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
"'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"
Now fully updated with chapters on Berlusconi's demise and the 2006 corruption scandal that hit Italian football
An essential guide to the strange, sometimes sinister culture of contemporary Italy. In 1999 Tobias Jones travelled to Italy, expecting to discover the pastoral bliss described by centuries of foreign visitors and famous writers. Instead, he discovered a very different country, besieged by unfathomable terrorism and deep-seated paranoia, where crime is scarcely ever met with punishment. Now, in this fascinating travelogue, Jones explores not just Italy's familiar delights (art, climate, cuisine), but the livelier and stranger sides of the bel paese: language, football, Catholicism, cinema, television and terrorism. Why, he wonders, do bombs still explode every time politics start getting serious? Why does everyone urge him to go home as soon as possible, saying that Italy is a 'brothel'? And why do people warn him that 'Clean Hands' only disguise 'Dirty Feet'?
About the Author
Tobias Jones was born in Somerset in 1972. Having graduated from Jesus College, Oxford with a double first in English and History, he spent a year framing and selling antiquarian maps in a bookshop in Bloomsbury. He then joined the editorial team of the London Review of Books
, before becoming a staff writer for the Independent on Sunday
. In 1999 he emigrated to Italy, from where he has worked as a freelance journalist, writing essays and articles on Italy for Wallpaper
, the Guardian
, the LRB
and the Independent on Sunday
. He has since returned to the UK and his new book, Utopian Dreams,
is published in January 2007