found.
One interpretation comes from Rheingold, the director and Molteni's collaborator, another from Battista, Molteni's producer, and another from Molteni himself. These interpretations sit on a continuum between the glorified and idealized world of Ulysses, and, the calculating and all-too-imperfect world of their time.
If you have seen Jean-Luc Goddard's film adaptation of Contempt, you would be doing yourself a service by reading Moravia, the genious behind this masterpiece. (less)
Pietro Aretino, regarded and remembered as the originator of European pornography, explores the lives of sexually-starved women in this most scandalou...morePietro Aretino, regarded and remembered as the originator of European pornography, explores the lives of sexually-starved women in this most scandalous of works, The Secret Life of Wives.
The novel is told by Nanna to her trusted and like-minded friend Antonia. With every anecdote, decent citizens are made to blush, but then allow themselves to be lured and led further into the indecent world of female carnal passions. These stories are shocking, yet possess an underlying humor. Aretino can be compared to The Marquis de Sade in the championing of such extreme and erotic material, all told in an equally extreme and indiscrete style, but the prose is not as flowing, succinct, or eloquent as de Sade's.
However, the metaphoric range and depth that Aretino commands is simply astounding. Perhaps, man knows how to make love, especially the raunchy kind, in a hundred ways, but Aretino knows how to describe it in a thousand.(less)
Dreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa is mainly a book about dreams, but no ordinary dreams. This book is an anthology of dreams...moreDreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa is mainly a book about dreams, but no ordinary dreams. This book is an anthology of dreamscapes of famous personages imagined by Antonio Tabucchi. All the brief encounters in this series dwell in the bizarre and the magical. It is a fascinating representation of invented possibilities.
Many of the dreams in this unique work are full of obscure allusions, so if one is unfamiliar with all the people, places, and histories, this collection may prove frustrating. (He does provide much needed information after the last dream anecdote.) Tabucchi's liberal use of a second, third, and fourth language, when wording or phrasing particular ideas, may hamper the efforts of some readers. He is not an easy writer to understand and appreciate. Patience and persistence are requisite here. No perusing.
However, once you overcome these initial obstacles, Antonio Tabucchi is like a magician; his writing enchants. He writes with restraint and refinement. His style is lucid and concise and his stories are intellectually appealing.(less)
Life in the Country by Giovanni Verga is a naturalist view of comprehending the world, and in this case, of Sicilian country life. This view is devoid...moreLife in the Country by Giovanni Verga is a naturalist view of comprehending the world, and in this case, of Sicilian country life. This view is devoid of any overt control of feelings, either that of a sentimental attachment or psychological analysis, which left me feeling somewhat empty. Instead, the reader is allowed to meander over the impoverished lands of its characters as he ponders, naturally, without any predetermined course. Most of the stories were vaguely interesting and failed to move me emotionally. I think a second reading would broaden my understanding and appreciation for Verga. If you choose to read these stories, they should be read slowly and carefully.(less)
A farce! Six Characters in Search of an Author is a remarkable invention of genius by the Italian Nobel laureate, Luigi Pirandello, which mixes the re...moreA farce! Six Characters in Search of an Author is a remarkable invention of genius by the Italian Nobel laureate, Luigi Pirandello, which mixes the real with the verisimilar, where a drama is acted out within a drama. In this work he explores the ambiguous nature of reality and truth.
This drama is in two acts, which can be read in around ninety minutes. A director and a company of actors are in preparation for their rehearsal. Then six people or characters - a father and his family - who have already made their way into the hall, interrupt them. They say they are in search of an author and intrude on to the stage. Incredulous and reluctant as the director is, not to mention the actors, the six characters are allowed to state their case piece by piece. The director thinks they are a crazy bunch of fools, but never has a chance to have them thrown out. Eventually he is persuaded by this family of characters and taken to their story. Subsequently he readies his actors to attempt it. But the six insist that they be allowed to act out their own story, instead of the company of professional actors, since they are already familiar with the story.
The whole series seems preposterous and that is one point of the drama that Pirandello brings to light. Here Pirandello mixes reality and art, with the appearance of reality imitating art, but it is actually art's imitation of reality. Or is it? This farcical sketch of man's fallibility in distinguishing one from the other is well worth the initial confusion that ensues upon reading the first pages. (less)
Elio Vittorini's Conversations in Sicily is a charming story and beautiful portrait of one man, family and home, set during a tumultuous time in histo...moreElio Vittorini's Conversations in Sicily is a charming story and beautiful portrait of one man, family and home, set during a tumultuous time in history, that of World War II and its subsequent years. The conversations that emerge through much of the story evoke nostalgic feelings that the reader grows attached to.
