Classics of Italian Literature

Little Novels of Sicily (Italia) (Paperback)

First Published in a single volume in 1883, the stories collected in Little Novels of Sicily are drawn from the Sicily of Giovanni Verga’s childhood, reported at the time to be the poorest place in Europe. Verga’s style is swift, sure, and implacable; he plunges into his stories almost in midbreath, and tells them with a stark economy of words. There’s something dark and tightly coiled at the heart of each story, an ironic, bitter resolution that is belied by the deceptive simplicity of Verga’s prose, and Verga strikes just when the reader’s not expecting it.

Translator D. H. Lawrence surely found echoes of his own upbringing in Verga’s sketches of Sicilian life: the class struggle between property owners and tenants, the relationship between men and the land, and the unsentimental, sometimes startlingly lyric evocation of the landscape. Just as Lawrence veers between loving and despising the industrial North and its people, so too Verga shifts between affection for and ironic detachment from the superstitious, uneducated, downtrodden working poor of Sicily. If Verga reserves pity for anyone or anything, it is the children and the animals, but he doesn’t spare them. In his experience, it is the innocents who suffer first and last and always.


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Zeno’s Conscience (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)

This enormously engaging, strange novel is both an engrossing saga of a family and a hilarious account of addiction and failure as its helpless hero, notionally undergoing psychiatric help, manages spectacularly to fail to give up smoking, run his business or make sense of his private life. A hymn to self-delusion and procrastination ZENO’S CONSCIENCE has provoked enormous affection in its readers both in Italian and English since its first publication in the 1920s.

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Arturo’s Island: A Novel (Italia) (Paperback)

ON A SMALL ISLAND in the Tyrrhenian Sea there lives a boy as innocent as a seabird. Arturo’s mother is dead; his father away. Black-clad women care for him, give him the freedom to come and go as he likes. Then the father returns with a new wife, Nunziata, a girl barely older than Arturo. At first hatred and contempt are all the boy feels for his stepmother. In time, Arturo and Nunziata re-create the tragedy and passion that are as old as the history of men and women.

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The Moon and the Bonfires (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

Winner of the 2003 PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize

A NEW YORK REVIEW BOOKS ORIGINAL

The nameless narrator of The Moon and the Bonfires, Cesare Pavese’s last and greatest novel, returns to Italy from California after the Second World War. He has done well in America, but success hasn’t taken the edge off his memories of childhood, when he was an orphan living at the mercy of a bitterly poor farmer. He wants to learn what happened in his native village over the long, terrible years of Fascism; perhaps, he even thinks, he will settle down. And yet as he uncovers a secret and savage history from the war—a tale of betrayal and reprisal, sex and death—he finds that the past still haunts the present. The Moon and the Bonfires is a novel of intense lyricism and tragic import, a masterpiece of twentieth-century literature that has been unavailable to American readers for close to fifty years. Here it appears in a vigorous new English version by R. W. Flint, whose earlier translations of Pavese’s fiction were acclaimed by Leslie Fiedler as “absolutely lucid and completely incantatory.”


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Modern Classics Garden of the Finzi Continis (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)

This is a haunting, elegiac novel which captures the mood and atmosphere of Italy (and in particular Ferrara) in the last summers of the thirties, focusing on an aristocratic Jewish family moving imperceptibly towards its doom. Vittorio De Sica turned the book into a film in 1970, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974.

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The Name of the Rose: including the Author’s Postscript (Paperback)

It is the year 1327. Franciscans in an Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, but Brother William of Baskerville’s investigation is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths. Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book

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The Decameron (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)

A complete edition of the hilarious, bawdy, irreverent masterpiece of medieval Italy—and the inspiration for the film The Little Hours—in an acclaimed translation

In the summer of 1348, as the Black Death ravages their city, ten young Florentines take refuge in the countryside. They amuse themselves by each telling a story a day for the ten days they are destined to remain there—a hundred stories of love, adventure and surprising twists of fate. Less preoccupied with abstract concepts of morality or religion than with earthly values, the tales range from the bawdy Peronella hiding her lover in a tub to Ser Cepperello, who, despite his unholy effrontery, becomes a Saint. The result is a towering monument of European literature and a masterpiece of imaginative narrative.

