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La Bella Figura: An Insider's Guide to the Italian Mind Paperback – 1 Aug 2007


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La Bella Figura: An Insider's Guide to the Italian Mind + La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language + The Dark Heart of Italy
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (1 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034093607X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340936078
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.3 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,561,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"* 'A keen observer of human nature, he watches his compatriots with amused insight... Laugh-out-loud funny.' - International Herald and Tribune * 'A luscious disquisition on the Italian national character' - The Washington Post"

Book Description

WATCHING THE ENGLISH for the Italians... an affectionate, witty guide to Italians at their most enchanting and infuriating --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

2.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Pex on 22 Aug. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a fun read during my travels to Tuscany but ultimately gave up on it so that I could get on and enjoy my holiday in beautiful surroundings that bore little resemblance to those described by the author. I found the writing smug and cynical and, in some places, so repetitive that I thought there had been copy and paste errors. As with other authors who stereotype entire regions (Bill Bryson, Peter Mayle), Severgnini's claims that "all people in Milan do this" and "all buildings in Tuscany are like this" didn't square with the experiences I was having on my travels. This is the only review I've written for a book I haven't finished, so perhaps it is not entirely a fair one; however, the sun is shining in Italy and, despite the assertion that no one drinks a cappuccino in the afternoon, I think I'll go and do just that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Athan on 28 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
I did not leave my summer reading to chance. I actually went to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore to pick out this little book, much like I’d done a few years ago when I struck gold with George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia.” The catchy cover, featuring a stylish Latin Lover lying on the saddle of his Vespa grabbed me. I remembered Bill Emmott referring to Severgnini’s work in his “Good Italy, Bad Italy” so I figured I had a winner in my hands.

Wrong!

Turns out that books about countries like Greece, Spain and Italy are best left to English writers who can clearly see everything that’s wrong, but can’t help falling in love with everything that’s right. What we have here is pretty much the converse. An Italian explains to us that everything is actually fine if we look at it from his angle. He takes you through the logic of running a red light, the fine art of drinking without getting drunk and the right way to go about sex tourism, which of course is the Italian way.

Puh-lease!

Italian school is apparently quite awesome too. There’s no such thing as private school apparently, which means the smart poor kids can bag the daughter of the industrialist all while becoming true Italians in this cauldron of identity formation. The fact that it’s been half a century since the Nobel was awarded to a scientific discovery that took place in Italy is a small price to pay for this privilege, no doubt. Severgnini addresses the minor issue of Italy’s current economic and social malaise by explaining that Italy’s been around for a couple thousand years and has always found a way around its problems, so if you want to find out how they get out of the current bind all you have to do is wait for it and cheer them on when they do.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By coyno on 9 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Beppe Severgnini is an author as comfortable in English as he is in his native Italian. This is a highly readable mini-travelogue , highlighting all of the places in Italy that a Briton would consider as a holiday destination and embellishing it with colourful stories of the locals, while selecting the best of civic traditions as well as those of the wider sense of "Italianess". The observations seek to bring out the best of the Italians and those that could be deemed to be " curious/eccentric" are treated with sympathy and humour, but above all they are tailored to an english speaking and in particular, a British audience.
Clearly, he has a fondness for his adoopted country (he lived in the UK for several years) and its citizens and you get the feeling that working on it was a labour of love. highly recommended
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dave Asini on 23 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I thought that this book was aimed at people like me....If so this book is not just off target but out of the stadium!

If you have had any experience of Italy, or read books by Tobias Jones, Tim Parks or Joe McGinniss etc. I would save your cash.

The author uses the book as an excuse in delivering elaborate rhetoric - in an impressive use of language (English). Rather like a rower with one oar this doesn't get us anywhere much...

To give an example... the fact that many Italians do not regard traffic signals with too much seriousness is worthy of much comment. Is there anyone with any interest in Italy that does not know this already?

Need I say more?
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alma Lavandeery on 23 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
While this book claims to be a "hilarious tour of Italy", and that it covers "thirty places in ten days", and while its table of contents contains titles such as "day two: in Milan", "Day seven: in Naples", "Day eight: in Sardinia", giving the impression that the author is covering all these places, the content barely contains ANYTHING at all related to them, suggesting the author has not left his seat nor even had the grace to research his destinations in "google earth".

At the start of every chapter supposed to cover one destination or the other, the author sometimes mentions a few very general things about it, without any "commitment" to a concrete description of anything, and, after which, he launches into talking about topics such as cars parked in a certain way, how italians regard this or that, italian attitudes and beliefs towards something or the other, etc..etc.. The repetition of the name of a specific destination in the first pages of "its relevant chapter" seems to serve the sole purpose of make-believe that the author is talking about that particular destination, while he is, in fact, talking about very general things that could apply anywhere in Italy!

The fact is, this book is NOT about any of the destinations it promises to portray, it is about the author's view of Italians. Why he packaged the book as to pretend it tours the country north to south, is open to conjecture. My guess would have been, "either he is not very clear in the head, or, he is deliberately misleading"; however, reading on the back cover that he has worked as a columnist for places like the newspaper "corriere della sera" and "the economist" eliminates the "not-clear-in-the-head" bit. He is simply misleading.
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