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I Hadn't Understood (2007)

by Diego De Silva

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2059104,102 (3.59)5
"Malinconico is a Neapolitan lawyer without a single case. He goes through the motions every day, leaving for the office punctually, shuffling papers when he gets to the studio he shares with a group of un-gainfully employed professionals like him. His personal life is a shambles: his wife has left him, his two teenage children are rife with adolescent angst and busy screwing their lives up royally. And his professional life, as noted, is nonexistent. But one day a miracle occurs. Indeed, two! The first is that he is assigned a case. And not any old case! He has been named the defense attorney for a member of the Neapolitan underground, Mimmo the Burzone. The second miracle bears the name Alessandra Persiana--the most beautiful woman to ever grace the Neapolitan courthouses--who, it appears, has fallen in love with Malinconico. However, the real miracle for readers in this rollicking novel is the hilarious and eccentric voice of Vincenzio Malinconico. The novel orbits around the bizarre and irresistible mind of Malinconico, a mind that pauses to contemplate every aspect of the life he sees before him, the life he has lived, his memories and his future; a voice that seduces, entertains, and moves the reader from the first page to the last."--from publisher's description.… (more)
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» See also 5 mentions

English (5)  Italian (4)  All languages (9)
Showing 5 of 5
....semplicemente delizioso. ( )
  Orsobalooo | Jan 4, 2015 |
When I started this book, I hated it. The main character, Vincenzio, was not someone I liked... but then the humor of it grew on me. By halfway through, I was actually enjoying it. It's quirky, but my book group had a great discussion about it. And reread several of the laugh-out-loud passages. The tag line, something about getting a second change and the Italian mob going to help, is a bit misleading. The Italian mob inadvertently helps out... but it's not a "mob book". Very funny. And I was definitely cheering for and enjoyed Vencenzio. 3 1/2 stars over all. ( )
  amillion | Dec 31, 2014 |
La memoria corre ai libri di Piccolo, alla stessa ironia leggera e agli affondi esistenziali messi lì, come per distrazione. Il testo è piacevole, simpatico; avvocato diverso da quelli di Carofiglio, questo di DeS. risulta quasi buffo, a volte. Apprezzatissimi i momenti in cui non si nasconde dietro alle ipocrisie del mestiere, ma usa un coraggio assente per resistere alla cafonaggine dominante in una Napoli che sta di sottofondo, e che non spaventa.Finalmente svelata, poi, la vera vita dell'avvocato medio in Italia: quando di nuovo mi imbatterò negli sguardi supponenti in prossimità dei Tribunali, che fanno un tutt'uno con le abbronzature posticce e i completi dell'Upim, scarpe volgari e cravatte sguaiate, non potrò fare a meno di ripensare ai lavori degli avvocati descritti in questo libro... :-) ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar

"The fact is that I’m an inconsistent narrator…I’m too interested in incidental considerations that can take you off track. When I tell a story, it’s like watching someone rummage through the drawer where they keep their receipts and records.

All this is just another way of saying my thoughts don’t seem to grip the road, they tend to skid and drift."

So explains Vincenzo Malinconico, the Italian lawyer who becomes one of the most lovable protagonists I’ve ever encountered in this story by Diego De Silva. On the surface, it is the story of a lawyer strong-armed into defending a low-level criminal backed by a dubious source, while at the same time dealing with the aftermath of a painful marital split. But, while the plot is fast and furious, the real draw is the character of Vincenzo. Hearing a character’s inner monologue can really be a risk, as it can veer into boring pretty quickly. But in this case, you really just want to hear him talk.

And talk he does! At times using lists and bullet points, his mind races around analyzing everything. He does a two-page riff on Camorra interior décor, to the point I had to grab Kleenex from laughing so hard. Another phenomena that Vincenzo investigates with wit and insight is the way some people talk in public, raising their voices so their imagined audience can see how cynical and world-weary they are. He manages to capture the insecurity that's revealed in the gestures and chatter of those desperately hoping that someone finds them fascinating. Edgy and fast-paced, the scenes that take place in the courthouse have some of the best dialogue I've read.

The thing that is so unique is that while he pokes fun at others constantly (but most of all himself), he's never really mean or nasty. That would get tedious after awhile. Instead of arrogance, it's with acceptance that he realizes just about everyone he knows is a jerk in some way or another, including himself, so he doesn't seem to take any of it too seriously.

At another point he tries to understand the difference between perception and actuality:

“The thing is that reality mumbles. It expresses itself in incomplete sentences. And the translations that circulate are terrible, done by incompetents. Riddled with misreading, typos, entire lines missing. I make imperfect translations in an effort to get by until, one fine morning, I meet reality in the street –nonchalant, understated, never vulgar – and I stand there, rooted to the spot, staring as she passes me by and vanishes…”

At one point, he discovers he’s being followed. Vincenzo has to look at his options.

“In these cases, in fact, the first thing you do when you’re out walking is to slow down, take a deep breath and square your shoulders, as if somehow you feel incredibly interesting all of a sudden.

Obviously in your case this is all just a farce, because if you really did think that a criminal was following you in order to rob you or settle some account that you know nothing about, at the very least you’d start running like a sewer rat or you’d scream for help in the general direction of the first policeman, traffic cop, or mailman (anything wearing a uniform, in other words) you happen to see; I very much doubt you’d waste time acting like the poor man’s James Bond.”

Vincenzo obsesses about his luxury furniture, fights with his wife’s new man at an airport Burger King, and tries to learn all the case law he’s forgotten while still managing to catch the eye of the courthouse’s loveliest lawyer. Even that mystifies him, as he tries to figure out what she seems in him. The lyrics to Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again (Naturally) get a complete dissection that will alter all previous associations to the song, as "You nod along to the tempo and then shudder in horror at the end of each verse." Small and annoying dogs get a few pages in too, and while almost universally despised, he manages to freshly capture what it is that makes us hate them so much.

Vincenzo is a fresh character --reflective and thoughtful without sinking into self-absorption. A fun read. ( )
  BlackSheepDances | Feb 29, 2012 |
Showing 5 of 5
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"Malinconico is a Neapolitan lawyer without a single case. He goes through the motions every day, leaving for the office punctually, shuffling papers when he gets to the studio he shares with a group of un-gainfully employed professionals like him. His personal life is a shambles: his wife has left him, his two teenage children are rife with adolescent angst and busy screwing their lives up royally. And his professional life, as noted, is nonexistent. But one day a miracle occurs. Indeed, two! The first is that he is assigned a case. And not any old case! He has been named the defense attorney for a member of the Neapolitan underground, Mimmo the Burzone. The second miracle bears the name Alessandra Persiana--the most beautiful woman to ever grace the Neapolitan courthouses--who, it appears, has fallen in love with Malinconico. However, the real miracle for readers in this rollicking novel is the hilarious and eccentric voice of Vincenzio Malinconico. The novel orbits around the bizarre and irresistible mind of Malinconico, a mind that pauses to contemplate every aspect of the life he sees before him, the life he has lived, his memories and his future; a voice that seduces, entertains, and moves the reader from the first page to the last."--from publisher's description.

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