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books - italian novels & literature
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I'm Not Scared, by Niccolo Ammaniti
The hottest summer of the twentieth century. A tiny community of five houses in the middle of rural Italy. When the adults are sheltering indoors, six children venture out on their bikes across the scorched, deserted countryside. While exploring a dilapidated and uninhabited farmhouse, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano discovers a secret so momentous, so terrible, that he dare not tell anyone about it. To come to terms with what he has found, Michele has to draw strength from his own sense of humanity. In this unforgiving landscape, dominated by the contrast between dazzling sunlight and the blackness of night, Ammaniti skillfully blends comedy, the world of children and their language, the strength of friendship, and the drama of betrayal. I'm Not Scared is the winnter of the 2001 Viareggio-Repaci Prize for Fiction and has already been sold in twenty languages and is currently a movie.

Be sure to read an excerpt from the book translated from the original and interview with the director of the film made from this movie.

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
This book is so much more than a gripping suspense thriller. Dan Brown takes us beyond the main plot and leads us on a quest for the Holy Grail - a Grail totally unlike anything we have been taught to believe. Mr. Brown introduces us to aspects and interpretations of Western history and Christianity that I, for one, had never known existed...or even thought about. The story takes us through England, France, Italy (briefly) and far back in time. We learn about the secret of the Knights Templar, and the symbolism in many of the world's most treasured paintings, as well as architectural symbolism in some of history's most sacred churches. There are some minor flaws in the plot, but the story is so well written, that they may be easily overlooked. Is what "The Da Vinci Code" proposes true? Well, most of research is correct (but not all). The historical events and people explored in the book are real. But no one knows the Truth... some things are meant to be a mystery. Don't take the book too seriously. Just read it and enjoy, you'll never look at Da Vinci's art the same way again!

A Venetian Affair, by Andrea Di Robilant
It's hard to imagine a more romantic real-life story than the long, forbidden love affair of the 18th-century Venetian nobleman Andrea Memmo and a half-English beauty named Giustiniana Wynne. Andrea Di Robilant's A Venetian Affair is drawn in part from a cache of letters discovered by the author's father in his ancestral palazzo on the Grand Canal. In 1753, his ancestor Andrea Memmo had been introduced to a lovely girl of uncertain station. The Wynnes's position was precarious enough in Venice's rigid society, and Giustiniana's mother took every step to prevent the young aristocrat from corrupting her daughter. But the two lovers began to meet in secret: exchanging letters through confederates and communicating in public through an elaborate code of nods and gestures. They even came within a few days of being married before further dark revelations about Giustiniana's family put a permanent end to their hopes.

The Giuliana Legacy by Alexis Masters
Combine Anne Rice's suspense with Frances Mayes' imagery and you have Alexis Masters' Giuliana Legacy! This gripping tale focuses on an Italian American girl who is propelled into looking into her family's secret powers-- which she has just begun to experience. You'll travel with her to Greece and Italy to uncover mysteries as deep as the origin of the Etruscans. Meanwhile, the man who killed her father is on her trail and is closing in and wants to get his hands on both her and the origin of her family's secret power. This book contains something for everyone and combines mystery, archeology, spirituality, love and suspense which bring the story to unpredictable twists and turns. I couldn't put it down until I finished reading it-- and you won't either. I'm eagerly waiting for her next work. Follow the link to read an excerpt.

Gabriella's Book of Fire, by Venero Armanno
In this world of sparse prose, where too often we are told that 'less is more', Venero Armanno has written an incredibly well-plotted, emotional rollercoaster of a novel, with rich prose and vivid details of the life of Italian immigrants in Brisbane, Australia. His writing indulges generously the five senses and more. You can smell the cooking coming straight off the pages, you can breathe the coffee, and feel the wind and the sun on your face. I had to stop all activities and read it from cover to cover. Not since Janet Fitch's 'White Oleander' has a novel managed to stir my emotions and my senses so vividly. This is undoubtedly the best book you will read this year and will linger in your mind for years to come. (by [email protected])

Umbertina : A Novel , by Helen Barolini
No novel about Italian immigrants and their children surpasses this work by Helen Barolini, who in addition to being a very fine storyteller, has been at the intellectual forefront of our portion of America. Umbertina is a classic. Every literary American should be aware of this sweeping tale, but every one of us whose family story is reflected by this account of a brave woman's struggle to create her America has a special need to discover Barolini's fictional discovery of her Italian origins. The chronicle begins with Umbertina's Calabrian youth and follows her and her young husband to New York City, then to Cato (read Syracuse) in upstate New York. What gives the novel its greater dimension of meaning, however, is the juxtaposition of the Americanization that absorbs Umbertina's family through the first part of the story with her granddaughter's quest for the Italian wellsprings of her identity. (by [email protected])

The Tricks of the Trade, Dario Fo
Dario Fo winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in literature, popular and controversial playwright, actor and director, has earned international acclaim for his political satires and farces. Often considered the rightful heir of Aristophanes, Fo has led the field in political satire in Europe for over thirty years. The main targets of his ideologically inspired attacks have been capitalism, imperialism and corruption in the Italian government. For performances outside of Italy, his comedies are frequently adapted to reflect local political conditions.In this book Dario Fo articulates the relationship between actor and audience in a way only someone who has accepted the physical and mental demands of the acting craft can do. Fo demonstrates he is one part actor, one part scholar, and one part inspired artist. Each page illustrates the line between how an actor acts and their audience cannot be separated from themselves, their society, or from the history of the craft. If nothing else, Fo's joy in performance helps explain why actors remain central to entertainment and to society.

