Italy’s rising literary stars join some of its best-known writers—including Nobel-laureate Luigi Pirandello, Natalia Ginzburg, Alberto Moravia, and Antonio Tabucchi—to take the reader on a panoramic tour of both city and countryside, across the social spectrum, surveying the country’s rich cultural history. Explore Italy’s popular tourist destinations and out-of-the-way spots under the fresh and even startling light cast by these twenty-three diverse and exciting stories, most of which are available here in English for the first time.

For those who wish to reach beyond the stereotypes and get an insider’s view to discover an Italy that’s off the beaten path, as well as new insights along familiar, well-traveled roads, these stories—arranged geographically for the traveler, armchair or otherwise—are an excellent place to start.

We can hear a country speak and better learn its secrets through the voices of its great writers. This is an evocative addition to an engaging series—a compelling idea, thoughtfully executed.

Isabel Allende

  • North

    Turin, Portofino, Milan, Venice, Veneto, Trieste

    • Natalia Ginzburg, Summer
    • Goffredo Parise, Well Off
    • Dino Buzzati, The Bewitched Jacket
    • Marilia Mazzeo, Deep Water
    • Tiziano Scarpa, Built to Kill
    • Mario Rigoni Stern, Enchantment
    • Claudio Magris, Music Lessons
  • Center

    Tuscany, Florence, Rome

    • Barbara Alberti, Wicked Memories
    • Romano Bilenchi, A Geographical Error
    • Federigo Tozzi, A Bender
    • Antonio Tabucchi, Voices Borne by Something, Impossible to Say What
    • Lalla Romano, The Air of Rome
    • Aldo Palazzeschi, The Lady with the Fan
    • Alberto Moravia, The Thinker
    • Luigi Malerba, The Game
    • Dacia Maraini, The Other Family
  • South

