Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Zeno's Conscience” as Want to Read:
Zeno's Conscience
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Zeno's Conscience

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  13,618 ratings  ·  643 reviews
Long hailed as a seminal work of modernism in the tradition of Joyce and Kafka, and now available in a supple new English translation, Italo Svevo’s charming and splendidly idiosyncratic novel conducts readers deep into one hilariously hyperactive and endlessly self-deluding mind. The mind in question belongs to one Zeno Cosini, a neurotic Italian businessman who is ...more
Paperback, 437 pages
Published February 4th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1923)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,618 ratings  ·  643 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Zeno's Conscience
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italy, reviewed
A Dead Honest Liar

Now Sunday arrived. I, who work so little, retained always a great respect for the holiday, which divides life into brief periods, making it more tolerable.

On his psychiatrist’s request, Zeno Cosini, a businessman from Trieste, describes six episodes in his life, self-analysing his actions, feelings and motives ostensibly dead honest. Zeno is a champion of good intentions and crooked reasoning. All his plans fail miserably: he doesn’t manage to stop smoking, when choosing
Vit Babenco
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some novels are not only unique but also inimitable and I’m glad to say that Zeno's Conscience belongs to this extraordinary class of books.
“I felt a shudder run through me at the vision of all that acid, but immediately afterwards I had a somewhat happier vision of life: I didn’t like lemons, but if they were to give me the liberty to do what I should do or wanted to do without suffering harm, freeing me from every other restraint, I would consume those countless lemons myself. Complete freedom
Steven Godin
Zeno Zeno Zeno where do I begin!, life in Trieste was not going good was it, and you really did have some problems didn't you my dear old fellow, not only were attempts to cure your smoking sickness an utter disaster!, after being introduced to his daughters by Giovanni Malfenti you would end up with both a lovely wife in Augusta but also a desirable mistress in Carla, and not have true feelings for either one of them. And the reason?, you were in love with Augusta's sister Ada but she didn't ...more
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italian
Triest in Trieste

An amazing tour de force of sustained irony, sending up everything from male feelings of superiority to psychoanalysis.

It is, I suppose, never easy being a successful businessman; or for that matter even an unsuccessful one. Dealing with the vagaries of commercial life on top of the usual quanta of personal tensions is bound to produce certain idiosyncrasies and, well, 'tics' in a person of taste and discernment. Just look at Donald Trump.

What better way to expiate these little
Luís C.
Zeno's Conscience is the last of the three novels written by Italo Svevo. It was published in 1923 and finally brought fame to its author thanks to the support of writers like Valery Larbaud and James Joyce. The latter knew Italo Svevo in 1907 during a stay in Trieste where Svevo (whose real name was Ettore Schmitz) was his pupil and friend. Joyce made a few years later one of the models of the character Leopold Bloom of his novel Ulysses.
Zeno's Conscience is one of the first novels to talk
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love this novel so much!

The main character is not particularly likeable, and the plot is as dull as a regular neurotic life confession can be, so what is there to love, really?

It is the perfect mix of self-delusion and honesty that is the curse of most people who try to think and reflect on their actions and habits, only to be tricked by their thoughts and habits over and over again. Do we own our thoughts, or do they own us? Hard to tell, I think (and my thoughts immediately pick up on that
Michael Finocchiaro
Best book ever about quitting smoking! Absolutely brilliant prose and excellent characters!
Ahmad Sharabiani
La coscienza di Zeno = Zeno's Conscience = Confessions of Zeno, Italo Svevo
Zeno's Conscience, is a novel by Italian writer: Italo Svevo. The main character is Zeno Cosini, and the book is the fictional character's memoirs that he keeps at the insistence of his psychiatrist. Throughout the novel, we learn about his father, his business, his wife, and his tobacco habit. The novel was self-published in 1923. The original English translation was published under the title Confessions of Zeno.
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
i never read something boring like this before doesn't have any subject or story on it just wasting your time
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Difficult to assign points to a book which I wanted to throw away most of the time I was reading it and ended up greatly admiring. It is the narrative of the life of a man living in Trieste at the end of the 19th century and the tumultuous beginning of the 20th. He presents us with all of the details of his foibles, bad decisions and excuses for himself. We meet his father, his wife and her family, and his friends and acquaintances. Often the story moves slowly as we watch the protagonist ...more
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Zeno’s Conscience is fantastic. It’s also very strange. The first and third chapters are ferociously funny, some of the funniest prose I’ve ever read—if nothing else, the casual reader could fly through the first chapter, which hilariously dissects the protagonists addiction to cigarettes and his countless attempts to quit. Yet there’s an intense sadness and despair in other places. (It’s been said that Zeno is almost a prototype for Woody Allen’s cinematic schlemiel persona. I would add that ...more
Nora Dillonovich
This book took me an obscene amount of time to finish. I am tempted to rattle off excuses, my various ineptitudes and the inumerable distractions that kept the book on the floor so many days. But I won't. They are unworthy of the time it would take to type them.

I read the first three sections of this book quickly (compared to the hobbling-with-cane rate I read the rest). Zeno Cosini's neuroticisms about cigarettes, love, and women were highly amusing. The chapter about his father's death was
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew zeta about this author or his book until very recently when I saw its’ title on a site involved with world literature.

Generally, when I finish a book I look for a quick online biography of its’ author. It was written by a businessman who, with his own money, self-published it in Italy in the early part of the twentieth century.

It was received scanty but the demand for the work increased when his friend, a Mr. James Joyce, affixed it with his imprimatur.

‘Zeno’s’ is a well written fiction
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ho letto La Coscienza di Zeno in italiano un decennio fa. Può essere il miglior libro su un fumatore compulsivo, e mi ha fatto venire voglia di visitare Trieste. Naturalmente, Joyce imparato molto, e accreditato Svevo. Joyce insegnava inglese e italiano in fondo alla strada da Svevo a Trieste; Joyce aveva provato meglio italiano che su English - secondo gli esaminatori italiani.

I read The Conscience of Zeno in Italian a decade ago. It may be the best book of a compulsive smoker, and made me want
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Zeno's Conscience became an immediate favorite of mine. Zeno is witty, self-deprecating, sly, ironically ignorant of himself, but at glimpses he is a man of self-reflecting genius. Zeno and Leopold Bloom share their origins in Svevo himself, and the classical "everyman" is well-crafted in both of them, in Zeno in particular is the "lovable fool" which seems to have a tradition in Italian modern literature (notably Calvino's Marcovaldo and Palomar). The novel's premise is the self-narrated story ...more
A friend on GR's brought this to my attention. It wasn't a novel I'd previously come across. Will admit that it was also a novel that I nearly put aside because I couldn't quite "gel" with Zeno, his thoughts, various ailments, neurotic disposition or his indecisiveness to say the least. Zeno was an unreliable narrator, however it was his story to tell and to psychoanalyse.

Having said that Zeno did grow on me and I quite enjoyed reading his thoughts and seeing life through Zeno's eyes.

Sean Blake
Oct 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One side of me sees this autobiographical novel as a vivid, dense and well written slice of life, but the other side sees it as a rambling and convoluted novel centered around a self-important narcissist...

Just now the latter seems to clarify my current feelings towards this novel, but I get the feeling I will come back to this when I'm older, simply because it is a novel about one man's recollections of his life. Again, however, Italo Svevo writes some fine sentences.
M. Sarki

Of course there was much less to read back in the time of James Joyce when he claimed this novel a masterpiece. I suppose its thoughtful cleverness and neuroticism sufficiently entertained this literary icon. But its subject was to provide only a guarded level of interest enough to sustain my own reading for nearly half of it. The opening psychoanalytical concept presented as a doctor’s orders for Zeno to write his memoirs as a form of therapy, and the
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a fascinating book which has a lot working against it (old views, old contexts lending themselves to some unfortunate views like sexism, light racism, etc) but, like an able dialectic, these only serve to augment this book's positives.

The story of Zeno and his battle with, essentially, himself and his litany of neurotic obsessions (and how this is reflected by and caused by and a cause of his external circumstances) is one that is uniquely, and enjoyably maddening. Though not always
Katia N
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is a poignant and funny novel. Zeno is self-centred and neurotic narrator. He is not extremely successful in any of his endeavours, but he does not lose his heart. His sense of humour is self-deprecating. It reminded me Woody Allen or Gary Shteyngart. The novel is overall feels remarkably fresh for a book written 100 years ago. But it also recreates the epoch and the sense of place quite well. There were episodes when it made me laugh loud. Some younger modern and sensitive readers might find ...more
Josh Friedlander
I was completely taken aback by how funny this was. Recommendations from Jameses - Joyce and Woods - coupled with its lengthiness, led me to believe this book would be a heavy, somber, read. It's a joy, an encomium to the Everyman, a Walserian celebration of dorky, awkward neurotics who marry plain women when rebuffed by others, flail in business, and, leaning over their fathers' deathbeds, are slapped in the face. Occasionally, Svevo can tend to verbosity, dragging out a series of guilty ...more
Nov 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century-lit
I read Zeno's Conscience because I saw it on a 2002 list of the 100 greatest works of literature compiled by the Norwegian Book Clubs with the help of 100 authors from around the world and wanted to take a look at it. After a few pages, I was hooked. It purports to be a diary that was written for a psychiatrist, and which the psychiatrist has published for his own benefit rather than for the hero/narrator, Zeno Cosini, a well-to-do businessman of moderate talent in the city of Trieste, then ...more
Robin Friedman
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A Great Novel Of Trieste

The philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah's recent book "The Lies that Bind: Rethinking Identity" led me to Italo Svevo's modernist novel of 1923, "Zeno's Conscience". Appiah's book examines various concepts of personal identity that shape individuals' views of themselves and others, including religion, country, color, class, and culture. Appiah argues that individuals tend to take a too narrow, rigid view of their identities and urges the rethinking and broadening of identity
Lark Benobi
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
It required more concentration than I'm used to giving a book--the wit was densely packed into each sentence and took some un-packing to appreciate. I enjoyed making the effort. It struck me as some maniacal blend of David Sedaris and Dostoevsky.
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Is death the cure for life or is it merely an incurable disease?
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I prefer its alternative title: "The Confessions of Zeno." A fictional character named Zeno--rich, a hypochondriac and a solipsist--writes his autobiography, goaded on by a doctor doing psychoanalysis on him. He talks about his attempts to stop smoking, his father's death, his marriage, wife, mistress and his business partnership with his brother-in-law who later dies while attempting to stage his second fake suicide. Divided into six(6) main chapters, its starts strongly and had it been ended ...more
Czarny Pies
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literature Lovers
Recommended to Czarny by: James Joyce
Italo Svevo (1861-1928) was Jewish businessman and part-time writer who lived virtually his entire life in Trieste. At one point, he engaged James Joyce as an English tutor. Joyce was impressed with the Conscience of Zeno which he rescued from obscurity by using his contacts in Paris to have the book published in a France. The success in France led to an English translation being released and a successful relaunch of the book in Italy.

La Conscience de Zeno is a charming and witty biography of
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it

I read in the preface that Svevo was a friend of Joyce and that the author has been described as an Italian Proust so my heart sank and I muttered a few deprecations. I was most pleasantly surprised. In fact, I found this a most enjoyable read. Italo Svevo (the Italian Swabian) was the pseudonym for one Ettore Schmitz, who lived in Trieste when it was part of the Austrian Empire. His background was Jewish, his education was German, and he was a businessman who wrote in his spare time and self
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Grouped with Proust and Joyce as writers of "advanced" literature, notably due to the increased interest in psychology within the writing, he fails to deliver the required prose that accommodates similar works.

Little actually happens in the book, with the protagonist, Zeno, being ordered by his psychologist to write a book detailing his history. The chapters, instead of being systematic, focus on a particular stage in his life: his inability to quit smoking; his father's death; his marriage and
Bob Newman
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neurotic Nineteenth Century Nerd Tells All !

While doubting Freudian psychology and its techniques, Svevo creates a psychological tour de force in which his main character, Zeno Cossini, reveals his thoughts and life over many years, from the 1870s up to the middle of WW I. Set in Trieste, then a prosperous Austro-Hungarian port, the novel traces Zeno through his "own" writing, from childhood to late middle age. We learn of his childhood behavior and his weaknesses (especially his inability to
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Late Mattia Pascal
  • I Malavoglia
  • One, No One and One Hundred Thousand
  • The Child Of Pleasure
  • The Time of Indifference
  • The Path to the Spiders' Nests
  • The Moon and the Bonfire
  • La Locandiera
  • Le notti bianche - La cronaca di Pietroburgo
  • I Promessi Sposi (1827)
  • Delitto e castigo
  • The Baron in the Trees
  • Un anno sull'altipiano
  • Survival in Auschwitz
  • La casa in collina
  • Uomini e no
  • Storia di una capinera
  • Con gli occhi chiusi
See similar books…
Aron Ettore Schmitz, better known by the pseudonym Italo Svevo, was an Italian businessman and author of novels, plays, and short stories.
“You see things less clearly when you open your eyes too wide. ” 365 likes
“It is comfortable to live in the belief that you are great, though your greatness is latent. ” 53 likes
More quotes…