This is the second edition of G. H. McWilliam’s acclaimed translation of The Decameron. His introduction illuminates the worlds of Boccaccio and of his storytellers, showing Boccaccio as a master of vivid and exciting prose fiction. 


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The Leopard (Paperback)

A classic of modern fiction. Set in the 1860s, THE LEOPARD is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.

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If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (Paperback)

Calvino’s masterpiece opens with a scene that’s reassuringly commonplace: apparently. Indeed, it’s taking place now. A reader goes into a bookshop to buy a book: not any book, but the latest Calvino, the book you are holding in your hands. Or is it? Are you the reader? Is this the book? Beware. All assumptions are dangerous on this most bewitching switch-back ride to the heart of storytelling.

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The Solitude of Prime Numbers: A Novel (Hardcover)

A bestselling international literary sensation about whether a “prime number” can ever truly connect with someone else

A prime number can only be divided by itself or by one—it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia, both “primes,” are misfits who seem destined to be alone. Haunted by childhood tragedies that mark their lives, they cannot reach out to anyone else. When Alice and Mattia meet as teenagers, they recognize in each other a kindred, damaged spirit.

But the mathematically gifted Mattia accepts a research position that takes him thousands of miles away, and the two are forced to separate. Then a chance occurrence reunites them and forces a lifetime of concealed emotion to the surface.

Like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this is a stunning meditation on loneliness, love, and the weight of childhood experience that is set to become a universal classic.

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The Late Mattia Pascal (Paperback)

Mattia Pascal endures a life of drudgery in a provincial town. Then, providentially, he discovers that he has been declared dead. Realizing he has a chance to start over, to do it right this time, he moves to a new city, adopts a new name, and a new course of life—only to find that this new existence is as insufferable as the old one. But when he returns to the world he left behind, it’s too late: his job is gone, his wife has remarried. Mattia Pascal’s fate is to live on as the ghost of the man he was.

An explorer of identity and its mysteries, a connoisseur of black humor, Nobel Prize winner Luigi Pirandello is among the most teasing and profound of modern masters. The Late Mattia Pascal, here rendered into English by the outstanding translator William Weaver, offers an irresistible introduction to this great writer’s work


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The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)

Set in Lombardy during the Spanish occupation of the late 1620s, The Betrothed tells the story of two young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, prevented from marrying by the petty tyrant Don Rodrigo, who desires Lucia for himself. Forced to flee, they are then cruelly separated, and must face many dangers including plague, famine and imprisonment, and confront a variety of strange characters – the mysterious Nun of Monza, the fiery Father Cristoforo and the sinister ‘Unnamed’ – in their struggle to be reunited. A vigorous portrayal of enduring passion, The Betrothed‘s exploration of love, power and faith presents a whirling panorama of seventeenth-century Italian life and is one of the greatest European historical novels.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


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Contempt (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

Contempt is a brilliant and unsettling work by one of the revolutionary masters of modern European literature. All the qualities for which Alberto Moravia is justly famous—his cool clarity of expression, his exacting attention to psychological complexity and social pretension, his still-striking openness about sex—are evident in this story of a failing marriage. Contempt (which was to inspire Jean-Luc Godard’s no-less-celebrated film) is an unflinching examination of desperation and self-deception in the emotional vacuum of modern consumer society.

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The Divine Comedy: Inferno; Purgatorio; Paradiso (Everyman’s Library) (Hardcover)

This Everyman’s Library edition–containing in one volume all three cantos, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso–includes an introduction by Nobel Prize—winning poet Eugenio Montale, a chronology, notes, and a bibliography. Also included are forty-two drawings selected from Botticelli’s marvelous late-fifteenth-century series of illustrations.

Translated in this edition by Allen Mandelbaum, The Divine Comedy begins in a shadowed forest on Good Friday in the year 1300. It proceeds on a journey that, in its intense recreation of the depths and the heights of human experience, has become the key with which Western civilization has sought to unlock the mystery of its own identity. 

Mandelbaum’s astonishingly Dantean translation, which captures so much of the life of the original, renders whole for us the masterpiece of that genius whom our greatest poets have recognized as a central model for all poets.


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Orlando Furioso (Oxford World’s Classics) (Paperback)

The only unabridged prose translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso–a witty parody of the chivalric legends of Charlemagne and the Saracen invasion of France–this version faithfully recaptures the entire narrative and the subtle meanings behind it.

