Three Books from Italy

Map of Italy

I think most of us have at least once read a book from Italy, consciously or subconsciously. Maybe you have picked up Italo Calvino, because the synopses of his stories sounded so intriguing. Or perhaps you started on Umberto Eco’s works after spotting them on lists of timeless classics. And who hasn’t seen Elena Ferrante’s books in their local book shop? Today I’m looking at Italian books that have been translated into English, but haven’t gotten as popular yet.

 

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

This small non-fiction book is written by Carlo Rovelli, translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre, and published by Riverhead Books. It consists of seven short chapters which all contain an introduction into a scientific concept or theory. The text is simple and offers a tiny look into something as big and complicated as physics. You might not get a lot out of it if you’re already well-versed in the topic, but it’s a great place to start for beginners. The shortness of the chapters makes it a perfect book to pick up while on public transport, or if you just want to read something quick and powerful before bed.

 

Cover of Seven Lessons on Physics with the letters in gold

 

The Silent Duchess

The Silent Duchess is written by Dacia Maraini, translated by Dick Kitto and Elspeth Spottiswood, and published by The Feminist Press. Marianna is a deaf and mute Sicilian girl in the 18th century who gets married off to her uncle at a young age. The book follows her through her life as a duchess, and we get to see her struggle with being heard and taken seriously, with societal pressures, with being stuck in a loveless marriage, and with dealing with trauma and loss. This book is such a gem. Although I found it a bit difficult to read, I loved seeing Marianna’s life unfold. This edition comes with an amazing afterword by Anna Camaiti-Hostert, which added another layer to the story with its analysis. If you’re only going to pick up one book from Italy, make it this one.

 

Cover of the Silent Duchess with a woman in a dress walking up stairs outside

 

The Twenty Days of Turin

The Twenty Days of Turin is written by Giorgio De Maria, translated by Ramon Glazov and published by Liveright. I am a little hesitant to recommend this book, because I didn’t enjoy it very much. However, I think it can be a great read if it enters the right hands. It’s freaky and creepy, and it most definitely is weird fiction. Some time ago, in the city of Turin, a group of people created ‘the Library’. This library collected diaries of the citizens of the city. A person could visit, donate his or her diary, and read other people’s most intimate entries. It was intended to bring likeminded people together, but as we can predict in this age of trolls, alt-right blogs and twitter fights, things quickly turned sour when people got honest about their deepest thoughts and beliefs. The library is shut down, but not everything is resolved with this action… In the book we observe a salaryman who’s looking into strange events that have been happening in the city ever since. If this sounds interesting to you, give it a go! It’s very atmospheric and a good Halloween read.

 

Cover of The Twenty Days of Turin with a grim reaper like figure walking over a city

 

What’s next?

After the recent Italian election of 2018, I’ve been wanting to read more modern fiction and non-fiction from Italy, preferably about political topics. Why is the Five Star Movement loved by both left- and right-wingers? What are they doing right, and what are they doing wrong? Why has the country become so fiercely against immigration? How come that so many Italians are against vaccines? And the most important question: why is Berlusconi still a thing?! If you have any book recommendations for me, I’d love to know. Meanwhile: what are your recent Italian reads?

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