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Elio Vittorini (1908–1966)

Author of Conversations in Sicily

61+ Works 1,665 Members 22 Reviews 4 Favorited

About the Author

Works by Elio Vittorini

Conversations in Sicily (1941) 667 copies
Men and Not Men (1945) 372 copies
The Red Carnation (1948) 202 copies
Women of Messina (1965) 53 copies
Sardegna come un'infanzia (1974) 46 copies
The Dark and the Light (1956) 32 copies
Le città del mondo (1972) 32 copies
Diario in pubblico (1957) 30 copies
Piccola borghesia (1989) 26 copies
Americana (1942) 25 copies
Novelle del novecento: an anthology (1966) — Translator — 10 copies
Nome e lagrime (1972) 8 copies
Le opere narrative vol. 2 (1982) 4 copies
Il Politecnico 3 copies
Americana [vol. 1 of 2] (1991) 2 copies
Vittorini, Elio 2 copies
Americana [vol. 2 of 2] (1991) 2 copies
Tears and Wine 2 copies
Viaggio in Sardegna (1999) 1 copy
Uomini e no 1 copy

Associated Works

The Power and the Glory (1940) — Translator, some editions — 7,695 copies
Tortilla Flat (1935) — Translator, some editions — 5,621 copies
The Pastures of Heaven (1932) — Translator, some editions — 1,271 copies
The Plumed Serpent (1926) — Translator, some editions — 1,021 copies
The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (2019) — Contributor — 134 copies
Great Italian Short Stories (1959) — Contributor — 42 copies
Che ve ne sembra dell'America? (1936) — Translator — 30 copies
Six Modern Italian Novellas (1964) — Contributor — 25 copies
Relatos italianos del Siglo XX (1974) — Contributor — 13 copies
Modern Italian Short Stories (1954) — Contributor — 6 copies
Racconti del terrore — Translator, some editions — 3 copies


Common Knowledge



A strange quasi-memoir set in 1930s Italy, during its Fascist years. It ostensibly tells the tale of a son going back to briefly visit his mother in Sicily, after being away for 15 years. What prompts this is his receiving a letter from his father, informing him that he has left her and gone away with another woman.

Melancholy, symbolist, poetic, frank, philosophical, world-weary, rejoicing – it is all of these things alternately then simultaneously, throughout. The characters our protagonist meets are the most human of caricatures, exaggerated perhaps in their individuality in the re-telling, but fundamentally solid flesh and minds and hearts still beneath that. There is little explicit mention of politics, but it lies as an undercurrent – a deep running concern over the suffering of humanity, its simple pleasures, personal quirks, and traditional ways of life.

It is a paean to everything humanity was and is, a cathartic setting down and unburdening (is that possible) of the conflicting feelings of a soul at once tormented and enchanted by the world.
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P_S_Patrick | 8 other reviews | Jul 22, 2021 |
When you are reading this at a far-remove from 1930's Italy it is probably easy to just take it as a quirky travelogue rather than as "one of the great novels of Italian anti-fascism" as it is described in the book's English translation promo.

As a first-time reader I was constantly second-guessing the various statements and incidents for their possible meanings, some of which were more blatant than others e.g. [Not so obvious] when the narrator says that he can only read dictionaries now is that meant to imply that all other books have been censored by the regime?; why does the narrator pretend to be from New York City when he is on the ferryboat?; when the little Sicilian on the ferry and at the wharf says that Sicilian oranges are treated on the international markets as if they are poisoned is the fruit meant as a symbol of the regime?; [More obvious] the whiskered and non-whiskered policemen standing in the train corridor, having overheard the little Sicilian talk about oranges, discuss whether he should have been arrested; when the big Lombard enters the train compartment he shuts the door while complaining of the "stink" from the corridor (where the policemen are); etc.

The fascist censors had difficulty as well, as they let it pass in its original serialized magazine printings from 1936-1938 and allowed its original book publication in 1941, until finally arresting and imprisoning the author in 1942.

Hemingway's attraction to its modernist stylings esp. the Gertrude Stein-like repetition effects, is more obvious. His foreword has been used in the English translation publications since 1949 including in this 2000 translation by Alane Salierno Mason.

- the unspecified war that is often referred to is presumably the 2nd Italo-Ethiopian War of 1934-36 based on the book having been written in 1936-38: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Italo-Ethiopian_War
- the book was filmed in 1999 as "Sicilia!", some non-subtitled excerpts are available on YouTube such as the "La Puzza" (The Stink) train scene at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnuVIWOrGDg
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1 vote
alanteder | 8 other reviews | Jan 23, 2017 |
I'm not going to pretend that I get all the allusions and layers of this allegorical post-war Italian novel, but I definitely enjoyed it and understood at least some of the metaphors woven into the story. This has the feeling to me of post-war Italian movies, lit by stark sunlight and framed with half-fallen walls and women pushing wheelbarrows. The author shows an obvious love for his country and his Communist ideals here, as well as some harsh criticism of the fallen Facist government and encroaching capitalism. While the themes and the metaphors are pretty dated and temporal, there is also an affection and interest in humanity and the ways we reach out to and interact with each other that gives this novel a freshness and universality that it might not otherwise have. It's also often very funny! A somewhat challenging read, but absolutely worth it.

[full review here: http://spacebeer.blogspot.com/2015/03/women-of-messina-by-elio-vittorni-1949.htm... ]
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kristykay22 | Mar 1, 2015 |
Thoroughly enjoyable. Every ten pages or so resolve themselves in little narrative paradoxes that reminded me of Zen koans. It's not hard to see why Hemingway was attracted to it. Moreover, it filled out the Sicilian landscape for me that I was already used to from Sciascia, Pirandello and Verga.
1 vote
William345 | 8 other reviews | Jun 11, 2014 |



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