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Italian Neighbors Paperback – October 7, 2003
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It is a collection of all the "Italian Experiences" the author made while living in Montecchio near Verona. Being Italian, I found it really amusing and very interesting, because it tells about all the innocent manias we have. It was interesting to see how weird and exotic, if I may say that, some of our typical habits may seem to a foreigner; I mean, sometimes you realize some things are a bit weird and you laugh at them yourself, but sometimes you just cannot realize, because you grew up with that and it is normal for you.
The book is a bit old, so some things have changed slightly, especially in politics (well, not that they have improved anyway), but, you know, people and things change in 15 years...Everything is described with that sort of light irony that is a chracteristic of the English sense of humour, and I enjoyed every bit.
A lot of the things he notices are still there, though, as if they were buried very deep into the Italian soul: well, I know a load of "car worshippers", my aunt is a cleaning freak and so on.
I think what has improved most, at least as far as I know, is the relationship to our pets. The author is shocked for the way people treat their dogs (and rightly so), but now many people changed their minds about animals in the house, and the way they should be treated. I let my cats sleep on my bed and know a lot of people that do too. It is increasingly becoming a true "love affair", even if there are still some people (and I would really like to meet one) that throw away their dog, because they are going on holiday and it is too much of a fuss to take it with them!
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* I had those neighbors, that landlady! (we had different factions calling us on the phone asking details about which other faction may have taken furniture and warning us not to speak to the opposing factions!)
* We had not one but two hound-dogs tied up on the terrace below, in full cry 23 hours out of 24, and each utility bill was in the name of a different dead relative.
I can't think of another book that made me laugh to the point of tears! This is the REAL ITALY (at least, the real Italy as viewed by an Anglo-Saxon). Priceless for anyone thinking of making the move, or who is interested in a regular "slice of life" that isn't all sunflowers and wine, pasta and mandolins... Also worth reading is the continuation in "An Italian Education" but this one is fresher and funnier.
Tim Parks does not describe an idyllic Italian paradise. He captures the beauty, and even some of the warts, of everyday life near Verona. His focus is not on restoration of a country home and learning to cook like a native, but on real life. His insights into Italian politics, baffling bureaucratic behavior, and combative neighbors are fascinating and are conveyed with a lightheartedness this subject merits.
Parks does occasionally show his political colors taking swipes at Margaret Thatcher (the book was written a while back) and showing an affinity for the Green movement. At least for me, those sorts of references are somewhat of a detour to the story that blurred the author's focus.
THE ITALIANS, by Luigi Barzini, also tries to explain why Italians are the (wonderful) way they are.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Tim Parks is a wonderful writer. He writes about Italy with humor, but compassion and sensitivity as well. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Piccolo Venice
As a foreigner living in Italy for 3 years now, I thought this book would be a feast of recognition. How wrong I could have been. Read morePublished 1 month ago by criticalcustomer
The book is a pleasant, easy, escapist read suitable for the armchair traveler (or armchair ‘resident’). Read morePublished 4 months ago by Caravaggio
The English have a way of writing every word that was said and every
detail of everything that happened to them while they lived in Italy. Read more
What a culture shock this book is. A fascinating microcosm of Italian village life with all the eccentric neighbors. Great read for those who admire Italian life.Published 10 months ago by scribner
I, bought this one for my Mom, since she is Italian, I thought it would be a good read for her, but alas! Read morePublished 10 months ago by Amazon Customer