LUISA AND THE SILENCE

Claudio Piersanti, Author, George Hochfield, Translator , trans. from the Italian by George Hochfield. Northwestern Univ. $17.95 (165p) ISBN 978-0-8101-6080-4 ISBN 0-8101-6088-9

There's nothing especially cheery about the portrait of the end of a life, but Piersanti brings grace to his depiction of a woman's last days in this quiet, perceptive novel, neatly translated by Hochfield. At 60, Luisa is an accountant for a toy company, surrounded by a familiar cast of co-workers and managers, some noble, some beaten-down, all endowed with the frailty and complexity of the human species. Her day is made up of typical working-class moments: coffee and cigarette breaks; pleasant and not-so-pleasant exchanges; tiny, almost imperceptible shifts in the balance of power. Her extended family (Luisa is single) is also ordinary—well-meaning and flawed in unexceptional ways. And like her family and co-workers, Luisa is wholly human, her traits recognizable, though she is perhaps lonelier than some. Situating these unremarkable souls against a backdrop of everyday Italian politics and news items, Piersanti deftly and sympathetically conveys the essence of a life. He allows Luisa the dignity to exist as a true character, rather than as a social statement, a tool of political reform or a portrait of only one aspect of a complicated human experience, inviting us, as readers, to "come and take our visit," to spend a little time with Luisa in her apartment as she prepares a quiet supper or tends to her canary. Tenderly and delicately told, the tale of Luisa's descent into her final illness and isolation elegantly insinuates itself into the reader's consciousness. (Feb.)

Forecast:This is the first novel by Piersanti, a popular Italian novelist and screenwriter, to be published in English. Its audience may be small, but one or two strong reviews in major venues should help it attract the attention of discerning American readers.

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 165 pages - 978-0-8101-6088-0
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