Italo Svevo, born Aron Hector Schmitz, time and again presaged the modern curve.
Italo Calvino's gift was an adamant refusal to see the planet conventionally.
The late Antonio Tabucchi always wanted it both ways: real and surreal.
At his best, the late Dino Buzzati made the magical abut the mundane.
In English, "That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana" is an impossible novel — which makes it necessary.
Italo Svevo's remarkable Zeno Cosini has the pedigree of a 21st-century neurotic.
Jennifer Clark's careful accounting of Fiat's ups and downs is essential Italy reading.
Tracking Rome street art is a noble cause, but not when words get in the way.
Roberto Saviano's cluttered new book plumbs the depths of cocaine trafficking.
Little written about World War II and southern Italy rivals Lewis' memoir.
Romanzo: Love and Corruption Italian Style
By Angela Montgomery
New Generation Publishing, 2009. 176 pages
The themes of Montgomery's novel are implicit in the title's double meaning. There's a love story — romance — as well as a novel of ideas and plot — romanzo, which means a novel in Italian. The romance is between Marsya and Marco. She's a lovable but hare-brained British actress, a sometime language teacher and believer in creativity, synchronicity and spontaneity. She's been seduced by Italy. Architect Marco is thoughtful and elegant, a subscriber to rationality and planning. His own view of Italy is far more unsure.
Their story plays out in Milan in the early 1990s, where the unraveling Clean Hands corruption probe and the rise of a new political party put the protagonists' two modus operandi — and feelings — to the test. It would be hard to find another book that so effectively portrays the personal compromises and social dynamics that underlie today's Italy. In Pregiato, a low level bureaucrat who drives a Porsche, Montgomery nails the mentality and motivations of Italy's political class. Through Montgomery Lepore, an old Italy hand, she shines an appreciative but unsentimental light on both the country's light and dark sides.
It's all there: the day-to-day beauty, the aesthetics, the unabashed self-interest and compromises, the love of pulling something off. Milan residents will see their city with fresh eyes in her lyrical descriptions. Readers unfamiliar with it will see an Italy that insular, work-oriented Milan shows only to those who take the time to let it grow on them.
Reviewed by Madeleine Johnson