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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a 20th century italian masterpiece
gadda is one of italys greatest writers of the 20th century; and is virtually unknown in this country. he lived in rome during mussolinis "reign" and was a contemptuous opponent of the duce. his great novel (quer pasticciaccio nella via merulana, in italian) is a detective thriller about a robbery and murder in the via merulana. the hero is no hercule poirot, sherlock...
Published on 16 Jun 2009 by Mr. J. E. Fisher

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The sesquipedalian arrivederci
Not too many unfinished detective novels (Edwin Drood, maybe?) are celebrated for their literary prowess. Gadda wrote this Rome-set tale (about a woman who endures first a jewel theft and then a murder) during and after WW2 and - since he lived to 1973 - could presumably have finished it had he so chosen. But the conventional resolution of the crimes is not the point...
Published on 22 Aug 2011 by Sporus


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a 20th century italian masterpiece, 16 Jun 2009
By 
Mr. J. E. Fisher (England) - See all my reviews
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gadda is one of italys greatest writers of the 20th century; and is virtually unknown in this country. he lived in rome during mussolinis "reign" and was a contemptuous opponent of the duce. his great novel (quer pasticciaccio nella via merulana, in italian) is a detective thriller about a robbery and murder in the via merulana. the hero is no hercule poirot, sherlock holmes or even philip marlowe; he is a jowly, frizzyhaired italian from the deep south (perhaps he has something of the appearance of our own antonio carluccio). he is unimpressed by "Authority" and is cleverer than the rest. does he get his man? read the book.
the book is a brilliant, joycean, evocation of the life of romans in the twenties; especially of humble romans. sometimes his descriptions remind one of dickens, sometimes of dostoevsky. he conveys this in the original by an effortless switch between demotic roman dialect and formal, educated italian; weavers translation wisely doesnt attempt to mimic this, so the reader loses out who cannot read the original. but the power of his writing is still apparent even to us anglophone readers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just get lost in the language, 20 Feb 2011
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P. B. Sanders (England) - See all my reviews
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This book is quite amazing. I think if you read it as a murder mystery then it might irritate, because they depend so much on the plot moving forward in a clear way, but just lose yourself in the language and it is really quite special. I can't remember when I last had to make notes to look up references to events and people of which I was unaware, let alone the meaning of words I had never before met, but it was all worth while.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The sesquipedalian arrivederci, 22 Aug 2011
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Sporus (Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Not too many unfinished detective novels (Edwin Drood, maybe?) are celebrated for their literary prowess. Gadda wrote this Rome-set tale (about a woman who endures first a jewel theft and then a murder) during and after WW2 and - since he lived to 1973 - could presumably have finished it had he so chosen. But the conventional resolution of the crimes is not the point here; Gadda, like his curly-haired detective, doesn't believe that 'catastrophes' are caused by 'a single motive' but by a multitude of converging causes. They are "a cyclonic point of depression in the consciousness of the world". For example, the re-discovery of the jewels in 'That Awful Mess...' is as much instigated as foretokened by a dream which is recalled by a carabinieri as he rides a moped (in pre-war Italy the police even catch buses to attend a crime scene!) on the way to interview a suspect. This dream sequence is one of several bravura passages that pepper the book - packed with arcane words, neologisms and references to common and obscure (typically Roman) myths. Conscientious readers are likely to interrupt every other page of 'That Awful Mess...' by poring through dictionaries and concluding more-often-than-not that the word under investigation is another of Gadda's inventions. William Fever (who also translated Umberto Eco's 'The Name of the Rose') is to be congratulated on wrestling 'That Awful Mess...' into any kind of English. In only one instance does Fever give up the struggle and point out that an extended descriptive passage featuring 'light' and 'toes' is based on an obdurate Italian pun (respectively, 'la luce' and 'l'alluce'); otherwise he battles heroically to re-accommodate the mixed Italian dialects, slang and coprolalia that Gadda splashes around. The upshot is like putting an octopus in pyjamas: an accomplishment that intrigues more than it convinces. There are passages of baroque intensity here that outshine writers like Alejo Carpentier but there's also a lot of 'clunk'. Gadda had a polymath's sense of superiority. Where Hemingway might have written "After the noise of the train had gone...", Gadda writes: "The brief caravan of the tympanic importuning, railroadward, having past..." and we are expected to be impressed. It's possible to enjoy this condescending hauteur when Gadda turns his corruscating lexicon on Mussolini (at least it is the first 15 times that he does it), but many will be dubious about the way he minutely explores the musculature involved as an old woman lets slip a jet of ordure at the sight of a policeman. Gadda has the misogynistic, mucopurulent obsessions you often find in distinguished literary males: Joyce, say, or Tavernier; but he's not as bright as the former, nor as scrupulous as the latter. He claims that the Romanists decided women had a soul by only one vote at the Council of Mainz in 589. Surely, Carlo, the first Council of Mainz wasn't until the 8th Century. The Synod of Macon - which is rumoured to have had a debate about women's souls - was in 585.
Not that I'm trying to show off or anything...
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italian Joyce? Maybe Italian Pynchon..., 21 Oct 2007
Gadda's novel may be closer to postmodernists like Pynchon than to modernists like Joyce. But Gadda wouldn't have cared; when he wrote this almost nobody in Italy knew about modernism vs. postmodernism. It might be described as a philosophical crime novel--but it isn't the usual crime novel. Basically it's a literary masteripiece which happens to be *also* a crime novel. In it you have everything you usually find in a "classical" whodunit: a victim, a detective, some suspects, police inquiry, and the culprit. But these things are no more than a pretext for such an immense writer like Gadda to talk about Fascist Italy and the city of Rome (Gadda was born in Milan, but he chose to move to Rome and knew the city and the surrounding area incredibly well). Then you have his gift for language, his corrosive irony, his restless intelligence, his deep understanding of the human mind (also with a lot of psychoanalytical insight). Plus a wealth of references to Italian and Latin literature (such as the Retalli family, whose names echo those of Aeneas' family in Virgil's Aeneid). Plus a wide knowledge of Italian geography and anthropology. Not bad for a man who had graduated in engineering!
The plot is often interrupted by lengthy descriptions. But those descriptions, which might seem pointless at a superficial reading, are the plot itself. In the novel, if you read it carefully, you are even told who really killed the rich signora of Via Merulana (btw, a street which really exists in Rome, though at n. 219 there is a shop, not a block of flats). But everything is shown obliquely, indirectly, through allusions and hints that you may easily miss on a hurried reading. I'd say that this is a novel that unfolds reading after reading--just like all real masterpieces.

