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Books Titles

I Promessi Sposi by Alessandro Manzoni
Il Cacciatore by Carlo Cassola
Sparrow’s Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany by Paul Salsini
As the Romans do (Come fanno i romani)
Il conto delle minne (2009) by Giuseppina Torregrossa
Ad Occhi Chiusi by Gianrico Carofiglio
Life and Works: Verdi (2003) by Jeremy Siepmann
Tu, Mio By Erri de Luca
Il viaggiatore alato: Vita breve e ribelle di Amedeo Modigliani (Amedeo Modigliani: A Bohemian Myth) by Augias, Corrado
I segreti di Roma: Storie, luoghi e personaggi di una capitale (Secrets of Rome: Love and death in the Eternal City) by Augias, Corrado
Testimone inconsapevole by Gianrico Carofiglio
In Tuscany by Frances Mayes
The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany by Paul Salsini
Napoli siamo noi: Il dramma di una città nell’indifferenza dell’Italia by Giorgio Bocca
Matrioška by Cristina Comencini
L'Ultima Lacrima by Stefano Benni
Il Cappotto del Turco by Cristina Comencini
L'Altro Islam: Un Viaggio nella Terra degli Sciiti (The Other Islam: A Journey into the Land of the Shiites) by Lilli Gruber
Il Cane di Terracotta (The Terracotta Dog) by Andrea Camilleri
Il Cielo Cade (The Sky Falls) by Lorenza Mazzetti
Io Speriamo Che Me La Cavo (Me, Let’s Hope I Make It) by Marcello D’Orta
La Pazienza del Ragno by Andrea Camilleri
La Variante di Luneberg (The Luneberg Variation) by Paolo Maurensig
Mi ricordo, sì, io mi ricordo by Marcello Mastroianni
Novecento by Alessandro Baricco
Senza Patrizio by Walter Veltroni
Tristano Muore (Tristano Dies) by Antonio Tabucchi
Un Matrimonio di Provincia (A Small-Town Marriage) by Maria Antonietta Torriani-Torelli
Vita di Moravia (Life of Moravia) by Alberto Moravia & Alain Elkann
Volevo i Pantaloni (I Wanted Pants) by Lara Cardella

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Book Reviews

I Promessi Sposi
Manzoni, Alessandro
Numerous editions
1827 
The Betrothed 
Translated by Bruce Penman 
Penguin Classics 1972 
720 pages; introduction, bibliography, map, notes, foreword


promessiEvery Italian school child reads I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), as American students all read The Scarlet Letter, which insures that the novel loses its excitement for generations of readers. A regrettable loss, since Manzoni’s towering adventure tale has everything: separated lovers, dangerous villains, imprisonment and freedom, conversion from evil, magnificent scenery, suspense, and a happy ending. 


The novel also marks two important achievements in Italian story telling. For one, The Betrothed, published in 1827, is the first historical novel in Italian. Its author drew on the innovation of Sir Walter Scott -- placing the action of his story in an authentic past rather than in the present time of its publication. So, for the first time, Italians were reading prose fiction that recreated the settings, manners, and events of 200 years earlier, an entertaining history lesson. 
 scene

In The Betrothed, that history came alive. The Church battles wealthy landowners, a young girl is kidnapped on the eve of her wedding, plague victims die in the streets, the poor riot for bread, a terrible tyrant called “The Unnamed” finds his soul, and true love conquers all. All the action takes place in a stunning countryside among a huge cast of believable characters. 


Not only is The Betrothed Italy’s first historical novel. It is essentially the first prose fiction in what became the standard Italian language. Manzoni rewrote it in the Tuscan dialect, confirming the move toward standardized Italian in the early 19th century. Because the novel was wildly popular from 1836, it gave support to Tuscan Italian as literary Italian from that time forward. 


The Betrothed remains a compelling read in the 21st century because Renzo, the young lover who seeks his innocent fiancée Lucia through wild adventures in country, town, and city learns important lessons about life and love. The reader grows wiser with him.

- Recommended by Susan Willens, Professor Emeritus of English, The George Washington University and Free Lance Contributor 


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Il Cacciatore
Cassola, Carlo
Rizzoli
1964 

English version below 

cacciatoreIl Cacciatore di Carlo Cassola è ambientato nella Valle di Cecina in Toscana nella provincia di Livorno a pochi chilometri dal mare, un territorio caro allo scrittore.

Alfredo, figlio di una merciaia, passa la maggior parte del tempo andando a caccia.  Aiuta la madre al negozio un giorno a settimana, gioca al bigliardo, va in osteria, ma la caccia è la sua passione, lo succhia fuori dal paese e lo spinge sulle colline, dentro i boschi, lungo i torrenti, fino al mare.

Nelly è una ragazza giovane, figlia di modesti possedenti in una delle case della vallata.  La ragazza s’innamora di quest’uomo, è il suo primo amore, ne è consumata e ne paga il prezzo. 

