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Tommaso Landolfi (1908–1979)

Author of Gogol's Wife and Other Stories

71+ Works 993 Members 19 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

Works by Tommaso Landolfi

An Autumn Story (1947) 116 copies
Le due zittelle (1946) 65 copies
Cancroregina (1971) 41 copies
Un amore del nostro tempo (1965) 31 copies
La biere du pecheur (1989) 30 copies
Rien va (1963) 29 copies
A caso (1975) 25 copies
Dialogo dei massimi sistemi (1996) 24 copies
Tre racconti (1964) 22 copies
Le labrene (1994) 21 copies
Ombre (1987) 17 copies
La spada (2001) 17 copies
In società (2006) 13 copies
Il tradimento (2014) 11 copies
Se non la realtà (2003) 11 copies
Ottavio di Saint-Vincent (2000) 9 copies
Des mois (1991) 9 copies
Racconti impossibili (2017) 9 copies
Gogol' a Roma (2002) 8 copies
Viola di morte (2011) 7 copies
Der Mondstein (1989) 6 copies
Del meno (2019) 5 copies
I ‰russi (2015) 5 copies
Invenciones (1991) 4 copies
Conte de tardor (1975) 3 copies
L'Epée (1998) 2 copies
Faust 67 2 copies
Opere : 1960-1971 (1992) 2 copies
Opere 1 copy
In societa 1 copy
Relato de otoño (1992) 1 copy
Cancer Queen 1 copy
Sidste indsats (1979) 1 copy
Racconti 1 copy

Associated Works

St Petersburg Tales (1835) — Translator, some editions — 718 copies
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (1990) — Contributor — 152 copies
The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (2019) — Contributor — 139 copies
SF12 (1968) — Contributor — 137 copies
Great Modern European Short Stories (1969) — Contributor — 113 copies
Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology (1984) — Contributor — 113 copies
Best SF: 1971 (1972) — Contributor — 86 copies
The Road to Science Fiction #6: Around The World (1998) — Contributor — 47 copies
The Little Book of Horrors (1992) — Contributor — 41 copies
La dama di picche e altri racconti (1998) — Translator, some editions — 23 copies
Story to Anti-Story (1979) — Contributor — 13 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Landolfi, Tommaso
Legal name
Landolfi, Tommaso
Date of death
Country (for map)
Pico, Frosinone, Lazio, Italy
Place of death
Ronciglione, Viterbo, Lazio, Italy
Places of residence
Pico (Frosinone), Italy
University of Florence
literary critic



Il sottotitolo "scene della vita di provincia" certo non fa presagire il viaggio in un mondo notturno, animalesco, sensuale e violento in cui il racconto, dopo un esordio folgorante, conduce. C'è il folklore popolare, l'orrore alla Poe e la trasformazione della donna in fiera (negli stessi anni '30 vedi anche, curiosamente, il Soldati de La verità sul caso Motta). E c'è il controllo totale di una lingua poetica, ironica, allusiva.
d.v. | 2 other reviews | May 16, 2023 |
Primo libro che leggo di Landolfi. È la sua ultima raccolta di racconti, datata 1975, vincitrice in questo stesso anno del premio Strega. Si tratta di storie surreali e oniriche, marcate dall'impronta morbosa del sesso, non senza ironia e ardire (ci vuole coraggio a intitolare un racconto "osteria del numero venti" - e a svolgerlo di conseguenza). La lingua sperimenta in maniera barocca e vezzosa, anche compiacendosene. Mi riprometto di leggere altro di Landolfi.
d.v. | May 16, 2023 |

Tales of obsession and the grotesque combined with the Gothic, anyone? If you enjoy such stories as those penned by Edgar Allen Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Thomas Legotti, and Jorge Luis Borges, you are in for a real treat with this Tommaso Landolfi love story, perhaps the most bizarre love story I’ve ever encountered, a much overlooked classic published as part of the prestigious Eridanos Library, the only novel by the author to be translated into English.

