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August 2005

Roman Holiday

If July featured our antipasti, here are the secondi of WWB's summer in Italy. Our selections range from the grace and hope of the classic Elena Belotti's "Abandoned Garden" to jaded contemporaries like Antonio Moresco, with his bitter satire of contemporary Italian values, "The Pigs." Tiziano Scarpa calls to life the human statues outside the Duomo in an Italian town. Maria Pace Ottieri depicts the underside of European prosperity in "Flies and Spiders," set in an immigrant ghetto of Milan. Marco Baliani takes a similar trip when his theater director casts slum children, the poorest of the poor in Nairobi, in a production of Pinocchio. Alternating bright and dark humor, Silvia Ballestra in "All About My Grandmother" (featuring a dialectical word coiner) and Luigi Malerba in "Bakarak" (presenting a diet doctor who argues that we are what we speak) evoke the mysterious physical and emotional powers of language, while the poet Milo de Angelis charts the mute map of the end of an affair. We also offer excerpts from two Italian historical novels forthcoming in English: Erri De Luca's Three Horses, and Gianni Riotta's Alborada. And, again, we toast our guest editor, Benedetta Centovalli, for serving up this delectable menu.

The Abandoned Garden
By Elena Gianini Belotti
In that idyllic, solitary place, she told herself, nothing base or cruel could ever happen: the harmony of the landscape softened the spirit, resolved conflict, relieved the soul.
Translated from Italian by Anne Milano Appel
The Flies and the Web
By Maria Pace Ottieri
I go back to the “hole.” I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the first time I went there. I want to slip myself into that crack in the wall, find out what they do in there, how…
Translated from Italian by Shaun Whiteside
By Marco Baliani
Chokora. Garbage.Now I know why they call them that. They are of the same color as the street, a noncolor, one that time, wear and tear leave on things like an indelible patina, a distilled filth, that…
Translated from Italian by Maria Enrico
Mute Map
I Let's slip into that last evening, the pharmacy where her pale restless face didn't register the greeting, the nightguard's: hungry face, I can't get past it, in the fog, the very face…
Translated from Italian
By Luigi Malerba
It was Bakarak himself who fired me. Bakarak, the Swiss doctor who directs the dietetics institute named after him. I’m standing here in the middle of the street and my thoughts climb up to the…
Translated from Italian by Lawrence Venuti
From All About My Grandmother
By Silvia Ballestra
Nonna has always invented words, Mama does too, and so do I.Nonna invented nicknames and, by rebaptizing certain individuals, ennobled them in my eyes, making them into figures of distinction. Nonna has…
Translated from Italian by Anne Milano Appel
The Pigs
By Antonio Moresco
You have to be away from Italy to see Italy. Or maybe just slightly displaced within its borders—on one of the islands, for example. I was in Favignana a few years ago, and late one afternoon, on an old…
Translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein
By Tiziano Scarpa
I am Napoleon. I am Marilyn Monroe. I’m the Pharaoh. Every morning I choose one of my costumes. I go out. Then I take up my position in front of the gates of the Piazza Duomo. If it’s raining,…
Translated from Italian by Liesl Schillinger
The Rematch
By Ana María Shua
“The Rematch” offers a fictionalized account of the downfall of one of Argentina’s most famous boxing champions, Carlos Monzón, El Flaco, the World Champion Middleweight Boxer from 1970…
Translated from Spanish by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan
Unjust Praise
By Ghirmai Yohannes
In the beginningThe spirit movingUpon the face of the watersAnd in the breaking wavesTasted saltAnd I see fields of itDrying on the shore.We let in shallow lakes of seaTo evaporate,And the saltAccumulates…
Translated from Tigrinya by Charles Cantalupo & Ghirmai Negash
By Johan Harstad
“A 3-D portrait of the empathy one stranger experiences on behalf of another.”—Heidi Julavits
Translated from Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin & Erik Skuggevik
La Terra Santa
I Insane asylum is a word much bigger than the dark vortex of dreams, yet it used to come once upon blue thread or a distant nightingale's song or your mouth opened, biting at the blue the fierce…
Translated from Italian
Ode of Sorrow
 The blue of depth is sadness and the depth of blue-sadness and a star quivering tears in this space- Language at the peak of clarity unfurls the night . . . Indeed,…
Translated from Arabic