La natura, questo splendido paesaggio toscano dipinto magistralmente dal Cassola è il terzo personaggio.  Viene descritto attraverso gli occhi di Alfredo mentre cammina per queste colline e dirupi in tutte le stagioni con ogni tipo di tempo.

Fa da background la Prima Guerra Mondiale.  Alfredo soffre di un vizio al cuore, viene dapprima riformato ma poi richiamato in servizio.

Lo stile essenziale del Cassola riflette questo paesaggio toscano scolpito durante i secoli dalla natura e dall’uomo.   La sua prosa si contrappone al romanzo classico dove domina la definizione psicologica dei personaggi, la descrizione dell’ambiente e l’intreccio.  Il suo stile è volutamente spoglio, privo d’ogni attributo psicologico, etico o ideologico.

Nell’eterna dinamica umana tra uomo e donna, Nelly è la preda cosi com’è stato dalla notte dei secoli.  Quest’uomo virile, testardo e solitario per molti rispetti affascinante piace alle donne, ma non è capace di una relazione duratura.  Rappresenta lo spirito d’indipendenza di un’Italia che si avvia inesorabilmente alla dittatura fascista. Ci resta facile immaginarlo su una moto, scorrazzare per la campagna toscana, ma ci resta difficile vederlo come un marito, un padre, e persino come un merciaio a tempo pieno. 
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Book Review Co-Editor 

English Version 

Il Cacciatore by Carlo Cassola is set in the Cecina valley, in Tuscany, in the Livorno province just a few kilometers from the sea, a land dear to the writer.

Alfredo, son of a milliner, spends most of his time hunting.  He helps his mother in the store one day a week, plays pool, goes to the tavern, but hunting is his passion.  It sucks him out of town and pushes him up those hills, in the forests, along the torrents as far as the sea.

Nelly is a young girl, the daughter of small landowner in one of the houses in the valley.  The girl falls in love with this man, it is her first love, she is consumed by it and she pays the price.

Nature, this beautiful Tuscan landscape, depicted masterfully by Cassola is the third character.  It is described through the eyes of Alfredo while he walks these hills and cliffs in all seasons and weather conditions.

The First World War is the background.  Alfredo has a heart defect, he is first declared unfit, but then enrolled during Italy’s final effort.

Cassola’s essential style reflects this Tuscan landscape sculptured during the centuries by nature and man.  His prose contrasts with the classical novel, where the psychological definition of the characters, the description of the environment and the plot, dominate.  His style is on purpose unadorned, devoid of any psychological, ethic or ideological attribute.

In the eternal dynamic between men and women, Nelly is the prey, the way it has been from the beginning of time.  This virile, hardheaded, solitary and in many respects fascinating man is loved by women, but is incapable of a lasting relationship.  He represents the independent spirit of an Italy inexorably on her way toward fascist dictatorship.  While we can easily imagine him on a motorcycle roaming around the Tuscan countryside, we have difficulties seeing him as a husband, a father, or even as a full time merchant.  
-  Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Book Review Co-Editor 

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Sparrow’s Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany
Salsini, Paul
iuniverse: Bloomington, IN
2008

Sparrow’s Revenge is a sequel to The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany (2006). Click here to go to a review of The Cielo in the Culture Club Library.

The central event of The Cielo is the massacre carried out by the German SS in the village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany, Italy. Ezio Maffini, a resistance fighter during the war, lost his girl friend in this massacre. In the sequel, while his friends encourage him to go on with his life, he cannot forget and he becomes obsessed with his tragic memories. When he learns that the Italian responsible for assisting the Germans in carrying out the atrocity is still living in the area, he decides to pursue him and take his revenge. His journey to find the fugitive is, as one would imagine, fraught with peril. Salsini engages the reader in the pursuit and provides a clear picture of Italy in the immediate post-war period.

Go to the Speaker's Corner Collection to read an interview with an Italian who was a child in Fascist Italy.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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As the Romans do (Come fanno i romani): An American Family's Italian Odyssey
Epstein, Alan
Harper Collins
2000


Italian version

 “Parigi è senza dubbio più elegante, New York più avant-garde però Roma abbonda dei piaceri della vita.  La capitale ha molto più da offrire di qualsiasi altra città in termini di bellezza, sensualità, creatività e maturità.”  La città eterna durante i suoi 3000 anni di storia ha avuto un’esperienza senza precedenti.  Ha conosciuto più di una volta l’esaltazione della ricchezza e del potere assoluto,  passando anche periodi orribili e di completa miseria.  Ora non deve provare più niente a nessuno.  Essendosi assicurati un posto nella storia, i romani vogliono vivere secondo la saggezza che hanno acquisito. 

