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The Fireflies of Autumn: And Other Tales of…
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The Fireflies of Autumn: And Other Tales of San Ginese

by Moreno Giovannoni

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San Ginese is a village where God lingers in people's minds and many dream of California, Argentina or Australia. Some leave only to return feeling disheartened, wishing they had never come back, some never leave and forever wish they had. The Fireflies of Autumn takes us to the olive groves and piazzas of this little-known Tuscan village. There we meet Bucchione, who was haunted by the Angel of Sadness; Lo Zena, his neighbour, with whom he feuded for forty years; Tommaso the Killer, the Adulteress, the Dead Boy and many others. These are tales of war and migration, feasts and misfortunes - of a people and their place over the course of the twentieth century. 'I have never read a migrant tale so original, so breathtaking in scope,or so magical. I have not since stopped thinking aboutthe characters in San Ginese.' ALICE PUNG 'Astonishing in the seductiveness and uniqueness of its storytelling. I readit greedily, not wanting to leave San Ginese and return to the real world.' CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS… (more)

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When I was a girl, one of my favourite books was The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi, translated by Una Vincenzo Troubridge. I still have it, inscribed with my mother’s name and the date, 1960, which means it is one of the very few books that we brought with us to Australia. I loved it because the stories were set in the rural peasant world of Italy after WW2, utterly unlike the urban places I had lived in; because of the humour of the perennial jousts between the Catholic priest and the communist mayor; and because, as the author says on page 15, the people in these stories are true to life and the stories are so true that more than once, after I had written a story, the thing actually happened and one read it in the news.
The Fireflies of Autumn is suffused with the same kind of true-to-life nostalgia, but the author has no rose-coloured glasses. San Ginese is in Tuscany, but this is not the tourist Tuscany that we know today. San Ginese is a place so small and off the tourist trail that Trip Adviser’s 10 Best Things to Do in San Ginese are, with the exception of the church, all somewhere else – in Lucca or Capannori or even in Montecarlo. Giovannoni’s Tuscany is a world of grinding poverty and back-breaking labour, a world where the peasants must take shelter from the warring armies of Germany and America, a world where children suffer and die from preventable diseases, and a world where opportunity only comes if you leave the place where you and all your forebears were born. It’s a world where the rustic sexuality is reminiscent of Zola’s The Earth and the women are either madonnas or whores. The tale of ‘The Adulteress’ will either break your heart or fill you with rage at the double standards entrenched by a church that had no feeling for the people it was supposed to serve.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/07/20/the-fireflies-of-autumn-by-moreno-giovannoni... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jul 20, 2018 |
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