A Music Behind the Wall: Selected Stories

Anna Maria Ortese, Author
Anna Maria Ortese, Author McPherson $20 (2p) ISBN 978-0-929701-39-4
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Ortese ( The Iguana ) has been a major force in Italian literature since her first volume appeared in 1937; her most recent book was published in Italy in 1987. The stories in this collection, the first of a projected two-volume set, are culled from this 50-year career. Martin supplies neither dates nor sources for the entries, displaying a disregard for chronology of which Ortese herself might well approve. Much of her idiosyncratic fiction deals with the vagaries of time: ``The Submerged Continent'' is characteristic of Ortese's themes and her deceptively ingenuous narratives. Here the author explores a woman's search to understand her past, unfolded as a complex, fable-like mix of memories, dreams and history. The narrator declares, ``Most human beings, if you question them, know that the past is what was, while yet believing that at present it is still to be found `somewhere.' . . . Up until two years ago I was convinced that all of the Past was gathered together in some part of life or the cosmos.'' So passionately does this collection elaborate on such seemingly banal mysteries that when a character in another story (``Winter Voyage'') says that ``life makes room now and then for encounters that do not belong to life, or to the times in which we live,'' Ortese has prepared the audience to believe her. (June)
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