cover image Sentimental Economy

Sentimental Economy

Edoardo Nesi, trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar. Other, $22.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-63542-214-6

Italian novelist Nesi (Story of My People) examines in this bittersweet book-length essay the collapse of the 20th-century dream of economic prosperity from inside the early Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns made countries and citizens reconsider what’s economically “necessary,” Nesi writes, and rather than weighing such economic questions as “just numbers, empty percentages,” he sees them as “paintings that depict both the country and us.” He finds both fable and warning in the example of fashion. An industry that once produced reliable textiles and made Italy glamorous (and which his family and the author has worked in) has given way to “fast-fashion glad rags” produced in sweatshops as small European factories—like his own, once his father’s—shut down: “I’m the son and heir to a ruinous collapse,” he writes. As he critiques the notion of relentless progress, Nesi identifies his nostalgia as being really for “that savage spirit of innovation” in a time when “an immense future of boundless potential” seemed possible, as in The Jetsons and the 1939 World’s Fair. Nesi’s perfectly weighted, winding sentences are moving, and his unique perspective—informed by conversations with Italian luminaries as well as trips to Florence or the beach—add beauty to the melancholic tone. This elegy for a vanished future captivates. (Aug.)