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Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Labor's Cost, June 28, 2007
This review is from: As a Man Grows Older (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Emilio, a retiring, cautious insurance clerk with some literary pretensions, decides he needs to broaden the scope of his life. He figures he knows all about love and affairs because he's read a lot. He decides his "amour" shall be the blonde, luscious Angiolina, full of life. He launches on his affair, ignoring the disapproval of his friend, Stefano. Emilio lives alone with his mousy sister, Amalia. A man may grow older, but he doesn't often grow wiser. Svevo's novel, written in 1898, definitely bears out this observation. Emilio's love connection goes from bad to worse, fouled up not only by the unfaithful, sluttish behavior of his paramour, but by his own immaturity, lack of worldly experience, and psychological hangups. His casual love affair balloons into an obsession. Meanwhile, sister Amalia falls hopelessly in love with Stefano, who hardly even notices her. Things do not end well.

AS A MAN GROWS OLDER, a novel I first read in Southeast Asia 26 years ago and recently read again, may not have a thrilling plot line. It is overwhelmingly a psychological study of lovers and as that, a brilliant piece of writing which has held its power for over a hundred years. The evocations of Trieste, of the society that surrounded the love story is equally excellent. Emilio's plan to be more or less a casual playboy comes to grief as he is consumed by love and jealousy. It takes him a long time to get Angiolina into bed, which in turn opens up a new page for doubts, regrets, unfulfilled vows, and momentary steadfastness, always undermined by both desire and hatred. The double nature of love affairs---bringing out both passion and anger, love combined with hesitation, desire for approval, wild swings of emotion and inability to leave---has never been better described. At the same time, the purely imaginary love of Amalia for Stefano adds a further dimension to this veritable catalogue of realistic romance. Italo Svevo, who died in a car crash back in 1928, certainly left behind a classic with this novel. It does not seem to be widely read, which is a shame. A gem for anyone interested in a novel of the kind I've described.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 24, 2012 9:23:04 PM PDT
Last year a new English translation of "Zeno's Conscience" was published which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'll happily take up a second book at Svevo. Nice review. thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2012 7:33:54 PM PDT
Bob Newman says:
DR,
Thanks for writing. I might take a look at "Zeno's Conscience" as I certainly liked this book.
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Location: Marblehead, Massachusetts USA

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