Landolfi has been referred to as “that Italian weirdo” which contains a modicum of truth since much of the author’s fiction is as weird as weird can be. For example, in his short story The Labrenas, an aristocratic first person narrator relates how he has always been terrified at the prospect of an invasion by small reptilian creatures, labrenas, overrunning his house. One pitch-black night, while settling down for sleep, he imagines the labrenas approaching; he falls into such a physical paralysis his family takes him for dead and arranges his funeral. Once in the casket downstairs in the parlor (all through this ordeal, he has maintained full awareness), he is driven mad – a labrena has found a way to sneak into his casket so it can scrutinize him face-to-face with its round, bulging, glittering eyes.

Gogol’s Wife tells the tale of how the wife of Nikolai Gogol is not a woman at all, or, for that matter, a human being; rather Nikolai Gogol’s wife is a life-size inflatable flesh-colored rubber doll, nude in all seasons. Things goes well for the couple, at least for a time, before Nikolai Vasilyevich becomes progressively more disgusted and agitated with his wife who refuses to conduct herself in a gentile manner, even when entertaining house guests.

With the tale Uxoricide another aristocrat tells us how easy it is to murder people – case in point, he explains in exquisite detail how he murdered his wife by gagging her and binding her to a chair before engaging in a perfectly rational conversation outlining her faults and shortcomings, a conversation where all she could offer, by way of modest objection, was a constant, obnoxious “Mmmmmm” before succumbing to a massive heart attack.

And lastly, in Cancerqueen yet again another aristocrat recaps his boredom on earth leading him to join a half-mad space explorer blasting off in a rocket ship. Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel of French decadence Against Nature meets Star Trek – wildly weird in the extreme.

Turning now to An Autumn Story, in a mountainous forest in Italy, fleeing both rebel and foreign troops, the narrator, a soldier, seeks refuge in a centuries-old isolated mansion inhabited by an aging reclusive aristocrat and his two huge wolfhounds. But the old man’s crumbling home contains much more, the entire atmosphere of this dark labyrinthine mansion is bathed in the gloomy Gothic. And there’s something even more foreboding – an unseen mysterious presence. It’s as if Tommaso Landolfi took his usual fistful of weirdness from his tales and spread it throughout this novel, creating what could be seen as a fresh combination: the weird Gothic.

Although the narrator first approaches the hidden mansion as a desperate, fatigued, half-starved soldier, we come to learn he also possesses the heart of both an aristocrat and a romantic poet. In his initial exploration of the rooms from the outside, peering through the large, iron-grilled windows at two wolfhounds with ferocious faces, we read: “I thought I noticed something desperate deep in the eyes of the hounds, and my agitated nerves made me detect that same desperation in their howling, almost as if they were miserable creatures or souls in torment, bound to that place by some cruel spell.”

Insanity, madness, obsession, sorcery, spirit possession play their part in this Landolfi tale but more than anything, all one-hundred-fifty pages are coated with a haunting atmosphere, a most peculiar brooding tinged with menace. At one point, the narrator contemplates a portrait of a woman on the wall in a downstairs dinning room. After describing her clothing and jewelry, her haughty bearing and pale skin and delicate features, he observes: “However, the most vivid and disturbing element was her huge dark eyes. Their deep gaze seemed to have the same character as the old man’s gaze and, hence, that of the dogs: It was animated by the same gloom, indeed a more imperious one, and, simultaneously, by the same remote and pitiable bewilderment, if not desperation.”

For Italo Calvino the first rule of the game in reading Tommaso Landolfi is to expect a surprise that will rarely be pleasant or soothing. Curiously, from what I have written above, you might not think An Autumn Story could be a love story. But it is a love story. How the love story unfolds is the surprise.

Tommaso Landolfi (1908-1979) – Italian author, translator and aristocrat par excellence. Susan Sontag considered Landolfi’s fiction a cross between Jorge Luis Borges and Isak Dinesen.
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Glenn_Russell | 4 other reviews | Nov 13, 2018 |

Born into a family of nobility, Tommaso Landolfi was an erudite man of letters - novelist, teller of tales, translator of Russian and French literature as well as a literary critic at large. He was also a reclusive, eccentric, peculiar gent addicted to gambling at the casinos.