Per il tipico romano, scettico e ribelle, l’individuo, i suoi sentimenti e la sua unicità sono d’importanza fondamentale.  La frase nel dialetto romano che si sentiva di più mentre crescevo era “ma che me frega!”, come un’espressione di uno spirito indipendente non vincolato dai valori convenzionali, ma sempre in un contesto di “vivi e lascia vivere.”  Diversamente dagli Stati Uniti, gli abitanti si sentono molto meno definiti dall’attività che fanno.  Per gente dei diversi strati sociali chiedere che lavoro fai o ostentare il proprio quando ci si incontra è considerato di cattivo gusto.

In fin dei conti la ricerca dello status e del successo, le nostre ambizioni, quelle attività su cui investiamo così tanto tempo ed energia, e sulla base delle quali ci misuriamo, non sono così importanti.  Nella città eterna impari a separarti dagli inevitabili alti e bassi della vita e a vivere pienamente, “nel momento, con stile, eleganza e panache.”

Alan Epstein con un dottorato in storia europea, attratto dalla cultura, è andato ad abitare a Roma con la moglie e i suoi 2 figli.  Fa un ritratto della città da una prospettiva americana, ma dall’interno della cultura romana.  Descrive i contrasti della città, la cultura socievole dei bar, l’innato senso artistico, la profonda umanità e la giocosa e matura relazione tra uomini e donne.

Nella cultura anglosassone la lamentela principale delle donne è che gli uomini non prestano loro attenzione e non sanno come parlare con loro.  I romani tradizionali della media e alta borghesia agiscono esattamente al contrario. A loro viene naturale stare connessi con le donne, “adulare, fare complimenti, flirtare, toccare leggermente in modo amichevole e interessato, comportarsi con irresistibile naturalezza e grazia.”  Che siano fidanzate, mogli, madri, o amanti.

È una lettura interessante per tutti coloro che pensano di soggiornare nella città eterna e vogliono apprezzarne la cultura. 
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Book Review Editor

English version

“Paris is without doubt more elegant, New York more avant-garde, but Rome abounds in the pleasures of life.  What Rome offers in the way of beauty, of sensuality, of creativity and maturity no other city can match.”  The eternal city throughout its 3000-year history has had an experience without precedent.  It has known more than once the exaltation of richness and absolute power, passing also horrible periods and complete misery.  Now it doesn’t have anything more to prove to anyone.  Its place in history assured, the Romans want to live according to the wisdom learned.

To the typical skeptical and rebellious Roman, the individual, his feelings and his uniqueness are paramount.  The most recurring phrase in the Roman dialect while I was growing up was: “Ma che me frega!” - ”I don’t give a darn,” as an expression of the independent spirit unencumbered by conventional values, but always in an atmosphere of “live and let live.”  Unlike in the US, the inhabitants feel much less defined by the activity they do.  For people of all social levels, asking somebody that you meet what kind of work he does or showing off your own is considered in bad taste.

In the great scheme of things the search for status, success, our ambitions, those endeavors that consume so much of our time and energy and by which we measure ourselves, are not so important.  In the eternal city you learn to detach yourself from the inevitable ups and downs of life and to live to the fullest, “in the moment, with style, flair and panache.”

Alan Epstein with a PhD in European history, attracted by the culture, went to live with his wife and two sons in Rome.  He paints a picture of the city from an American perspective but from inside the Roman culture.  He describes the contrasts of the city, its gregarious café culture, the Italians’ innate artistic sense, their deep humanity and the playful and mature relations between men and women.

In the Anglo-Saxon world the biggest complaint of women is that men do not pay attention to them and do not know how to talk to them.  The traditional middle and upper class Roman men are the opposite. To them it comes naturally to engage women, “to flatter, to compliment, to flirt, to touch lightly in a friendly interested way, to comport themselves with irresistible ease and grace in the company of women.”  Be they their fiancées, wives, mothers, or lovers. 

This is an interesting read for all who plan to spend any time in the eternal city and want to appreciate its culture.

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Il conto delle minne, 2009
Torregrossa, Giuseppina
Mondadori Editore, Milano

Il contoOgni anno, il 5 febbraio, nonna Agata prepara le cassatelle in onore della santa di cui porta il nome. Vuole accanto a sé la nipote Agatina per insegnarle i segreti della preparazione dei dolcetti a forma di seno, le minne.

“Il conto delle minne,” non si stancava di ripetere nonna Agata, “dev'essere pari: due seni, e due dolci, per ogni fanciulla. Ma la vita è imprevedibile e il seno, morbido viatico di gioia e nutrimento, può celare in sé anche la malattia e il disamore: i conti, allora, potrebbero non tornare...”

Un romanzo tutto al femminile, dove biografia, tradizione, invenzione si mescolano insieme dando al lettore il piacere di leggere nella vita privata della famiglia di Agata e della Sicilia dell’ultimo secolo.

