Well, I can see what might be lurking in the original to make this a minor classic, but I found myself repeatedly blown off course with irritation at the awful McKendrick translation. All forgein language novels need a fluid translation, but this is a book in many ways about an enchanted parallel universe, so it is particularly important than one should be able to enter it and live it with conviction. I found this quite impossible, however, because the translator's English prose is clumsy, stilted, wooden, unnatural, obstacle-strewn. It reads like a very literal, A-level standard translation, with no attempt at naturalism in English. Here is an example, chosen at random (it's easy to do so; open any page), describing an argument about politics:
"I submitted to him and smiled, occasionally rebelling, but more often not, overcome despite myself by his candour and sincerity, a bit crude and relentless without doubt - I'd tell myself - but in the end truly compassionate because essentially egalitarian and fraternal." Dreadful, isn't it ? It's like wading through treacle, only without the consistency.
Maybe this style is entirely deliberate. Maybe it is supposed to be scrupulously true to the original. Whatever the cause (and I would be genuinely interested to know), the effect for me was sadly to make this unusual book almost unreadable; all fluidity is lost. Even reading it on holiday not far from Ferrara (where it's set), with all the time in the world on my hands, it was with real reluctance that I would return to it. I knew very well that the way would be strewn with McKendrick's linguistic boulders, his looming thickets of awkward prose.
I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that this renowned Italian novelist has been well served by this particular translator.
I suggest that readers try another one.