Not as many people know or talk about Italian literature like French or Spanish literature. But Jonny, the guest author for today’s post, had the chance to learn more about it while studying it at university. If you’re looking for books in Italian that have been translated or books set in Italy, this post is for you. He’s put together a great list of Italian novels, all of which are written by Italian authors. He’s next, so go over to Jonny now!
There are so many great books in Italian literature, from medieval poetry to modern novels. It’s hard to pick ten of the best ones to share with you, though. They mostly come from the twentieth century, when there was a lot of emphasis on new ideas and breaking with tradition, but there are a few Renaissance works in there, too, for good measure. They range from poetry to novels to plays to journalism, so see what you like best and try it out!
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
Make sure that you read something by Italo Calvino if you like books that are weird or weird and fun to read. People often say that if a Traveler is at his best and most radical on a Winter Night. I’ve never read a book like this one. It’s all about writing and reading, and it talks to the person who’s reading it.
Italo Calvino has a new book out called If on a winter’s night a traveler. You are about to start reading it. Relax. An Italian novel called “Let the world around you fade away” is the first line. One section of each chapter talks about the reader trying to read the next chapter of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. The second section talks about a new book that each time you, as the reader, find. I think this Italian book is a little hard to understand, but it is a really clever and fun postmodern novel about writing and reading. It’s also a lot of fun.
Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello
The play Six Characters in Search of an Author is not your typical one. Performers are practicing for Pirandello’s previous play, Rules of the Game. They are interrupted by six people who say they are characters from an unfinished play that their author left behind. They want the director to listen to and help them tell their story so that they can become fully-formed people. In fact, the first time the play was shown in Rome, there were boos from the crowd. However, within a year, the play became a huge hit in Italy and all over the world.
It’s a little weird to watch a play with actors pretending to be actors and actors playing characters in the play. It’s supposed to be that way. People think about how plays are staged and even why we tell stories on stage in a different way. Director: At the end, the director can’t figure out what was real and what was an act. Take a look and you’ll feel the same way. You can even watch it!
Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano
One of the best pieces of journalism I’ve ever read is Zero Zero Zero. It’s a hard-hitting, shocking, and brave piece of writing about the global cocaine trade. Saviano doesn’t hold back when he talks about the current state of cocaine use, the brutal world of its supply chain, and the terrible consequences for those who try to stop it. He writes from his own experience with some of Italy’s most violent gangs. There are armed guards around Saviano all the time because of his first book, Gomorrah. He knows how dangerous it is to write an expose like that. They tell stories of people who have been hurt by the gang culture that rules the trade, but they also show us how close the problem is to our own lives.
If you live in Columbia or Mexico, you might see a lot of it. If you buy the British edition, there’s even a whole chapter about how Cocaine helps the wheels of London move. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a jaw-dropping and very current book. There’s even a TV show based on it on Amazon Prime. Try this one out and you’ll be amazed.
Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo
It’s a good Italian book if you like dark humor and psychology. Zeno’s Conscience is the one for you. It’s written by Zeno Cosini, the main character, but he doesn’t want to write it. A psychotherapist tells him to write it down as a form of therapy. Is a look at different parts of his life, from his marriage to his affairs to his struggle to stop smoking. It changes from sad reflections to funny memories of endless “last cigarettes” all the time.
1923: The idea that writing in a diary or journaling can be as therapeutic as psychotherapy sessions that Freud started a few decades earlier, seems to be out of step with what people thought at the time. It’s a good reminder that writing or telling the truth about our lives can be a big help to both us and other people, even if we don’t like it.
L’Allegria by Giuseppe Ungaretti
This book has one of the most famous Italian poems of the modern era:
Mattino (Morning) is only two words, but a lot of articles and essays have been written about it because it is so important. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak or read Italian. The sounds stand out when you read aloud. For Ungaretti, the way the poem is written on the page has a lot of meaning. The blank space on the page can mean as much as the words that are there.
Ungaretti tells us that sometimes pictures can better show us things in life that we can’t fully express with words, like loss, fear, and grief. At a time like this, and even more so because of the recent interest in visual poets like Rupi Kaur. If you like Milk and Honey, try some of these. There are a lot of poetry books like Milk and Honey.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
This book by Umberto Eco is a mix of history, fiction, and a murder-mystery. It’s both educational and fun. In 1327, a detective named William of Baskerville (our Medieval Sherlock Holmes) is hired to look into seven murders. A lot of different stories are told in different ways. Eco’s translation of a book by a French author called Abbe Vallet, which itself was a translation of a 14th-century monk named Adso who wrote a book about Melk. You can add another layer if you’re reading this in English!
The book is filled with a lot of historical information and a wide range of people to keep track of, so it’s hard to keep up. But if you are a fan of detective stories, this Italian book might be worth reading.
If This is a Man by Primo Levi
Primo Levi is one of the best Italian novels ever written. Is Primo Levi’s account of how he was held in Auschwitz during the Second World War?
Personal: He talks about the relationships he made at the camp in great detail, which makes his story very personal. The focus shifts away from just documenting the horrors to the people who were forced to live through them. In the end, there is a short but very moving book. Jean, a teenage messenger clerk, is a great example. Levi meets him and tries to teach him Italian by translating his favorite part of Dante’s Divine Comedy into Italian and then teaching him how to write an email. As they recite it, they learn from each other and forget about the world around them for a little while. Heartbreaking and gloomy at times, but it’s a great reminder to treat people as people, not just members of a group. It’s written well and comes at the right time.
I’m Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti
I’m Not Scared is a story about a 9-year-old boy named Michele who goes to a remote farmhouse on the edge of town as a punishment. It’s a little scary, but it’s also a lot of fun. I know it sounds like something from a horror movie. But when it’s written through the eyes of a child, his shocking discovery is more unnerving than scary. It becomes clear to the reader and the older Michele who is narrating the book that something bad has happened when a sinister stranger suddenly shows up in the town.
It takes time for Michele to go from being a child to being a person. As you get to know the people in the town, especially the other young people who have the same filtered view of what is going on, the story gets more interesting. It could be a good movie for someone who likes scary or psychological thrillers.