Torregrossa (Palermo, 1956) vive tra la Sicilia e Roma, dove ha lavorato per più di vent'anni come ginecologa e si occupa attivamente della prevenzione e cura dei tumori al seno. Nel 2007 ha pubblicato il suo primo romanzo, L'assaggiatrice (Iride - Rubbettino). Con il monologo teatrale Adele (Borgia Editore) ha vinto nel 2008 il premio opera prima "Donne e teatro" di Roma.
- Recommended by Cetti Mangano, Co-Editor, Italian Book Reviews

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Ad Occhi Chiusi
Carofiglio, Gianrico
Sellerio Editore, Palermo
2004

Ad Occhi


Ad Occhi chiusi è un libro scorrevole, con un linguaggio semplice ed avvincente. Il protagonista è l’avvocato Guerrieri a cui ogni tanto piomba una pratica di quelle che non portano né soldi né gloria ma solo guai. Questa volta riguarda una giovane donna perseguitata dal suo ex- fidanzato e che nessun avvocato vuole rappresentare per le persone imponenti che vi sono implicate.

L’autore Gianrico Carofiglio è nato a Bari nel 1961 dove è sostituto procuratore antimafia presso la Procura. É autore di diversi testi di diritto e di diversi romanzi. Con l’avvocato Guerrieri come protagonista, ha pubblicato: Testimone inconsapevole (Sellerio, 2002), vincitore di numerosi premi; Ad occhi chiusi (Sellerio 2003) e Ragionevoli dubbi (Sellerio, 2006).
- Recommended by Cetti Mangano


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Life and Works: Verdi (2003)
Siepmann, Jeremy (author and narrator)
4 CDs and a 124-page booklet
Label: Naxos Educational
Language of text: English
Language of lyrics: Italian
Availability: amazon.com; Barnes & Noble

What a wonderful way to "read" a biography of the great Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi! I chanced upon this marvelous audio book in my local public library and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Italian culture and/or opera. As I listened to the story of Verdi’s fascinating life, I was treated to frequent excerpts from his operas. The first opera I ever experienced was "Aida" and Verdi has been my favorite composer ever since. Fortunately, he was an artist who had great success and fame during his life time and his biography makes for very entertaining reading.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Tu, Mio
Erri de Luca
Feltrinelli, Milan
1998

Tu, mioThe protagonist of this coming-of-age novel set in the 1950s is a 15-year-old city boy who spends the summer on an island off the coast of Italy. He learns how to fish, he hears war stories from a man who was a soldier on the Russian front, and meets a mysterious girl who attends high school in Switzerland. He gradually matures and is a different person when he leaves the island at the end of the summer to return to his normal life. It is a beautifully told story on a universal theme.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Il viaggiatore alato: Vita breve e ribelle di Amedeo Modigliani (Amedeo Modigliani: A Bohemian Myth)

Augias, Corrado

Mondadori

1998

Corrado Augias is one of the most respected journalists in Italy today. He is a great admirer of the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani and has written a biography in which he attempts to separate fact from fiction. He writes about Modigliani’s childhood in Livorno, his artistic formation with the Macchiaioli, his search for innovation in Paris, the lack of understanding of those around him and his painful solitude, his love life, and his tragic death.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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I segreti di Roma: Storie, luoghi e personaggi di una capitale (Secrets of Rome: Love and death in the Eternal City)

Augias, Corrado

Mondadori

2005

Respected Italian journalist Corrado Augias has written a fascinating book about the Eternal City. He selects characters and places from the 27 centuries of Roman history and brings them to life in 19 individual chapters. He creates a fascinating portrait of a great city. He writes about Romulus, Julius Caesar, Nero, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Lucrezia Borgia, Gramsci, and Berlusconi as well as the Roman Forum, Cinecittá, and EUR. And more!
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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In Tuscany
Mayes, Frances
Broadway Books 2000

The more you know, the more you love, and by loving more, the more you enjoy. Mayes has chosen this saying as the opening words of her luscious book In Tuscany. She continues to learn about the treasures of Tuscany, her second home, and continues to write about them. While this book has an interesting, formative text, it is the photographs that make it an exceptionally delightful book. And then again, perhaps the photos seem so special because Mayes explains them so well in her poetic text. This coffee-table-like book is divided into seven parts: Baci (Kisses), La Piazza, La Festa (Celebration), Il Campo (The Field), La Cucina (The Cuisine), La Bellezza (Beauty), and Dove (Where). It touches on every vital aspect of Tuscan life but it is clear that what is at the heart of life in Tuscany is food. Mayes focuses on the culinary delights, explores the Tuscan character and attempts to explain to her reader who the Tuscans really are.

This book will enchant you. You will want to jump on the next plane for Italy and head for Cortona to discover the joys of this town and its surrounding area that Mayes extols so lyrically. Available from amazon.com
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany
Salsini, Paul
iUniverse
2006.

