The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Have you ever known the ending from page one and still been unable to put the book down? Since Italian novelists Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s novel The Ides of March is about the last few days of Julius Ceasar’s life, we all know how the book is going to end, at least we all know how Julius Ceasar is going to end.  The challenge for the … Continue reading The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Long into the night Marco Polo sits in Kublai Kahn’s palace telling him about all the cities he has visited, cities the Kahn will never get the chance to see. This is the premise for Italo Calvino’s wonderful novella Invisible Cities translated from the Italian by William Weaver. Each of the short chapters describes one city.  After a few chapters, the dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublia Kahn … Continue reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

I consider David Copperfield to be a great book, one of many  masterpieces by Charles Dickens.  It’s a long book, a very long book, telling nearly the entire life story of its narrator and title character. People may prefer different sections of David Copperfield over other parts of the book, the bits with Francis Micawber are the best parts by the way, but you can’t really judge … Continue reading Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

The Duel by Giacomo Casanova

A well connected young man, a libertine from Venice, finds himself in trouble with the law.  So he flees to Poland where he finds a place in the royal court. I really want this story to be true. The inside flap of my edition says the novella is a “thinly veiled autobiography” and that it later appears, with a few small changes, in the author’s … Continue reading The Duel by Giacomo Casanova

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

 That people, even more than things, lost their boundaries and overflowed into shapelessness is what most frightened Lila in the course of her life.  The loss of those boundaries in her brother, whom she loved more than anyone in her family, had frightened her, and the disintegration of Stefano in the passage from fiance to husband terrified her. I learned only from her notebooks how … Continue reading The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I loved it! I’m ordering book two in the series later this week. But I don’t really have much to say about Elena Ferrnte’s wonderful novel My Brilliant Friend translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Not much but I did note three things. First how similar the novel is to Miles Franklin’s 1901 novel My Brilliant Career, not just in the titles either.  Both novels are about … Continue reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti, translated from the Italian by Jonathan Hunt, is a thriller that slowly builds rather than one that grabs you from the start. This is not to say that the opening sections are dull, quite the contrary.  But I’m Not Scared is a thriller that truly earns its big finish, not one that has thrown every horrifying twist and turn imaginable … Continue reading I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

One, No One and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello

One, No One and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello took a long time to get through, even at 160 pages of very short chapters. (There are 63 chapters in the book, which is translated by William Weaver.) The story has an unreliable narrator, which is either part of the problem or part of the fun, depending on one’s personal tastes I suppose. (I like … Continue reading One, No One and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello

Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous – Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Divorce Islamic Style is a cross between Our Man in Havana and an Italian romantic comedy circa 1068, a sort of Muslim sex farce.  I can’t help but wonder if Amara Lakhous got into any trouble over it. Set in modern day Rome’s immigrant Muslim neighborhoods the story follows two main characters. The first is Christian, a well educated Muslim Italian, who agrees to go … Continue reading Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous – Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein