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Italian Folktales Paperback – November 15, 1992
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I first read this book years ago -- out loud, to my kids, and it quickly became a family favorite. Be aware that this collection isn't your usual compendium of "I've heard that before" stories. They're all rather strange; sometimes, they're downright weird, as if the good folk of traditional Italian villages were tuned into the X-Files several centuries ago. Some of them -- my favorite example is "Ari, Ari, Ari, Money, Money, Money" -- are flat-out, bust-your-gut hilarious.
If the stories don't do you in, you'll find some of the most gorgeous and unforgettable English you'll ever read, thanks to the brilliant translation. It's spare - it's closer to Hemingway than Faulkner, perfectly pitched to its task - and exquisitely structured and paced.
This is a book that truly belongs on every shelf. Give it for the holidays, birthdays, or for the hell of it -- and, please (if you love English and fine writing) treat yourself.
In the book's introduction, Mr. Calvino seems to regard his production of this almost 800-page volume as a sort of obligation. But in reading its pages, it's clear that it was really a labor of love, a massive project undertaken by an already established writer who had no need to produce something so unusual and challenging in order to help his own reputation.
But we are clearly better off because of he did produce it. Inside are exactly 200 precious stories, parables, fables, and good old fashioned yarns -- all of them plucked from the Italian folk tradition, dusted off, and improved by Mr. Calvino. I admit that "improved" is not a word I'd usually want to read in regard to a modern production of classic literature, but from the bits and pieces I know from experience, improvement was needed: many of the tales were originally published based on cobbled together version of traditional oral stories with partially-developed sub-plots and characters whose names or motives change partway through the story. I have seen the original Italian versions of at least three of the stories between this book's covers -- Fra Ignazio, Rosemary, and the Peacock Feather -- and was thoroughly confounded by the original, only to be charmed later by Mr. Calvino's cleaner and more thoughtful retellings.Read more ›
The tales are, according to the introduction, from previous collections made by folklorists, mostly during the 19th century, when people still made a hobby out of collecting such things. The stories come from all around Italy and each has, at its conclusion, the name of the region from which it was drawn. I am under the impression that Italo Calvino rewrote them from their original dialects into standardized Italian. He also added his own special touch, distilling, trimming and rewriting them as only a master could. The English translation by George Martin is taut and clean and makes the read all the more enjoyable.
The book includes an introduction by the author, somewhat scholarly in nature. It also has a note for each story discussing technical issues and origins. It could be used as a scholarly reference for folklore studies but it is a delight to read just for pure pleasure. If you are looking for a book of fairytales for your children this collection is probably on par with the Grimm Brothers or the Red Fairy Tale Book. It was written, however, considerably later, in 1956. The book shares with these collections (their unexpurgated versions at least) a certain earthiness, an occasional tendency towards brutality and a distinct lack of political correctness.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think the most fascinating part of the book is the appendix where the author deescribees how he piece together these stories from vastly different sources. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Becca
I keep coming back to these tales. They always cheer me up or give a smile.Published 19 months ago by Vt cabinetmaker
Wow! This was a great collection of folktales. Don't let the introduction scare you-you don't need to be a folklorist/historian to read and understand this book-It is simply and... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Teresa Ramseur
Arrived in very good condition just as advertised! Thank you!Published 21 months ago by Khrystle Hopper
Love this collection! These are earthy folk tales with some harsh, and some not-so-harsh, endings. So far I have only scratched the surface and each is a fun read.Published 24 months ago by Patricia A. Brande
A classic. Read it to your kids, whether or not they're Italian-AmericanPublished on October 13, 2014 by Mario D. Mazzarella
Certainly a comprehensive collection of Italian Folktales. Well documented, with references as to where and how the stories were collected. Read morePublished on September 16, 2014 by Seattlite