A Literary Tour of Italy

Tim Parks. Alma, $17 (288p) ISBN 978-1-84688-391-0
The title of this essay collection from Parks, a critic (Italian Ways) and novelist (Painting Death), is a bit of a misnomer: its selections cover artistic movements such as the neo-impressionist style divisionism, and political figures such as Garibaldi and Mussolini, as well as literature. The essays begin with ruminations on Dante’s Inferno and continue through such familiar names as Boccaccio and Machiavelli before embarking on a more intensive tour of the 20th century. Parks is an incisive essayist with a clear eye for detail, a sense for pacing, and an ability to arrive swiftly at the heart of a subject. In one of the best essays, “Fascist Work,” discussing the artist Mario Sironi, Parks convincingly explains what makes a work of art fascist. He understands Machiavelli’s “scandal” as being his argument that leadership “cannot be governed by the ethical codes that most of us seek to observe.” Every essay illuminates its subject—fascism, Italian literature, translation (one of Parks’s specialties)—but readers will wish for more dates: the publication dates of classic titles such as Alberto Moravia’s The Conformist and Giorgio Bassani’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis are more than incidental, since Parks’s perspective is so history-driven. Overall, these insightful essays both delight and inform and should be especially valuable to those looking for an intelligent entrée into Italian literature. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/12/2016
Release date: 11/29/2016
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-84688-352-1
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