See English review below

Questo libro è scritto in modo tale che ti incoraggia a leggerlo pagina dopo pagina senza smettere. La vicenda, pur nella sua forma di romanzo, si svolge su un piano realistico, a volte crudo, a volte entusiasmante, a volte sentimentale. Essendo italiano, ho assaporato ogni parola, ogni avvenimento, ogni individuo, ogni azione, gustandone la veridicità fino all’ultima pagina. Il libro tratta del periodo di occupazione tedesca di un villaggio della Toscana. Le peripezie degli abitanti di questo villaggio nel vivere da vicino, da sfollati nella fattoria Il Cielo, le tragedie che si verificavano ad opera dei tedeschi e dei fascisti nei villaggi vicini, compresa l’uccisione del prete del villaggio che era in contatto via radio con le forze alleate e l’eccidio perpetrato dalle SS tedesche nel villaggio di Sant’Anna di Stazzema dove vecchie donne e bambini vennero trucidati senza una ragione plausibile. Questo romanzo, pure essendo circoscritto nei limiti di qualche villaggio del nord della Toscana, é una viva testimonianza di quanto accadeva in tutta l’Italia occupata nel periodo dal settembre 1943 all’aprile del 1945 quando il conflitto in Italia ebbe termine con la resa dei tedeschi in quel settore di guerra.
- Suggerito da Andrea Meloni

ENGLISH

This book is written in such a way that it encourages you to read it page after page without stopping. The plot, although it is in the form of a novel, takes place on a realistic plane, sometimes crude, sometimes enthusiastic, at times sentimental. Being Italian, I relished every word, every event, every individual, every action, appreciating the truth of it all up to the final page. The book deals with the period of the German occupation of a village in Tuscany. It chronicles the doings of the residents of this village who were forced to go to a nearby farm, Il Cielo, and who lived close to the tragedies that were taking place at the hands of the Germans and the Fascists in the nearby villages, including the killing of the priest of the village who was in contact via radio with the Allied Forces and the massacre carried out by the German SS in the village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema where old women and children were cut down without a plausible reason. This novel, although it is limited to one village in the north of Tuscany, is the real testimony of what happened throughout Italy from the time the country was occupied from September 1943 to April 1945 until the end when the Germans surrendered in that area of the war. Go to the Speaker's Corner Collection to read an interview with an Italian who was a child in Fascist Italy.
- Recommended by Andrea Meloni

Testimone inconsapevole
Gianrico Carofiglio
Sellerio Editore: Palermo
2007 (33rd printing)

Testimone inconsapevole is the first narrative work of Judge Gianrico Carofiglio. The reader enters the mind of a lawyer who has taken on the defense of a Senegalese immigrant accused of killing a nine-year-old boy. The lawyer is abandoned by his wife shortly before he accepts the case. One watches as he struggles to adapt to his new domestic reality and, at the same time, to come to terms with his jaded attitude toward his work. In the end he is a very different person.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Napoli siamo noi: Il dramma di una città nell’indifferenza dell’Italia
Bocca, Giorgio
2006 - Feltrinelli

See English review below

Giorgio Bocca è uno dei più altamente rispettati giornalisti oggi, in Italia. In questo libro egli tratta un difficile e pericoloso soggetto, la camorra napoletana. Mentre la Sicilia ha la Mafia e la Calabria la ndranghetta, Napoli ha la Camorra. Il Bocca offre un analisi approfondita di come la Camorra opera ed influenza quasi tutte le attività della vita della città di Napoli. Il paragrafo seguente riassume la situazione:

Napoli, come dice il suo sindaco, non é tutta camorra, ma la camorra vi é padrona e la societá napoletana é un’inestricabile commistione di camorristi effettivi, di complemento, per necessitá, per convenienza, per rassegnazione (p. 45).

Bocca intervista Maione, avvocato e propietario di uno dei miglior alberghi di Napoli. Maione pensa che i napoletani meriterebbero una vita migliore. Lui crede che "questa umanitá ricca di doni e di bellezza, di intelligenza e di generositá dovrá pure liberarsi un giorno dalle sue cicliche disperazioni"(p. 64).

Bocca esprime il suo rammarico che una città come Napoli con le sue grandi bellezze naturali, debba lottare contro la criminalità, la corruzzione e la paura che la camorra infligge sui suoi cittadini. Ernesto Merola dice: "Vuoi vivere tra mille cose belle? Sopporta il rischio. " (p. 36). Il vincitore del premio Nobel, Dario Fo, comunque, non è d’accordo che una persona debba accettare la situazione con rassegnazione. Lui incita i napoletani all’azione. Lui urla "ribellatevi" (p. 36). Ma come tutti sanno, ribellarsi contro la camorra non è cosa facile.
- Raccomandato da Christine F. Meloni, Culture Club Editor

ENGLISH

Giorgio Bocca is one of the most highly respected journalists in Italy today. In this book he takes on a difficult – and dangerous – subject, the Neapolitan Camorra. While Sicily has the Mafia and Calabria the ‘Ndrangheda, Naples has the Camorra. Bocca provides an in-depth account of the workings and influence of the Camorra in almost all areas of the life of the city of Naples. The following sentence sums up the situation:

Napoli, come dice il suo sindaco, non é tutta camorra, ma la camorra vi é padrona e la societá napoletana é un’inestricabile commistione di camorristi effettivi, di complemento, per necessitá, per convenienza, per rassegnazione (p. 45).