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Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year (FSG Classics) (Paperback)

It was to Lucania, a desolate land in southern Italy, that Carlo Levi―a doctor, painter, philosopher, and man of letters―was confined as a political prisoner because of his opposition to Italy’s Fascist government at the start of the Ethiopian war in 1935. While there, Levi reflected on the harsh landscape and its inhabitants, peasants who lived the same lives their ancestors had, constantly fearing black magic and the near presence of death. In so doing, Levi offered a starkly beautiful and moving account of a place and a people living outside the boundaries of progress and time.


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History: A Novel (Paperback)

History was written nearly thirty years after Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia spent a year in hiding among remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history – the great political events driven by men of power, wealth, and ambition – does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread.

The central character in this powerful and unforgiving novel is Ida Mancuso, a schoolteacher whose husband has died and whose feckless teenage son treats the war as his playground. A German soldier on his way to North Africa rapes her, falls in love with her, and leaves her pregnant with a boy whose survival becomes Ida’s passion.

Around these two other characters come and go, each caught up by the war which is like a river in flood. We catch glimpses of bombing raids, street crimes, a cattle car from which human cries emerge, an Italian soldier succumbing to frostbite on the Russian front, the dumb endurance of peasants who have lived their whole lives with nothing and now must get by with less than nothing.


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Operette Morali (Biblioteca Italiana) (Paperback)

This series is conceived as a library of bilingual editions of works chosen for their importance to Italian literature and to the international tradition of art and thought Italy has nurtured. In each volume an Italian text in an authoritative edition is paired with a new facing-page translation supplemented by explanatory notes and a selected bibliography.
 
An introduction provides a historical and critical interpretation of the work. The scholars preparing these volumes hope through Biblioteca ltaliana to point a straight way to the Italian classics.
 
GENERAL EDITOR: Louise George Clubb
EDITORIAL BOARD
Paul J. Alpers, Vittore Branca
Gene Brucker, Fredi Chiappelli
Phillip W. Damon, Robert M. Durling
Gianfranco Folena, Lauro Martines
Nicolas J. Perella

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Six Characters in Search of an Author (Dover Thrift Editions) (Paperback)

One of the major figures of modern theater, Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) wrote dramas and satires that sparked controversy with their radical departures from conventional theatrical techniques. His most celebrated work, Six Characters in Search of an Author, embodies the Nobel Prize-winning playwright’s innovations by presenting an open-ended drama on a stage without sets.
First performed in 1923, this intellectual comedy introduces six individuals to a stage where a company of actors has assembled for a rehearsal. Claiming to be the incomplete, unused creations of an author’s imagination, they demand lines for a story that will explain the details of their lives. In ensuing scenes, these “real-life characters,” all professing to be part of an extended family, produce a drama of sorts — punctuated by disagreements, interruptions, and arguments. In the end they are dismissed by the irate manager, their dilemma unsolved and the “truth” a matter of individual viewpoints.
A tour de force exploring the many faces of reality, this classic is now available in an inexpensive edition that will be welcomed by amateur theatrical groups as well as students of drama.

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The Tartar Steppe (Paperback)

Often likened to Kafka’s The Castle, The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of young Giovanni Drogo, who is posted to a distant fort overlooking the vast Tartar steppe. Although not intending to stay, Giovanni suddenly finds that years have passed, as, almost without his noticing, he has come to share the others’ wait for a foreign invasion that never happens. Over time the fort is downgraded and Giovanni’s ambitions fade until the day the enemy begins massing on the desolate steppe… A Verba Mundi book.

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My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One (Paperback)

Now an HBO series.

Book one in the New York Times bestselling Neapolitan quartet about two friends growing up in post-war Italy is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted family epic by Italy’s most beloved and acclaimed writer, Elena Ferrante, “one of the great novelists of our time.” (Roxana Robinson, The New York Times)
 
Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence. 

Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.

“An intoxicatingly furious portrait of enmeshed friends,” writes Entertainment Weekly. “Spectacular,” says Maureen Corrigan on NPR’s Fresh Air. “A large, captivating, amiably peopled bildungsroman,” writes James Wood in The New Yorker.

Ferrante is one of the world’s great storytellers. With My Brilliant Friend she has given her readers an abundant, generous, and masterfully plotted page-turner that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight readers for many generations to come.


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