    Naples, Capri, Calabria, Sicily

    • Corrado Alvaro, Honeymoon in Naples
    • Domenico Rea, The American Woman
    • Alberto Savinio, Noontide at Anacapri
    • Massimo Bontempelli, My Civil Death
    • Luigi Pirandello, The Black Kid
    • Maria Messina, The Shawl
    • Andrea Camilleri, We’re Talking Millions
    • Lawrence Venuti (1953– ) is a translator of Italian literature as well as a translation theorist and historian. He has translated works by Barbara Alberti, Dino Buzzati, Milo De Angelis, and I.U. Tarchetti. Recent translations include Juan Rodolfo Wilcock’s The Temple of Iconoclasts and Antonia Pozzi’s Breath: Poems and Letters. He has investigated the practice of translation in such books as The Translator’s Invisibility (Routledge), and he reviews Italian fiction for The New York Times. He is currently a professor of English at Temple University.
    • Barbara Alberti (1946– ), born in Umbria, now lives in Rome. A novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, she has published several novels, only one of which, Delirium (1978), has appeared in English. Her irreverent fiction often combines themes of religion, sexuality, and childhood. Her film credits include The Night Porter and The Master and Margherita. The source of these rural vignettes is her first novel, Memorie malvage (Wicked Memories, 1976).
    • Corrado Alvaro (1895-1956) was born in the Calabrian village of San Luca and, despite personal attacks by the Fascists, pursued a career as a journalist. His fiction and essays focus on the plight of southern rural workers confronted by exploitive conditions. A characteristic work is his novel Revolt in Aspromonte (1930).
    • Romano Bilenchi (1909–1989) was born in Colle di Val d’Elsa, a town that lies between Florence and Siena. During World War II he participated in the resistance and joined the Italian Communist Party, from which he resigned in 1957 after the repression of riots in Poland. The piece in this book is drawn from Anna and Bruno (1938), a short-story collection that addresses themes of childhood and adolescence.
    • Massimo Bontempelli (1878–1960), born in Como, wrote novels, stories, plays, and essays, all of which reveal his inclination toward modernist experiments. In a polemic entitled The Twentieth-Century Adventure (1938), he advocated magic realism. A recent translation of his work is Separations: Two Novels of Mothers and Children (2000).
    • Dino Buzzati (1906–1972) was born in Belluno and spent much of his life in Milan. From 1928 until his death, he worked as a journalist for the Corriere della Sera. Best known for his Kafkaesque novel, The Tartar Steppe (1940), Buzzati wrote many stories that represent the unsettling eruption of fantastic incidents in everyday life. Several selections have been published in English, including Catastrophe (1966) and Restless Nights (1983).
    • Andrea Camilleri (1925– ), born in Porto Empedocle, lives in Rome. After working for many years in the theater as a director and playwright, he began to write fiction that draws on Italian dialects, especially Sicilian. His bestselling crime novels, set in the imaginary Sicilian town of Vigàta, feature the police inspector Salvo Montalbano. Three have been translated into English: The Shape of Water (1994), The Terra-Cotta Dog (1996), and The Snack Thief (1996).
    • Natalia Ginzburg (1916–1991), born in Palermo, grew up in Turin. She married an anti-Fascist intellectual who died soon after he was imprisoned under Mussolini’s dictatorship. Ginzburg published autobiographical novels, stories, and essays — some dark, others humorous, all compelling in their affecting lyricism. Much of her work has been translated into English, including The Road to the City (1942) and Family Sayings (1963).
    • Claudio Magris (1939– ) was born in Trieste, where he lives and teaches at the university. A literary critic as well as a fiction writer, he is a subtle stylist who has devoted his attention to central and eastern European themes. Several of his books have appeared in English, including Danube (1986) and Microcosms (1997).
    • Marilia Mazzeo (1972– ), born in Ravenna, studied architecture in Venice. The story included here, her first appearance in English, is the title piece of a 1998 collection in which she represents the lives of several university students.
    • Luigi Malerba (1927– ) is the pseudonym of Luigi Bonardi, who was born near Parma but has long lived in Rome. His writing includes novels, stories, and children’s literature. Malerba tends to experiment with narrative forms, mixing realism and fantasy, irony and philosophical speculation. His darkly humorous novel The Serpent (1966) has been translated into English.
    • Dacia Maraini (1936– ) was born in Florence and currently lives in Rome. An important figure in the Italian feminist movement, she has long dedicated her writing to the exploration of social and political issues. Her often-translated work includes the fact-based thriller, Isolina (1985), and the historical novel, The Silent Duchess (1990), winner of the distinguished Campiello Prize. In the story in this collection, she presents a wife and mother who is the main breadwinner, although with a surprising twist.
    • Maria Messina (1887–1944) was born in Palermo. She spent time in Umbria, Tuscany, the Marches, and Naples, but always wrote about Sicily. Although early in her career her work met with critical acclaim, she died forgotten in 1944. Several decades later she was rediscovered by the Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia, who viewed her as an Italian Katherine Mansfield. Her novel A House in the Shadows (1921) is available in English. The story in this collection is characteristic of Messina’s concern with the constricted lives of her female protagonists.
    • Alberto Moravia (1907–1990), the pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle, was born in Rome where he lived throughout his life. A prolific writer of novels and short stories, Moravia sought to depict the various groups that comprise modern Roman society. English translations of his work are currently being reprinted, including such novels as The Conformist (1951) and Contempt (1954), both of which have been powerfully adapted to the screen.
    • Aldo Palazzeschi (1885–1974) was the pseudonym of Aldo Giurlani, who was born in Florence but lived in Venice and Paris before settling in Rome. A member of the Futurist movement, he wrote experimental poetry. His fiction displays his satirical bent. English translations of his work include the novel, Perelà, Man of Smoke (1911).
    • Goffredo Parise (1929–1986), born in Vicenza, was a journalist as well as a writer of novels and stories. His nonfiction includes books about China, Vietnam, and Biafra. His fiction tends to combine realism with satire in addressing social issues. Several of his works are available in English, including The Abecedary (1972) and Solitudes (1982).
    • Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) was born in Agrigento. An innovative playwright, novelist, and short-story writer, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. Pirandello was a master of irony who experimented with dramatic and narrative forms, often using stories as the basis for plays. His novels, The Late Mattia Pascal (1904) and One, No One and One Hundred Thousand (1926), have appeared in English.
    • Domenico Rea (1921–1994), born in Nocera near Salerno, lived in Naples. His realistic novels and stories sensitively chronicle Neapolitan life after World War II, with particular attention to the poor and the working class. His novel A Blush of Shame (1959) was translated, but his work remains largely unfamiliar to English-language readers. This story about a brief encounter between an Italian man and an American woman addresses the cultural stereotypes that developed as the tourist industry rapidly expanded in the 1960s.
    • Mario Rigoni Stern (1921– ) was born in Asiago, where he lives. During World War II, he fought in the Italian army at various fronts: Albanian and Greek, French and Russian. Upon Italy’s fall, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in concentration camps. These experiences, along with daily life in the Veneto, form the basis of his moving memoirs and stories. Available in English are The Sergeant in the Snow (1953) and The Story of Tönle (1979).
    • Lalla Romano (1906–2001) was born in Cuneo. She began her career as a poet, but in 1951 she published the first of many autobiographical narratives. Her evocative writing, long neglected by English-language translators, treats such themes as the German occupation and relations between parents and children. Her novel The Gentle Words Between Us (1969) won the prestigious Strega Prize. In the story in this collection, she adopts a male persona to sketch a trip to Rome taken by a Piemontese couple during the Fascist period.
    • Alberto Savinio (1892–1952) was the pseudonym of Andrea de Chirico, who, like his brother Giorgio (whose artwork graces the cover of this collection), worked in different media: painting, literature, and music. Born in Athens, Savinio lived in Paris, Ferrara, and Rome and was associated with the modernist avant-garde. His fiction tends to be surrealistic. Several works are available in English, including Speaking to Clio (1940) and Childhood of Nivasio Dolcemare (1941). This imaginative travel piece first appeared in the Florentine newspaper Nazione.
    • Tiziano Scarpa (1963– ), born in Venice, now lives in Milan. During the 1990s he was associated with the emerging writers dubbed the “cannibals” because of their interest in subcultural experiences and popular genres like the thriller. Scarpa has published a novel, stories, and essays, in addition to an unconventional guidebook, Venice Is a Fish (2000). The piece included in this collection, first performed as a play on RadioRai in 1997, constitutes his debut in English.
    • Antonio Tabucchi (1943– ), born in Pisa, lives in Florence. A specialist in Portuguese literature, he has translated the work of Fernando Pessoa. Tabucchi’s fiction incisively explores the relations between psychology, identity, and action; recently he has turned to social and political issues. Most of his novels and story collections are available in English, including Pereira Declares (1994) and The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro (1997).
    • Federigo Tozzi (1883–1920) was born in Siena. He worked briefly for the state railroad and later managed farms, experiences that provided material for his unsettling novels and stories. Tozzi’s forte was the realistic narrative that scrutinizes the lives of alienated, disillusioned characters. Recent translations include the novel Eyes Shut (1990) and the collection of stories Love in Vain (2001).

ITALY: A Traveler’s Literary Companion
Trade paperback original
5 x 7¼, 256 pp.,
ISBN 9781883513146
Publication date: September 2003

Excerpts to come.

Posted on 09 February 2010

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