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The Dark Heart of Italy Paperback – 15 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 2Rev Ed edition (15 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057123593X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571235933
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 351,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tobias Jones is an author, journalist, broadcaster and woodsman. An authority on all aspects of contemporary Italy, he has published both travel books and novels set in the country. He's written and presented documentaries for the BBC and, in Italy, for RAI. He's been a columnist for the Observer and Internazionale and is currently the warden of Windsor Hill Wood, a woodland shelter for people going through a period of crisis in their lives. He writes extensively about communal living and new monasticism, and is known to be passionate about Fabrizio De Andre, Ross MacDonald, carpentry, bee-keeping and pig-rearing. His ambition is to produce his own woodland ham to rival Parma ham.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Tobias Jones' remarkable book essential reading for Italy enthusiasts: The Dark Heart of Italy (subtitled Travels Through Time and Space across Italy) is unlike any book on the country you may have read before. It is not a guide to Italy's art, or her geographical splendours. Nor is it a guide to her amazing cuisine. And it is not an examination of the Italian character. It does, however, contain elements of all of these and much more. When the author emigrated to Italy in 1999, he expected the customary ravishing of the senses that Italy usually provides. But, looking beneath the surface, Jones was astonished to encounter surprising undercurrents, among them national paranoia and the crippling fear inspired by terrorists (the Italian parliament, it seems, has a 'Slaughter Commission').

This is, of course, the country of Silvio Berlusconi, the tycoon whose controversial election via his stranglehold on the media was (to British eyes at least) something that should not be countenanced in a non-totalitarian country. While always taking on board the glories of Italy, Jones' picture of the country is both fascinating and disturbing: this is a land torn apart by civil wars and endemic corruption, the still influential Cosa Nostra and unbending Catholicism exert considerable sway.

Italy remains utterly unlike any of its European neighbours. Jones sees links between the powerful creativity of the Italian soul and the 'dark heart' that he refers to in his title. What is most remarkable about the book is the fact that no one who loves Italy will be at all disenchanted to encounter the truths that Jones presents to us. If anything, the complex and contradictory nation that emerges will hold an even greater fascination for both the serious student and the casual visitor. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"'In his superb appraisal of appraisal Italy, Tobias Jones investigates the country's kickback and bribery culture, as well as its football, film and food fads' Evening Standard"

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First Sentence
I arrived in Parma knowing only a few Italian words culled from classical music and from menus (adagio, allegro, prosciutto, and so on), and I found myself in the infantile position of trying to understand my surroundings at the same time as I learnt how to describe them. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Eugenio Mastroviti on 4 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book must be revealing to the British, but it is an absolute eye-opener for an Italian living in the United Kingdom, like me. It gives a description of Italy free of the prejudices we Italians have on ourselves, it does not take anything for granted, and manages to make fun of some of our most ingrained habits. It made me laugh out loud for most of the first chapter, then it made me think, then it got me depressed and angry. The attitudes he describes, towards bureaucracy, towards political power, towards dishonesty, are exactly what compelled me to leave the country (finally) 5 years ago. A must-read for those who want to understand modern Italy, and for expatriate Italians as well - as a vaccine against excessive homesickness
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ALEX GARNET on 21 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My mother is Italian and I was fortunate enough to spend most of my school holidays ( six weeks annually) in Pesaro. In the late 1950's flying was a luxury but my dad worked for B.E.A. I loved the italians their food and way of life. But as you grow up you start to question and it was obvious there was and is a very dark side. This is an invaluable book and I recommend it highly.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Sept. 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a great to book to read for those resident in Italy over the last thirty years - I relived it all. The bomb in Piazza Fontana when I could hear the roar of the sirens from my office, the young recruits with their rifles outside the Leonardo De Vinci Lyceum, Corso XXII Marzo where Zibecchi was crushed to death by an armoured police van etc., etc., events which happened close to my home. All the bewilderment of the new arrival at the Italian way of doing things, of their art to "arrangiarsi", the scandalous verdicts, the never ending trials and the hopes that some day things will change and now the Berlusconi catastrophe are sensations which Jones experienced 30 years on...Nothing has changed and his conclusion is identical. The last chapter moved me to tears because despite everything I couldn't choose a better place to live in: Italy and the Italians have cast their spell...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By FuturePsychologist on 22 May 2013
Format: Paperback
This is the most illuminating book on contemporary Italy that I have read. What shines through is Jones's amazement that such a potentially wonderful place should have got bogged down in a mire from which it seems unable to pull itself. The book is nearly ten years old - time for a new edition, perhaps after February's elections, when the electors may finally bury the Berlusconi - Bossi hybrid monster under a landslide of votes for change. Or not.
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76 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Antonella on 11 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
I am an Italian and I live in London with my English husband.
When people find out I am Italian they tell me of how wonderful my country is and how strange I want to live in gray England. I always say Italy is beautiful, but I wouldn't live there as it's full of Italians. It is hard to quickly explain to people why I think this, so it's very helpful for me to read and recommend books like Tobias Jones' and Tim Parks'. These authors have a first hand experience of Italy and offer detachment and perspective in their reports and analysis.
All Italians will tell you Italy is a mess (un casino). They will not tell you why - as they'd have to explain 2000 years of history first - so they will divert the conversation to all the "unquestionably" beautiful things of the country: food, art, scenery, sun etc... Most Italian have no encompassing grasp of the last 30 years' history. Tobias Jones helpfully summarizes all the connections between terrorism, politics, Communists, Fascists, Berlusconi - the protagonists of Italy after WW II, and family, church and language - the pillars of Italian culture.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 July 2004
Format: Paperback
When I first came to live in Italy, five years ago, I was trapped at a dinner party by a man who told me that all Italian postmen were thieves. "Never order anything through the post, because it will automatically be stolen", he warned me. The reason, he explained in a hoarse whisper, was that all Italian postmen were Communists, and that they stole things from the mail as a mute expression of class warfare. I was horrified, but went on ordering books and CDs through the post. Five years and over a hundred mail-order deliveries later, I can happily say that I have never once experienced any serious problem with the Italian postal system. Everything that I have ordered has been delivered, often with amazing speed. The man I met at the party belonged to a particular type of Italian - male, deeply pessimistic, and convinced that modern Italy is a forum for the working out of intricate and baleful conspiracies. Italians such as this have been around since the Renaissance and the rise of the Italian city states. One soon learns to spot them and to avoid them - unless, that is, one actually likes being regaled by Ancient Mariner figures with a sinister tale to tell.
Mr Jones' problem is that he has never really escaped from the clutches of the Italian Ancient Mariners. He has an unfortunate weakness for listening to their tales and, worst of all, he tends to give the tales a credence that they don't always deserve. And my goodness how tedious his versions of some of the stories can be.
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