A unique political coming of age story, now in English for the first time
An NYRB Classics Original
Walter Ferranini has been born and bred a man of the left. His father was a worker and an anarchist; Walter himself is a Communist. In the 1930s, he left Mussolini’s Italy to fight Franco in Spain. After Franco’s victory, he left Spain for exile in the United States. With the end of the war, he returned to Italy to work as a labor organizer and to build a new revolutionary order. Now, in the late 1950s, Walter is a deputy in the Italian parliament.
He is not happy about it. Parliamentary proceedings are too boring for words: the Communist Party seems to be filling up with ward heelers, timeservers, and profiteers. For Walter, the political has always taken precedence over the personal, but now there seems to be no refuge for him anywhere. The puritanical party disapproves of his relationship with Nuccia, a tender, quizzical, deeply intelligent editor who is separated but not divorced, while Walter is worried about his health, haunted by his past, and increasingly troubled by knotty questions of both theory and practice. Walter is, always has been, and always will be a Communist, he has no doubt about that, and yet something has changed. Communism no longer explains the life he is living, the future he hoped for, or, perhaps most troubling of all, the life he has led.
Guido Morselli (1912–1973) spent his youth in Milan, where his father was an executive with a pharmaceutical company. When he was twelve his mother died from Spanish flu, an event that devastated the reserved child. After attending a Jesuit-run primary school and a classical secondary school, Morselli graduated from the Università degli Studi di Milano with a law degree in 1935. Instead of practicing law, however, he embarked on a long trip around the Continent. Though he wrote consistently from the remote town in the lake region of Lombardy where he lived alone, Morselli succeeded in publishing only two books over the course of his life: the essays Proust o del sentimento (Proust, or On Sentiment, 1943) and Realismo e fantasia (Realism and Invention, 1947). His many works of fiction, journalism, and philosophy were repeatedly rejected by publishers, and, frustrated by his perceived failures, he committed suicide in 1973. Hanging in his library was the motto Etiam si omnes, ego non (Though all do it, I do not). In fact, Morselli’s nine posthumously published novels, among them Roma senza papa (Rome Without the Pope, 1974), Divertimento 1889 (1975), and Dissipatio H.G. (The Dissolution of the Human Race, 1977), enjoyed considerable critical success. Morselli left his farm and lands to the town of Gavirate in his will, and today Parco Morselli looks south onto Lago di Varese and north toward the Alpine foothills.
Frederika Randall (1948–2020) was a writer, reporter, and translator. Among her translations are Ippolito Nievo’s Confessions of an Italian and Giacomo Sartori's I Am God. She received the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Translation and the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, and, with Sergio Luzzatto, the Cundill Prize.
Elizabeth McKenzie’s novel The Portable Veblen was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for fiction. She is the author of the novel MacGregor Tells The World and story collection Stop That Girl. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and other publications. McKenzie is senior editor of the Chicago Quarterly Review and the managing editor of Catamaran Literary Reader.
Pub Date: 2017
Size: 5.00 x 8.00 inches