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Conversations in Sicily [Paperback]

Elio Vittorini
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Mar 2003
Particularly reminiscent of Knut Hamsun's great novel Hunger, Conversations in Sicily is a strange, paradoxical work that echoes the existentialist concerns of Camus' fiction while capturing vividly the heat and sounds and smells of southern Italy. The novel begins at a time in the unnamed narrator's life when nothing seems to matter. He is filled with a deep sense of ennui and feels disconnected from all that surrounds him. That is until he embarks on a journey to Sicily, the home he has not seen in some fifteen years. Alane Mason's new translation succeeds wonderfully in bringing this evocative and brilliant novel alive. It is a superb work of fiction, one of the great novels of anti-fascism and a book that is sure to astound contemporary readers for its modernity, lyricism, originality and freshness

Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (20 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841953881
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841953885
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,642,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Superbly written ... Vittorini's unique prose laps against one in repetitious wavelets, alive to the rhythm and significance of language in a way more common to poetry than to prose. Praised in the past by writers like Ernest Hemingway and Italo Calvino, this new translation by Alane Mason restores a paint-fresh vividness to a classic novel, too-little known in the English speaking world. -- Wayne Burrows * Vittorini is one of the very best ... I care very much about his ability to bring rain with him when he comes, if the earth is dry and that is what you need. -- Ernest Hemmingway * It is very hard to give any adequate sense of [its] power, rendered in lucid, supple lines of almost Homeric simplicity whose cadences are faithfully captured in this excellent new translation Guardian * An extraordinary book ... For anyone interested in memory and place, the loss of the past and the attempt to recover it in words, this book will be rewarding ... giving the reader an experience that is vividly new, yet strangely familiar -- Kirsty Gunn --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

ELIO VITTORINI was born in Siracusa, Sicily in 1908. An acclaimed translator (Defoe, Faulkner, Lawrence, Steinbeck and Somerset Maugham) and broadcaster and activist all his life, it wasn't until 1941 that Conversations in Sicily first appeared. A highly outspoken critic of Mussolini's and his fascist government, Vittorini was arrested and jailed in 1942. He died in 1966.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately unsatisfying 30 Sep 2011
Silvestro hears from his father that he has left his mother and suggests Silvestro visits her - after an absence of some 15 years. 'Conversations' follow with those he meets on the journey and at his destination. In parts this novel is beautifully descriptive. In others it is numbingly repetitive. Is it allegorical? If so, I'm afraid this was lost on me. Far from being the 'masterpiece' claimed I found it hard going and ultimately unsatisfying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well worth reading 10 Mar 2011
I really liked this short book. It is a mixture of straightforward narrative, dream-like experiences and poetic symbolism.

The narrator is a Sicilian who left home at the age of fifteen and now, at the age of thirty, returns to pay his mother a visit. The evocation of his journey and the description of his experiences at his mother's village enable him not only to understand more about himself and his childhood, but also to express his criticism of fascism and war. I would definitely re-read this book, as I am sure it would reveal more of its meaning on a second reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary 10 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very odd but marvelous book, set deep in the poverty of the Sicilian peasantry, seemingly a conventional narrative but as it develops the world becomes stranger and more and more mythical.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A strange but intriguing little book 18 May 2013
By GregP
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this while I was in Sicily and so recognised some of the places and landscapes Vittorini describes and that may have influenced me in its favour. It is hard to categorise because it's not really a travel book as it describes a fictional journey and it is barely a novel as there is not much of a plot. It is really a series of reflections on the Sicily of half a century ago revealed mainly through the protagonist's conversations with the people he meets. To start with these conversations give an insight into the lives of ordinary Sicilians of the period but gradually they become more personal and even metaphysical culminating in a strange nocturnal meeting with a soldier. Now it seems Vittorini is more interested in exploring his own (?) life and relationships with his family.
Since reading the book a few weeks ago parts keep coming back to me, which must be a sign of a good book
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Italian magical realism 14 April 2006
By P. Inga
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Vitttorini slowly introduces us to the strange and alternate view held by the sicilian emigre and the powerful and often fanciful and revitionist hold the "family" and concepts of home hold over those that have left these both behind in the search for something better. More a travel journal than a novel the book and its author descend slowly into the emotional morass that any homecoming creates, leaving us the reader, struggling with the allegory of a place that has changed beyond understanding and yet as Lampedusa says in The Leopard where, "everytrhing has changed and everything has stayed the same"
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