This collection contains a most informative introductory essay written by Italo Calvino, a personal friend of Landolfi. Calvino's essay provides ample historical, cultural and literary context for Landolfi's writing.

The twenty-four stories in this collection may be read on many levels of meaning and analysis, or simply read for sheer enjoyment, enjoyment because these stories, which can be as fantastic, obsessive or horrific as the tales of Poe or Borges, are accessible and lots of fun. Personally, I'm always up for highly literary fiction that's also fun.. Thank you, Kathrine Jason, for your clear, easy-to-read English translation.

To give a taste of what is to be found in this collection, I offer the following comments on five of my favorite:

Told with tongue-in-cheek humor, this tale begins with a strong sense of foreboding as two chicken farmers, Ted and Joe, talk about how their new hormone-rich chicken feed is causing some serious changes in their chickens.

Joe begins by reporting how a chicken even looked at him as if the chicken was a human and not a chicken. The story moves along apace and Ted and Joe find out just how huge and how human-like their chickens turn out to be having eaten all those high-power hormones.

A tale of horror, where a notary and bachelor who is "hopelessly timid with women" is visited by a incorporeal creature who gives him kisses.

The story becomes progressively more fantastic, reaching a crescendo as we read, "On the last night, a gigantic, overturned chasm opened before his eyes - his body and soul - a grayish whirlpool like a matrix or a conch; it loomed, and from the apex of its spiral, it beckoned to him."

What is really beckoning to the notary? Is it his own sexuality? His own fear of women? His fear of death? --- Or, perhaps all of these. This story reminds me of a number of scenes from Fillini's film - City of Women.

A short-short story about two werewolves and their relationship to the moon told in first-person by one of the werewolves, a story that is something of a spoof on a traditional werewolf tale. The werewolf narrator tells us how his friend returns to their house one night carrying a bright round object, an object which turns out to be the moon. The werewolves refer to the moon as "she," a disgusting and an evil thing. They go ahead and stick the moon under the hood of their chimney. The moon immediately attempts to pass up through the flue. "Perhaps she had to compress and deform her flabby little body to pass through; foul droplets of liquid hissing into the fire." But this is the moon, after all, and the universe ultimately gets its own way. At every step throughout the story we are given the werewolf-narrator's running philosophy about fate and freedom. What a treat!

"Murdering people is easy. I have never understood all the fuss murderers make, or why they still haven't brought off or perpetrated the perfect crime; it must be simply that they haven't studied their victims closely enough." So Landolfi begins this story with tongue even deeper in his ironic cheek. The author's narrator goes on to tell us how he bound and gagged his wife before proceeding to verbally attack her in ways that would surely bring on her heart attack. Told with the panache of an aristocrat, every line of this story is laugh-aloud funny.

One morning, after brushing his teeth and spitting out the mixture of toothpaste and saliva, the narrator relates what he sees, "I don't know how to explain this: not only were they words, but they were alive and darted this way and that in the sink, which, luckily, was empty."

He then has a running dialogue with a half dozen squiggly words before trying to gather them up. We read, "They didn't want to cooperate and put up a struggle, trying to befuddle me, but I forced them to explain themselves point by point. But they didn't want to be caught, to say the least, and fled every which way, so I caught and squeezed them in my cupped palm. Now it is one thing to live as a member of the decaying aristocracy, it is quite another to have the toothpaste and saliva you spit out transform into talking, unruly words right there in your very own sink, providing you with first-hand experience of decaying reality."

Ever since I read this outrageous story I have always wondered how I would react if my toothpaste transformed into a string of unruly words right there in my sink.

Tomasso Lendolfi, 1908-1979
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Glenn_Russell | 2 other reviews | Nov 13, 2018 |



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