Bocca interviews Maione, an attorney and the owner of one of Naples’ best hotels. Maione feels that the Neapolitans deserve a better life. He believes that "questa umanitá ricca di doni e di bellezza, di intelligenza e di generositá dovrá pure liberarsi un giorno dalle sue cicliche disperazioni"(p. 64).

Bocca expresses his great sorrow that a city as blessed as Naples is with great natural beauty must struggle against the crime, corruption, and fear that the Camorra inflicts on its citizens. Ernesto Merola says, "Vuoi vivere tra mille cose belle? Sopporta il rischio. " (p. 36). Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo, however, does not agree that one should accept the situation with resignation. He incites the Neapolitans to action. "Ribellatevi," he shouts (p. 36). As everyone knows, rebelling against the Camorra is no easy task.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Matrioška
Comencini, Cristina
Feltrinelli Editore Milano 2002
Available from http://www.feltrinelli.it

See English Review below

Antonia è una scultrice famosa che sa di essere malata e di non aver molto tempo da vivere. Assume una giovane donna biografa per scrivere la sua vita. Gradualmente le vite di queste due donne si incrocciano fino a che le loro identitá individuali non sono più ben separate. Il titolo è molto adatto in quanto, leggendo il libro, continuiamo a scoprire gli strati della esistenza di queste due donne e, come le bambole russe (Matrioška), troviamo sempre nuove caratteristiche e molte sorprese.

English
Antonia is a famous sculptor who is ill and realizes that she doesn’t have long to live. She hires a young woman biographer to write her life story. Gradually the lives of these two women become intertwined until their individual identities become blurred. The title is very apt in that, throughout the book, we continue to peel away the layers of existence from these two women and, as with the Russian dolls, we find new characteristics and many surprises.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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L’Ultima Lacrima
Benni, Stefano
Feltrinelli Editore Milano
14th edition April 2006
Available from http://www.feltrinelli.it
See English Review below

Questo libro è bizzarro. Nessuno scrive come Benni. E’ originale e quasi indescrivibile. L’Ultima Lacrima è un insieme di ventisette racconti di diversa lunghezza ma molti sono brevi. Egli scrive su vari soggetti – un Bancomat che agisce come un essere umano, un illustre tenore che rende la vita impossibile alle persone intorno a lui, un negozio di libri usati con volumi incantati, e un grande sasso che cade dal cielo. Ogni racconto è divertente in un modo bizzarro.

English
This book is bizarre. No one writes like Benni. He is unique and almost indescribable. L’Ultima Lacrima is a collection of 27 short stories of varying length but most quite short. He writes on a variety of topics - an ATM machine that acts human, an illustrious tenor who makes life impossible for those around him, a used book store with magical books, and a huge rock that falls from the sky. Each story is amusing in a bizarre way.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Il Cappotto del Turco
Comencini, Cristina
Feltrinelli, 2006

See English Review below

Comencini è nota come regista, seguendo la carriera del padre Luigi Comencini. I suoi lavori cinematografici comprendono: Zoo, La fine é nota, Matrimoni, e La bestia nel cuore. E’ anche una scrittrice stimata, ed Il Cappotto del Turco è il suo terzo e più recente romanzo. In questo romanzo Comencini segue le vite di due sorelle, Maria Isabella e Isabella Maria, che hanno modi molto diversi di vedere il mondo. Nate in una famiglia dell’alta borghesia a Roma negli anni ‘50, hanno avuto un’infanzia tranquilla e protetta. Poi arrivono gli anni della politica radicale, e anche se tutte e due vi partecipono attivamente, Maria affonda le radici nella società mentre Isabella diviene nomade. Ad un certo punto arriva a casa di Maria un esotico turco mandato dalla sorella Isabella. Maria e suo figlio lo trovano affascinante, ma dopo un po’, egli sparisce, lasciando il suo cappotto. Nel romanzo egli è simbolicamente un personaggio centrale. La Comencini crea molti personaggi indimenticabili e illumina la vita italiana nella seconda metà del ventunesimo secolo.

English Review
Comencini is well known as a film director, following in the footsteps of her father Luigi Comencini. Her cinematic works include Zoo, La fine é nota, Matrimoni, and La bestia nel cuore. She is also a respected novelist, and Il Cappotto del Turco is her third and most recent novel.