This is a simple story of a listless and confused young man who seeks a change in mood and outlook by visiting his hometown, where fond memories of his childhood are awakened. Vittorini so delicately draws and colors in details of places and people, from the start of Silvetro's return journey by train to the family home that he is so comfortable and familiar with.
Praised by many, including Ernest Hemingway, this novel is a beautiful description of man finding peace within himself upon his return home.(less)
Moravia's common theme of misunderstood love between two people very much in love is central to this novel. Conjugal Love takes place in the romantic...moreMoravia's common theme of misunderstood love between two people very much in love is central to this novel. Conjugal Love takes place in the romantic and beautiful countryside of Tuscany, a place where passions are always aflame and love is consummated eternally, an ideal place for a writer and his young wife to pass away the days dreaming sweet dreams together.
The protagonist, Silvio, a wealthy man with literary ambitions, seeks solitude in his surroundings in the country to finish a novel. He sets up house with his wife, whom has very little to do. After some effort, when he fails to produce anything worthy, his confidence wanes and so does his time for love-making with his wife, Leda. One day, Leda confesses to Silvio that the local barber, employed by her husband, made indecent advances on her. Silvio, unable to believe his wife, dismisses her accusations and this is where their marriage begins to fall apart.
Moravia's exceptional technique in painting a psychological portrait of both Silvio and Leda is both honest and penetrating. Passion, love, romance. However much we possess of them, they do little to disencumber the mistrust and unresolved tension stemming from mis-understanding. Although this book is not one of Moravia's more famous works, it is nonetheless worth reading. (less)
In Boredom, Alberto Moravia explores man's obsession with power and sex. Dino, the main character, lives at home with his wealthy mother. His material...moreIn Boredom, Alberto Moravia explores man's obsession with power and sex. Dino, the main character, lives at home with his wealthy mother. His material needs and desires have been satisfied, and to a large degree satiated, but he still feels a profound sense of 'boredom,' this boredom verging on the absence of affection and purpose - a kind of listlessness, congruous of modern man.
Dino, an aspiring painter, who is neither young nor very determined about his art, runs into a nude model, Cecilia. They start a relationship that drives Dino into desperation - beyond his boredom - as he tries to dominate her. Cecilia, a strange girl herself, is never really taken by his manners long enough for a proper relationship to mature. She spurns his final whimsical attempts to have her.
The most interesting aspect of this novel are the two central characters. Both are odd and aloof, and would seem to be a decent match, as domineering artist and his submissive subject. However, that is not to be. (less)
Indian Nocturne is an enchanting little novella. Antonio Tabucchi's skill at sketching alluring dream-like sequences never ceases to impress. This sto...moreIndian Nocturne is an enchanting little novella. Antonio Tabucchi's skill at sketching alluring dream-like sequences never ceases to impress. This story follows an unnamed narrator who travels to India in search for an acquaintance. The feel of an exotic land, mixed with bizarre scenes and encounters, makes this brief work interesting, as well as, entertaining to read. The way Tabucchi leaves everything hanging in mid-air, open to the reader's interpretations, fits in well with his themes and style.(less)
Antonio Tabucchi's Requiem: A Hallucination is a beautiful journey and scintillating portrait of Portugal and its people and a tribute to one of the f...moreAntonio Tabucchi's Requiem: A Hallucination is a beautiful journey and scintillating portrait of Portugal and its people and a tribute to one of the finest Iberian and Portugese poets and writers, Fernando Pessoa.
This book is a brief and simple work of art, but one with a timeless, almost magical, quality. It is a dream encounter with the ghost of a legendary writer. The best aspect of this story is the way Tabucchi approaches each chance meeting with the series of strangers on his way to his final destination. Each conversation is humurous and pleasant. Of course, in his usual fashion, food makes up an important element in the narrative. I felt like I was immersed in a beautiful and enchanting hallucination as I read this book, one I wouldn't mind being part of every day. I highly recommend this book for Tabucchi and Pessoa lovers.(less)