Piazza Carignano

Alain Elkann, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $0 (243p) ISBN 978-0-87113-109-6
A bestseller in Europe, this novel may be intriguing to some, distasteful to others. It is a tale of sexual and moral decadence, of a ""boundless malaise'' infecting two pairs of lovers. The narrator, Alberto Claudio, is a 29-year-old novelist who interrupts his indolent lifestyle in London to return to the family home near Turin, where his mother is dying. While there, he meets a beautiful young ballet student, Thusis, and rents a room in the piazza Carignano where they can abandon themselves to erotic pleasures. The somewhat desultory narrative takes on dramatic energy when it is revealed that Alberto Claudio's granduncle and Thusis's grandaunt had been lovers during WW II. The novelist discovers Tullio's diary, and begins to unravel the mystery of what happened to Tullio and to his mistress, Celeste. The scion of a prominent Jewish family, Tullio had been a rabid Fascist and anti-Semite, a self-deluded idolizer of Mussolini even after the racial laws had deprived him of his civil rights and his livelihood. Though he was a homosexual, he and Celeste had engaged in a delirium of eroticism that may have led to betrayal or suicide. Whether the lovers were idealists or monsters is left ambiguous, as is their eventual fate. The novel's interest lies in Elkann's skillful depiction of the sensuality and self-indulgence of his central characters, who are symbolic of the periods of history in which they live. (October 24)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1985
Release date: 01/01/1985
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