In this novel Comencini follows the lives of two sisters, Maria Isabella and Isabella Maria, who have very different ways of looking at the world. They were born into an upper middle class family in Rome in the 1950s and shared a tranquil and sheltered childhood. Then came the radical political years, and, although they both participated actively, Maria put down roots while Isabella became a wanderer. At a certain point an exotic Turk arrives at Maria’s house having been sent by Isabella. He fascinates Maria and her son but, after a while, he disappears, leaving behind his overcoat. He is symbolically a pivotal figure in the story. In addition to creating several unforgettable characters, Comencini gives insights into life in Italy in the second half of the 20th century.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

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Novecento (1900)
Baricco, Alessandro

Una passeggera partorisce un bambino su un transatlantico e poi sbarca senza di lui. Siccome il bambino non ha una carta di riconoscimento non gli è permesso di scendere in nessun porto. I marinai prendono la responsabilitá di farlo crescere e lo chiamano Novecento per l’anno in cui è nato. Questo romanza narra la bizzarra storia della vita di Novecento sulla nave e di come diventa famoso quale pianista a bordo. Il film dallo stesso titolo si può trovare in qualche negozio di video con sottotitoli in inglese.
- Suggerito da Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

English Review
A passenger gives birth to a baby boy on an ocean liner, and debarks without him. Since the boy had no papers of identification, he is not allowed to go ashore into any of the port cities. The crew takes over the responsibility of raising him and gives him the name 1900, the year of his birth. This novel tells the bizarre and intriguing story of 1900's life aboard ship and how he gains fame as the ship’s pianist. A film by the same title is available at some video stores; with English subtitles.
- Recommended by Christine Meloni

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La Pazienza del Ragno
Camilleri, Andrea (2004)
Italian novelist Camilleri certainly deserves a place among the greatest mystery writers. His novels are as exciting and ingenious as those of English Agatha Christie and Belgian Georges Simenon. His protagonist Montalbano is every bit as memorable as Hercules Poiret and Maigret.
In this recent novel Montalbano is confronted with the kidnapping of a young university student in broad daylight but on a deserted country road. A ransom demand soon follows but why has this family, known to have fallen on hard times, been singled out? Is it because of a wealthy but unpopular uncle? Lots of reasons and a number of suspects come to mind and the conclusion is as satisfying as it is surprising.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Il Cane di Terracotta (The Terracotta Dog)
Camilleri, Andrea
The Mafia committed a crime in a small Sicilian town 50 years ago. Police Chief Montalbano, a Sicilian by birth, is able to solve this cold case by considering some symbols found at the crime scene that represent symbols that have been transmitted through Sicilian culture for centuries and by evoking memories from several villagers who had lived through the stormy period of war and destruction and had information that they didn’t know was crucial to the case.
- Recommended by Andrea Marcello Meloni

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Volevo i Pantaloni (I Wanted Pants)
Cardella, Lara
Volevo i Pantaloni provides the reader with a perspective of Italian culture through the eyes of a precocious young woman growing up in a provincial town in Sicily. The story follows the struggle of a Sicilian woman, attempting to assert her independence and fighting for gender equality in a world that is hesitant to accommodate the demands of this non-conformist. I thoroughly enjoyed the social commentary in this tale of a young woman's journey of personal discovery in a not-so-accepting male dominated society.
-Recommended by Isabella Rossi

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Io Speriamo Che Me La Cavo (Me, Let’s Hope I Make It)
D’Orta, Marcello
An elementary school teacher, is a collection of some of his third graders’ essays. These children live in a small town near Naples, and most of them come from desperately poor families. Their personal stories of survival will tug at your heartstrings and make you cry and, at times, laugh. The reader is made aware of the serious economic problems that still exist in southern Italy and of the tragic impact of these problems on the children. The well-known film director Lina Wertmuller was tremendously moved by this book and directed a film based on it entitled "Ciao, Professore."
- Recommended by Christine Meloni

