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Italian For Beginners

July 2005

We’d rather be in Italy this summer, but since we’re not, we might as well pull up an armchair and a bottle of dolcetto and print out a few “antipasti” from WWB. But there are no Tuscan clichés in this batch, only a particular attention to the physical and the paradoxical. Elena Ferrante turns to lingerie to explore a middle-aged woman’s feelings about her mother and herself. The hilarious and fabulous Matteo Bianchi gives us a proverbial “Italian mother” who finds her own freedom at a Gay Pride Parade. (Check out Matteo’s website for some contemporary love of retro). The elegant Filippo Tuena gives us an utterly convincing portrait of a writer haunted by having excised the death of his father from his novel, while Melania Mazzucco finds her characters taking on lives, and histories, of their own. Laura Pariani’s elderly painter finds the young object of his affection far less innocent than his infatuation; Ornela Vorpsi’s mordant yet virginal Albanian teen skewers her prurient elders. If you’re in a classic mood, we recommend Ignazio Silone’s melancholy and beautiful “At the Foot of an Almond Tree.” Special thanks to our brilliant Italian editor friend Benedetta Centovalli, who has gathered the majority of the selections for this feature and more to come next month. Finally, if you missed the PEN World Voices Literary Festival, click here to hear audio clips of WWB-featured authors and to see video of the WWB-sponsored panel discussion on “Love and Hate.”