Sunday, September 09, 2007

Coming Around to Italo Svevo

I entered 2007 with many goals, one of which is to sign up for Italian classes with my friend, Boo. In anticipation of my Italian endeavour, I drew up a list of Italian writers that I had planned to read this year: authors such as Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Luigi Pirandello, Cesare Pavese and Italo Svevo.

Due to time constraints, I had to shelve the plans for my Italian classes. But Boo has since progressed to Intermediate Italian, and she has been asking me for recommendation for Italian writers translated into English. Happy to oblige, I passed her some of the authors from my reading list. I also told her which titles were available at the library near our workplace, so she could save some money.

One of my recommendation was Italo Svevo's Zeno's Conscience, a funny tale about a man's bungled attempt to quit smoking. Boo is a compulsive smoker, so she was rather resistant to this title. (I suspect she had not realise my recommendation was more deliberate than I would admit :p) But she did pick up Italo Svevo's A Perfect Hoax -- a gem of a book published by Hesperus Press.

So, because I recommended Zeno's Conscience, Boo ended up reading A Perfect Hoax. And because she loved A Perfect Hoax, I'm currently reading A Perfect Hoax for my Outmoded Authors and Unread Authors Challenges instead.

Amazing how things come full-circle in a mobius strip kind of way.

Meanwhile, Boo has come to enjoy Italo Svevo, and she has since finished Svevo's As A Man Grows Older (published by the brilliant people at NYRB)and I'm hoping she will eventually pick up Zeno's Conscience -- and hopefully quit smoking one day.

Meanwhile, I have thrown another Italian author in Boo's path: Luigi Pirandello. Boo's interest is piqued, and I intend to recommend The Late Mattia Pascal -- also published by NYRB Classics. We'll see if my friend takes the bait.


Rebecca H. said...

Hmmm ... I really like Zeno's Conscience -- kind of an odd book, wasn't it? -- so maybe I should try more Svevo.

Anonymous said...

Italo Svevo is an author I always want to explore and yet I haven't read any of his works. I have Zeno's Conscience on my shelf and spot A Perfect Hoax at the library. Now you've got me thinking--which one should I read first?

Meanwhile I'm getting intoxicated in the cruel exactitude of Anna Kavan's prose.

On a side note, I wonder why nobody suggested Hamsung for the outmoded challenge? Maybe he's not that outlandish!

darkorpheus said...

Dorothy Maybe. Svevo's starting to grow on me with A Perfect Hoax. I'm not sure if it's the translation or is it Svevo's style -- that's this humour that's also a little poignant.

Matt I started with A Perfect Hoax because it's short and sweet. :)

Hmm, Knut Hamsun. Didn't the New Yorker run a feature on him earlier this year? That still counts as outmoded if the New Yorker remembers him?