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Italy: A Traveler's Literary Companion (Traveler's Literary Companions) Paperback – September 1, 2003
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- Publisher : Whereabouts Press (September 1, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1883513146
- ISBN-13 : 978-1883513146
- Item Weight : 9.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.72 x 7.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,685,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The oldest authors were Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), Massimo Bontempelli (1878-1960), and Federigo Tozzi (1883-1920). The most recent were Barbara Alberti (1946-), Tiziano Scarpa (1963-), and Marilia Mazzeo (1972-). Others included Corrado Alvaro, Lalla Romano, Dino Buzzati, Alberto Moravia, Romano Bilenchi, Natalia Ginzburg, Mario Rigoni-Stern, Andrea Camilleri, Luigi Malerba, Goffredo Parise, Dacia Maraini and Antonio Tabucchi. Of all the writers, six were women.
The works ranged from 1913 (Pirandello) to the 1990s (Rigoni-Stern, Camilleri, Claudio Magris, Tabucchi, Scarpa, Mazzeo). It appeared that all decades in between were covered, except for the 1940s and 80s. Nearly half of the pieces in the book dated from the 1970s and after.
The editor translated all the selections himself, and tried to provide a wide range of genres, from realism and irony, fantasy and satire to detective stories. His introduction said that two of the authors appeared in English for the first time (Mazzeo, Scarpa). Several others were translated in an attempt to make them more widely known in English (Romano, Domenico Rea).
The editor tried also to include stories set in both the major tourist destinations -- Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Capri -- as well as places like Turin, Milan, the Veneto, Trieste and Palermo. And to cover a range of social classes (bourgeois, laborers) locations (city, country) and occupations (waiters, businessmen, dressmakers, detectives). Another interest was depicting relations between Italians and foreigners, and between Italians from different regions. Besides showing Italy and Italians in detail, the editor wished to challenge typical images of the nation.
By far the most geographically specific and atmospheric for this reader was a story by Alberto Savinio from the 1930s describing a walk around Capri ("Noontide at Anacapri"). Relations between Italians from different regions were described memorably and humorously in a story by Bilenchi from the 1930s, in which the Tuscan narrator was driven to distraction when locals kept calling him a hick from another region ("A Geographical Error").
In "The Black Kid" by Pirandello (1913), the Sicilian narrator's common sense and psychological insight were set off against a foreigner's logically impeccable but emotionally inadequate behavior. In the "The Bender" by Tozzi from the 1920s, a man from Tuscany learned that too much thinking put an emotional attachment out of reach. In Moravia's story "The Thinker" from the 1940s, a Roman waiter's inability to keep silent caused misfortune.
Buzzati's parable-like story from the 1960s showed a Milanese who regretted too late his greedy behavior. Pieces with interesting social criticism were Parise's "Well Off," which portrayed a corrupt, newly rich businessman and his spoiled family, and Malerba's "The Game" from the 1970s, which poked fun at a spineless father's attempt to understand the younger generation. Maraini's story from the 1960s reversed male-female stereotypes, with a woman living separate lives in Milan and Rome ("The Other Family").
With a few exceptions, most enjoyable for this reader were the stories by the earlier writers in this collection. With these pieces the collection accomplished its aims, in my opinon. By comparison, many of the works from the 1960s and after seemed either cerebral and experimental on the one hand or mildly entertaining but lacking in depth on the other (the detective stories).
For the 20th century, omitted from this collection were writers like Guido Nobili and Vasco Pratolini on Florence, Grazia Deledda on Sardinia, Giovanni Comisso on the Veneto, Carlo Levi on Basilicata, Cesare Pavese on Piedmont, Elio Vittorini and Leonardo Sciascia on Sicily, Elsa Morante and Pier Paolo Pasolini on Rome, Anna Maria Ortese on Naples, and Giorgio Bassani and Pier Vittorio Tondelli on Emilia-Romagna. Among the other authors for whom space was lacking in this short book: Italo Svevo, Carlo Emilio Gadda, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Curzio Malaparte, Ignazio Silone, Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco.
Only two of the authors in the collection were under 55 years of age; one wondered where were the younger Italian writers.
Other fairly recent anthologies of Italian writing include Name and Tears and Other Stories: Forty Years of Italian Fiction (1990) and The Quality of Light: Modern Italian Short Stories (1993), which introduced 20-25 authors each, and Italian Tales: An Anthology of Contemporary Italian Fiction (2004). All of these contain generous amounts of experimental, opaque writing similar to that of many authors in the present collection from the 1960s and after.
Earlier, generally more readable collections include Modern Italian Short Stories (1954), Modern Italian Stories (1955), Great Italian Short Stories (1959), Italian Stories of Today (1959), Italian Writing Today (1967) and the Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (1969).
Traveller's Literary Companion to Italy (1998), edited by Martin Garrett, contains very brief excerpts of more than 70 works by Italian writers, from Roman times to the present, together with much background on authors and regions.