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That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – February 27, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The experimental masterpiece modern Italian literature has long been awaiting.… There is a kinship to Joyce, especially in Gadda’s inspired outbursts of comic invective, his ferocious Romantic humor.” —The New York Times

Language Notes

Text: English, Italian (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172223
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Obviously Gadda's novel is not the usual crime novel. Basically it's a literary masteripiece which happens to be *also* a crime novel. In it you have everything you usually find in a "classical" whodunit: a victim, a detective, some suspects, police inquiry, and the culprit. But these things are no more than a pretext for such an immense writer like Gadda to talk about Fascist Italy and the city of Rome (Gadda was born in Milan, but he chose to move to Rome and knew the city and the surrounding area incredibly well). Then you have his gift for language, his corrosive irony, his restless intelligence, his deep understanding of the human mind (also with a lot of psychoanalytical insight). Plus a wealth of references to Italian and Latin literature (such as the Retalli family, whose names echo those of Aeneas' family in Virgil' Aeneid). Plus a wide knowledge of Italian geography and anthropology. Not bad for a man who had graduated in engineering!

Somebody complained about descriptions. Well, actually those descriptions, which seem pointless at a first reading, are the plot itself. In the novel, if you read it carefully, you are even told who really killed the rich signora of Via Merulana (btw, a street which really exists in Rome, though at n. 219 there is a shop, not a block of flats). But everything is shown obliquely, indirectly, through allusions and hints that you may easily miss on a hurried reading. I'd say that this is a novel that unfolds reading after reading--just like all real masterpiece.

And I am not surprised Calvino extolled Gadda. Gadda is a slightly greater novelist than Calvino. Ehm, did I say "slightly"? I should have said "decidedly"! Obviously Calvino is one of the greats... but good ol' uncle Carlo Emilio is one of the "greatests".
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By A Customer on April 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
A philosophical novel...murder mystery, this baroque, caustic, and ultimately poignant work has been lauded by no less than Italo Calvino, whose introduction alone is worth the cover price. Carlo Emilio Gadda--in this and in his only other published novel, _Acquainted With Grief_--concerned himself with the exploration of the interrelatedness of things, the never-ending, kaleidoscopic complexities of life, the myriad, frequently interrelated causes that converge to produce every effect. He was also vehemently anti-fascist, as his outraged--and hilariously scatological--rants against the Mussolini regime attest (Gadda started the novel soon after the close of WWII). More delightful still is Gadda's playful love of language, captured brilliantly in William Weaver's translation. (Why do so few translators, of any language, produce work as stylistically and linguistically rich as Weaver's? His work is consistently brilliant.) This is a fantastic novel. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy. Then thank whichever god you believe in that George Brazilier has for so many years kept this masterpiece in print, to the enrichment of us all.
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Format: Paperback
Carlo Gadda is a light of literature hidden from most of us. He is without question of the first tier writers of the previous century. He is a writer who forces the writers' purposes for all to read. Life, or Being, are too complex for logic alone to address. Theoretical abstractions, purest in formal logic and mathematics is trivial without context, useless for consciousness.

Gadda is firstly engineer and scientist; think of Primo Levi. But his training never soils his prose. Instead, you enjoy his talk of gems or physiology. For him, the novelist is sometimes capable of taking you into the real, or, because of extended narrative and plot, through the real. But at any moment he is capable of setting out before us the array of impinging forces on a given moment. His point will be set, then open, then closed again. We resolve nothing. So no ending can make any genuine sense. He bothers not with endings. Not just here, but as a matter of an artist's course.

What better vehicle, then, could there be for such a writer who mixes stone and blood, than a murder mystery? It is perfect because it is nonsense in this context. How could any writer bring off a worthy mystery in this wacky cosmology? So forward he goes, which is the smile of his plunge.

The murder mystery is the perfect anti-solution, where we all focus upon the puzzle without seeing the very structure of the puzzle. Brilliant. Ecco borrowed this move for his own superb murder mystery. This is Gadda's level of humor, and humor in the un-funny sense, too. He paints real layers on a fake canvass. He writes phenomenology across the shroud of our past certainties. And he does it well. The story is never subordinate to his world vision.
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Format: Paperback
... stay off the Autostrada! If you can't dodge Vespas and stare down pedestrians, don't drive in Roma! Likewise, if you don't like prose that zigzags capriciously, that scorns all stop-sign punctuation, that slams to a stop in mid-passage to gawk at an allusion or a fascinating irrelevancy, stay very far away from Carlo Gadda's work and in particular his best-known crime novel "That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana." It's nobody's idea of easy reading.

I tried to read "Quer Pasticciaccio Brutto de la Via Merulana" years ago, when I lived in Roma and walked along the Via Merulana once or twice a week. I failed miserably. I wasn't alone in failure, however; fully 99% of native Italian speakers would have just as much trouble with it. Gadda's prose is a jangle of school Italian, Roman dialect, and words that can't be found in any normal dictionary, including quite a few that Gadda coined. Gadda's puns in Italian are outrageous -- outrageously funny, that is, if you catch them. Gadda's allusions to history, science, theology, and engineering are frighteningly broad and arcane, and some of them are simply Gaddaesque humbug. You truly do need to have a sense of place, of the physical and social topography of Roma, to wind your way through the narrative. Even more important, you need a reasonable knowledge of Italian history and a thorough knowledge of the Mussolini era, first to make sense of Gadda's anti-Duce tirades and second to give a damn about them. So: CAVEAT LECTOR!

I confess that I was skeptical when another amazoony reviewer alerted me to this translation by William Weaver. Are books like Joyce's Ulysses and Nabokov's Pale Fire really translatable? The "Pasticciaccio" belongs in that select company.
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