I am not surprised Calvino extolled Gadda. Gadda is a slightly greater novelist than Calvino. Ehm, did I say "slightly"? I should have said "decidedly"! Obviously Calvino is one of the great ones... but good ol' uncle Carlo Emilio is one of the "greatest ones". I am afraid, though, that some of his greatness may get lost in translation, though he has been "rewritten" by such a fine translator as William Weaver.

It's a pity Gadda's other masterpiece, his essay Eros and Priapo, a bewildering but absolutely brilliant psychonalysis of Fascism (told in a baroque mix of styles), hasn't been translated into English. Hey, this ain't a perfect world, folks...
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Life is too short, 5 Jun 2012
By 
B. Innes "Mtoto" (London) - See all my reviews
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This was a choice for our crime club reading group. Hard work unless you are a big James Joyce fan are fond of micro description or really enjoy exceedingly long sentences.

Oh and do not read the introduction first - bit of a plot spoiler.

One week before the meeting everyone had given up.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of words, 22 Mar 2002
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R. J. Lindeman "rick" (Utrecht, UT Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: That Awful Mess on via Merulana (Paperback)
Gadda succeeds like an italian Joyce to combine all dialects, the lingua vulgara and classical references in a feast to exceeds the simple story. He shows that in a novel not the story is the most important, but the language itself should be the subject of a literary masterwork.
It is one of the most difficult translatable novels, but it shows the literary genius sparks from its pages.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars victorian writing!!, 7 Oct 2011
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Mr. P. M. Hyde "explorer" (dorset) - See all my reviews
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or why use a sentence when a paragraph will do!!Sorry but i got to page 190 and put it away

Maybe some may view it as a masterpiece but i found it very heavy going and the style irritating.Using both the surnames or christian names (and of course italian)confuses and the wanderings and over descriptive style really do not make comfortable reading

try andrea camilleri for light reading or Leonardo Sciascia if you want good italian crime
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That Awful Mess on via Merulana
That Awful Mess on via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda (Paperback - 15 July 1984)
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