Italian Folktales, by Italo Calvino
I'm Italian American and to me, this book feels like a little bit of me from the past. I can remember my family telling these stories to each other in Asiago, after eating their meals. Read this book to yourself, or better, aloud to your favorite adults and children. I really love these stories, and I read them to my cousins when they come over, and they enjoy them too! The tales, some short and some longer, offer magic, fantasy and adventure for the kids and sly insights into human nature for adults. The tales are not "dumbed down" as unfortunately happens in some folktale collections. Calvino preserves the flavor of the spoken word, but these stories work as literature, too. For the scholarly-minded, an appendix in the back gives the provenance of each story. It's a great book for the whole family to enjoy.

The Name of the Rose (translated), by Umberto Eco)
Intricately detailed, imbued with historical beauty, and ancient symbolism, this is a novel to be savored, slowly. Brother William, a learned syllogist, is called upon to solve a murder at a 14th century, mist-enshrouded abbey. This murder is only the first of several bizarre deaths. All clues seem to be connected to the labyrinthine and ancient library, where written secrets have been secured for years. This long tale brings to light the truth that protecting what is good can lead to a kind of obsession that in itself can become evil. This book is obviously the result of painstaking labor and momentous inspiration, the finite and infinite united in art. The characters expound upon subjects of truth, logic, politics and power with timeless insight. The allegories convey ideas on many levels, and it's a book that allows readers to walk away with different levels of insight, depending on the individual reader's personal knowledge. This novel captures the human spirit in all its paradoxical splendor!

A great classic story by a classic author. This book is among Eco's best works and is very hard to put down, even if you have seen the movie already. The story is a murder mystery set in a 14th century monastery. Thanks to Eco's eloquence and profound historical knowledge, you don't just read the re-live the story. You don't just re-live the story, you realize how rich and colorfull Italy's history is, even through the middle ages. (by reader [email protected])

Read this book in Italian to get the full effect in the original language.

Rules of the Wild, by Francesca Marciano, This book grabbed me from the first paragraph...
"In a way everything is always secondhand. You will inherit a car from someone who had decided to leave the country, which you will then sell to one of your friends. You will move into a new house where you have already been...You will make love to someone who has slept with all your friends. There will never be anything brand-new in your life"
It's a novel about an Italian woman who finds herself in East Africa and discovers her inner rawness (while sharing it with the reader). The author captures you and takes you on a safari that is the character's life with observations that will enlighten you about your own.

The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni
My Italian wife "demanded" that I read this book. Then she was amazed that I found the story so exciting and the history so interesting. Most Italians are required to read it in school as it is the book which established "Italian" as the official language of Italy and it is extremely well written in Italian. This translation makes the story seem like a modern adventure. (by [email protected])
Manzoni's The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) is generally considered to be the greatest Italian novel of all time. I read it aloud to my 9-year-old daughter and we were both enthralled. It is set in the environs of Milan in the early 17th century (it was written in the 18th century). The framing story concerns young lovers whose marriage is thwarted by a local nobleman/ petty tyrant in order to win a bet. Subordinate stories range from political, economic and biographical analyses of the times to a vivid, eye-opening description of a plague outbreak and the official denial that exacerbated it. Penman's English translation is superb.

The Woman of Rome, by Alberto Moravia, The glitter and cynicism of Rome under Mussolini provide the background of what is probably Alberto Moravia's best and best-known novel - The Woman of Rome. It's the story of Adriana, a simple girl with no fortune but her beauty who models naked for a painter, accepts gifts from men, and could never quite identify the moment when she traded her private dream of home and children for the life of a prostitute. One of the very few novels of the twentieth century which can be ranked with the work of Dostoevsky, The Woman of Rome also tells the stories of the tortured university student Giacomo, a failed revolutionary who refuses to admit his love for Adriana; of the sinister figure of Astarita, the Secret Police officer obsessed with Adriana; and of the coarse and brutal criminal Sonzogno, who treats Adriana as his private property. (from
Alberto Moravia is one of the most important contributors to 20th century Italian literature. During his prolific writing career he explored themes of social alienation, loveless sexuality, and spiritual ennui. To read more work from this author, consider the following titles Gli Indifferenti (in Italian), La Campesina (in Italian), and go to your local used book store to find other out-of-print translated works.

The Art of Love, by Ovid (translated by Rolfe Humphries), Ovid's Loves, the Art of love, the Art of Beauty, and Remedies for Love are combined in this book and show how Ovid lived and loved. The poetry is surprising at times when I didn't expect someone from around 2 B.C. to write about impotence, sex, and how to get a lover. That is not all that he writes about, though. His poetry of Corrina, a woman he loved, is described with elegance and passion. The Art of Love tells how to court and win a lover and surprisingly many of the ideas can be directly related to modern day life. I found this book to be very interesting in poetic content and also in seeing how alike the world is today with that of the ancient roman empire. (by [email protected])

more books...
Across the River and into the Trees, by Ernest Hemingway
Cantalesia : Poems in Neapolitan Dialect
The Fall of a Sparrow, by Robert Hellenga
Giotto's Hand, by Ian Pears
House of Many Rooms, by Marius Gabriel
The Innamorati, by Midori Snyder
Little Novels of Sicily
Primo Levi: Tragedy of an Optimist
Rules of the Wild, by Francesca Marciano
The Silent Duchess: A Novel, by Dacia Maraini



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