cover image The Women I Love

The Women I Love

Francesco Pacifico, trans. from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-29272-0

A wealthy lapsed poet approaching 40 dissects his relationships with women while trying to write a novel in Pacifico’s drifting send-up of the toxic literary man archetype (after Class). Marcello commutes from Rome to Milan for a job as an editor, where he carries on an affair with another editor, Eleonora. He becomes unsettled when she eclipses him at work, and slinks home to his girlfriend, Barbara, preferring to quit rather than accept a promotion. Marcello then convinces his father to buy the condo he and Barbara rent, and marries her despite fixating on a rumor that she’s cheated on him. In his newfound free time, he reminisces about his childhood, prompting a move to Milan to reconnect with his older rebellious sister, Irene, from whom he’d been estranged for many years. Marcello’s many digressions feature snippets from his novel in progress, which include confusion and rationalizing over whether Eleonora had consented to all of their sexual encounters, and line up with an indictment from one of Marcello’s friends: “You do seem to know—at least at some level—just how disgusting you are.” The protagonist’s ambivalent, messy emotions propel this amusing foray. It adds up to a darkly funny exploration of entanglements and terminal self-regard. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (Dec.)