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Mi ricordo, sì, io mi ricordo
Mastroianni, Marcello
In this book, the legendary Italian film star Marcello Mastroianni remembers special moments in his professional and personal life that his fans and anyone interested in the world of European cinema will find fascinating. This memoir is actually the transcript of an interview Mastroianni gave to his long-time companion Portuguese film director Anna Maria Tatò. He touches on many subjects, including his passion for work (he acted in more than 170 films), the films he is especially proud of, special people in his life (e.g. the great director Federico Fellini and his brother Ruggero), literary figures who have inspired him (e.g. Kafka and Proust), Hollywood, and a wide variety of other subjects. An enjoyable read.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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La Variante di Luneberg (The Luneberg Variation)
Maurensig, Paolo (2002)
In the opening scene, a famous chess critic is found dead in his opulent mansion. Was it suicide, murder, or an accident? The author suddenly flashes back to the evening before. In the compartment of a train a young man holds two chess enthusiasts spellbound as he spins a complex tale about the game of chess and the game of life. There is then another flashback to the mentor of the young man who tells the chilling story of a battle on a chess board between a young Jew and a Nazi officer. The results of their games have horrifying consequences. In the stories of the two men the line between chess pieces and human beings becomes blurred. But the theme is always clear: violence.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Il Cielo Cade (The Sky Falls) (1993, 2000)
Mazzetti, Lorenza
In this very moving memoir, Mazzetti tells how she lost her parents at an early age and went to live with her aunt Nina who was married to Robert Einstein, cousin of Albert. She describes, in her own voice as a child, her life with the Einsteins in the early 1940s. Mussolini was then in power and Italy was allied with Hitler’s Germany. Since Robert was Jewish, many of his friends urged him to leave Italy as the persecution of the Jews increased. He refused, and Mazzetti tells the tragic consequences of his decision on all of their lives.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Vita di Moravia (Life of Moravia) (1990)
Moravia, Alberto & Alain Elkann
Few would disagree that Alberto Moravia was one of the most influential, if not the most influential, Italian writers of the 20th century. Anyone interested in Italian literature will find this book about his life fascinating. This book is in the form of an interview with Moravia’s friend Alain Elkann as his interviewer. Although Moravia was born into a well-to-do family, he had a difficult childhood because of a very severe illness which left him completely bedridden for five years. At the age of 21 he published his first novel Gli Indifferenti which was immediately a resounding success. He became an important figure in literary circles. As an anti-Fascist, he had a difficult time during World War II. He continued to write and travel extensively until his death in 1990.
The reader learns a great deal not only about the life of one Italian writer but about the lives and works of numerous important world literary figures. One also learns a lot about Italian history and politics.
The book is available both in the original Italian and in an English translation from Amazon.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Tristano Muore (Tristano Dies) (2004)
Tabucchi, Antonio
Tristano is dying in his Tuscan villa in the last August of the 20th century. He has called a young writer to his bedside. He wants the young man to be his witness and to tell the world his story. He attempts to relate "the facts" of his life (he is at times lucid, at times under the effects of morphine) so that the reader can determine whether he was a hero or a traitor when he killed a group of German soldiers in Greece on September 8, 1943. As usual Tabucchi keeps his readers guessing as he poses questions that are never answered and introduces characters whose identity is initially unclear because they have multiple names and appear in a variety of locations. Tristano refers to events in World War II to the terrorist activity in Italy in the 70s and back to the 40s and ahead to the 90s. Throughout the novel we hear Tristano implicitly asking himself whether his life has been worth living. He was a youth filled with idealism and hope, but his participation in the war and his observance of subsequent shocking violent events turned him into a bitter, disillusioned man.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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Un Matrimonio di Provincia (A Small-Town Marriage) (1885)
Torriani-Torelli, Maria Antonietta
Dena Dellara, who dreams of escaping her dreary existence and marrying up into the local aristocracy, is frustrated by both her ever-practical family and her own foolishness. When her widowed father decides to remarry, Denza experiences a change of situation and begins to imagine a possible marriage to wealthy Onorato Mazzucchetto based on the exchange of stolen glances at the opera. Without dowry and starving for affection, Daza will fall victim to the harsh economic realities of her times and will marry a solid and uninspiring rice grower and not her elephantine Prince Charming. Some commentators read this novel as a philippic against marriage, yet it is not marriage per se that is criticized, but rather the social conventions that required a woman to sacrifice her personal aspirations in the name of perpetuating a stable social order.
- Recommended by Magda Ferretti

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Senza Patrizio (2004)
Veltroni, Walter
This intriguing little book was written by the current mayor of Rome , Walter Veltroni. The idea for this book came to him while he was strolling around the city of Buenos Aires . He happened to see the following words scrawled on a wall: “Patricio, Te Amo. Papá” (“Patricio, I love you. Dad.”) He was struck by this unusual message and began to try to imagine the circumstances in which they had been written. In this book he offers five possible scenarios, all closely tied to cultural aspects of the nation of Argentina.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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L'Altro Islam: Un Viaggio nella Terra degli Sciiti
Gruber, Lilli 2004
Milan, Italy: Rizzoli

See English Review below

Nota giornalista italiana Lilli Gruber é andata nel Medio Oriente nella primavera del 2004 per scoprire le risposte alle seguenti domande: Chi sono i veri sciiti? E’ necessario aver paura del loro zelo religioso e della loro rabbia? Quali sono i piani dei religiosi che danno gli ordini? Per trovare le risposte Gruber ha girato in Iraq, Iran, e Libano, parlando con capi religiosi e altri sciiti. In questo libro lei condivide con i suoi lettori quello che ha imparato. Attualmente Gruber é una deputata eletta al governo della Unione Europea.
- Suggerito da Christine Foster Meloni, Editrice Culture Club

The Other Islam: A Journey into the Land of the Shiites
Gruber, Lilli 2004
Milan, Italy: Rizzoli

Well-known Italian journalist Lilli Gruber went to the Middle East in the spring of 2004 to find the answers to the following questions: Who are the real Shiites? Should we be afraid of their religious fervor and of their anger? What are the plans of the religious men who give them orders? To find the answers Gruber traveled around Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, talking to religious leaders and other Shiites. In this book she shares with her readers what she learned. Gruber is currently an elected deputy in the government of the European Union.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

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