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Aracoeli by Elsa Morante

Aracoeli (original 1982; edition 2009)

by Elsa Morante, William Weaver (Translator)

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1881462,829 (3.63)30
Authors:Elsa Morante
Other authors:William Weaver (Translator)
Info:Open Letter Books; Univ of Nebraska Press (2009), Paperback, 311 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Open Letter Series, Italy, Summer Sub Club

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Aracoeli by Elsa Morante (1982)


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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Complex dreamlike imagery fills this lovely novel, as does the author's beautiful use of language. Kudos, too, to the translator for capturing Morante's breathless narrative. ( )
  BALE | Jun 7, 2017 |
"This one, unlike the other, was not the herald of weeping, but certain individuals are more inclined to weep for love than death." This is the final sentence of this amazing novel. The reader is lured into a tale of the cataclysmic meeting of past and present, of a psychopathic love of son for mother, of the despair of lonliness, and of a single love beginning in the womb and coming to rest in the mythic El Almedral, where the mother's life began. Cryptic enough? Reading this novel is like participating in a lifelong fever dream which is inhabited with deep fears, monomaniacal love, and the depths of despair. The writing is magnificent and emotionally descriptive to a degree I have rarely seen. This is a translation that uses the highest level of vocabulary in English. I wish I read Italian!! The intensity of the protagonist can be a bit overwhelming, but what the heck. It is an Italian novel after all, isn't it? (I write that with the greatest affection!) ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 25, 2017 |
This book is wonderfully written, but it is also easy to see why some people would dislike it. A quick description of the story would make it sound predictable – from an unhappy present, the narrator thinks back on his childhood and his loving relationship with his long-dead mother Aracoeli, which eventually turned sour. However, the erudite, labyrinthine prose which describes both the arid, dead end life of Emanuele in 1970’s Milan and his pre-WWII childhood sets the book apart. It’s certainly very dense prose, which I think could make it hard going, but I really enjoyed Morante’s writing so everything went by quickly even the present sections, which could be a bit flat (deliberately so). The subject of Aracoeli is similar to the other Morantes that I’ve read – History: A Novel and Arturo’s Island - in that all are about the almost too-close love between a mother (or mother figure) and son(s). However, all have a very different feel even if one can see some similarities. Aracoeli, despite being a realistic story, has a fantastic or hallucinatory quality due to Emanuele’s constant fantasizing, dreaming or obsessing.

The first half of the book switches between Manuele’s empty present life, where he decides to go back to Aracoeli’s Spanish hometown, and the past, where he describes his parents’ anomalous relationship and marriage and their happy life together. The prose is wonderfully vivid and little details, like a servant’s snobbery, the differing character of their neighbors, or Aracoeli’s shopping habits, end up being memorable. Manuele’s father, a naval officer, and Aracoeli, an uneducated peasant girl, have a love at first sight relationship. After she has Manuele, his father moves them to a small house outside of the city until their marriage and removal to a class-appropriate flat. Manuele’s Aunt Monda, a helpful and busy spinster, provides support and teaches Aracoeli how to behave correctly. The narrator recollects their time in the little house as a lost paradise, when he had his mother all to himself. Even when they moved and he had to share her with his father, his life was still happy. He believes Aracoeli loves him less as he grows older and uglier, but their final estrangement starts with some family tragedies and Aracoeli’s increasingly bizarre behavior. The second half of the book stays in the past and depicts Aracoeli’s unhappy end.

Describing the plot can’t really give the feel of the book, with Manuele’s feverish obsessions and dreams, his frequently recurring inside references, occasional disquisitions on fate and unhappiness, and his detailed descriptions of every facet of the only happiness he’s ever known. The juxtaposition between the lengthy, twisting prose and Manuele’s childish self or the mundane events in the 1970’s works well. His present life is very depressing and he only has bad memories of life after Aracoeli. While the prose was still creative and high-flown in these sections, they weren’t as interesting to read. Besides the dead-end feel of the present sections, the other problem I had with the book was a possible interpretation of Manuele’s stunted romantic relationships. Unfortunately, his life seems to fit a negative stereotype of gay men – he turned to men because of a rejecting mother and badly behaving/gross women. Those bits were annoying, but overall this is a very well-written book. Recommended, with the above caveats. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Feb 3, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
i couldn't finish this book. I just couldn't get into. That doesn't mean someone else won't be enthralled. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Oct 16, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really wanted to like this book written by someone with such an interesting life! I have tried several times to read it and cannot go on. My reaction to it has been a kind of depressed boredom. After I got the book, I bought a biography of Morante and found it very interesting. If I figure out what the problem is between me and this book, I will return and update this review. ( )
  jhhymas | Dec 23, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elsa Moranteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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