cover image Persecution: The Friendly Fire of Memories

Persecution: The Friendly Fire of Memories

Alessandro Piperno, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $16 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-60945-074-8

Piperno's second novel (after The Worst Intentions), and the first in a diptych, depicts one man's descent into self-preoccupation after a criminal allegation. Leo Pontecorvo, famous pediatric oncologist, is accused of having an affair with his pre-teen son's girlfriend. Without denying or admitting guilt, Leo flees to his basement office to avoid the reactions of his wife and sons, and remains there until he emerges to hire a lawyer. When he is finally arrested, he is imprisoned and briefly tried, after which he resumes his self-imposed cellar exile. External events largely serve as pretext for narrating Leo's memories and meditations on his predicament in an associative style%E2%80%94in an effort to make Leo's stream of consciousness appear spontaneous, Piperno is by haphazard turns verbose, repetitive, digressive, unpolished, and obscene. And those musings of Leo%E2%80%99s that are meant to be insightful fall far short of their mark%E2%80%94his thoughts on lust are contradictory, and his recollection of Leibniz is perfunctory at best. Piperno's unnamed narrator purportedly wishes for Leo to be sympathetic, but by the end, it is difficult to feel for the obtuse coward. (Aug.)