A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Characters Paperback – 8 Sep 2003
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For the last few months Anglo-Italian novelist Tim Parks has been writing of his devotion to Italian football club Hellas Verona in The Guardian. In A Season with Verona we get a chance to read the full and absorbing narrative that lay behind those short snippets.
In some ways the book is a standard travelogue. In following his lowly Series A team in their seasonal slog around Italy, Parks gets to visit all the famous sights and cities. What makes this journey so different and so interesting is that Parks is accompanied by vividly ordinary, honestly working-class, determinedly urban Italians and gets to share their Nick Hornbyish highs and lows. This in turn provides a credible, fresh and revealing insight into the Italian character. These fans do all the normal soccer-supporter things like fight, drink, despair, exult, rant and put each other in comas; but they also do more surprising things, like sing songs in praise of the murderous Liverpool fans of Heysel and give voice to racist feelings about their southern compatriots.
This may not sound like most people's image of southern loveliness. Indeed it isn't. But it is a much needed antidote to all that saccharine-sweet Under The Tuscan Sun stuff; and it also makes this book a splendid bedside companion to the Italian campaign in the next, or indeed any, World Cup. --Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Addictive reading...each chapter is a short story, the whole book an epic" (Observer)
"Parks knows his football, and he knows Italy still better. His adopted country, in all its enduring and exasperating strengths and weaknesses, comes vividly to life" (Sunday Times)
"A fascinating emotional journey... His descriptions of Italian football are descriptions of Italy itself, its regional differences, its squabbles, its distinctive temper" (Daily Telegraph)
"An enthralling, insightful account of the real Italy" (Independent) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
As well as Verona the book covers many asides in all sorts of areas such as Italian politics, hooliganism, life in Italy, the Italian language, racism, the difference between the north and the south, the bias towards the big clubs and the Italian police's awful treatment of away fans.
My favourite part was the description of the regular supporters of Verona, and their travels to away games (the first chapter is an absolute classic). Parks clearly adores Italy and his enthusiasm for the country is infectious (I challenge anyone not to want to stand on Verona's Curva Sud after reading this book). Parks also gets to interview some of the players, management and club owners which adds to the pure adventure of the unfolding tale.
At the end of the day - despite all the differences between Italy and England - the comforting fact to know is that being a fan of any football team, especially a small, unfashionable one, is essentially the same.
Needless to say that although it is quite a thick book (about 450 pages) I read it in less than two days.
Thanks Mr Parks for sharing your passion with us readers, I wish you all the best for your professional life and your team.
Unlike Hornby, Parks does not have the luxury of relying on a lifetime of childhood memories or championship triumphs for material.
Initially I asked myself, how can he write about Hellas Verona without having rheems of material on the club's scudetto (championship) winning season in 1985? Not an easy task, but one which Parks overcomes by going beyond the standard subjects addressed in the pulpable post Hornby contributions of the same genre.
The irrationality of loyalty, local rivalries and the post modern condition associated with violence, constitute standard fare for this type of book, and accordingly Parks, unlike others who have followed the same path, does not disappoint. However, the book's real strength (Mr Hornby et al, please note) is the manner in which it identifies the intracies of Italian history and contemporary life in modern calcio. This is seen, for example, in the case of the Verona supporter who ignores the Italian national team, preferring to concentrate on the exploits of the Rumanian international midfielder (Mutu) who plays for the club. The manner in which Parks does this has as much to do with the strong residual feelings of pre-unification city-state parochialism and incomplete Italian national identity, than any perceived petty fanatacism. All this substance from just one paragraph in the book!
Parks' least generous critics could argue that the book is aided by Hellas Verona's dramatic 2000-2001 season. This is not so, because these events without the analytical context provided by Parks would read like a long (and boring) chronological report. A chronology which this Reggina tiffoso, as evidenced by the book's last chapter, would not bother revisiting if there was not a broader and original tale to be told.
When I finished reading the book in May 2003, I booked a flight to Verona and a hotel near l'Arena, and went to the stadium for the last game of that season (Bari, 1-1, for the statiticians among you). I had to see la Curva Sud for myself. Since then, having made friends with one or two members of I Piu Mati (ciao Christian, ciao Alberto, ciao Fabio!) I've been back several times (including a memorable 5-3 win over rivals Vicenza [di merda!]) and they've even been over to see my humble bunch of sleeping giants (the West Country's top team, Bristol City. Well, excluding Yeovil). In short, the book inspired me, it coursed through my veins and I was like a junkie, needing a fix of the Brigate Gialloblu (minus the violenza!). A terrific, vibrant, inspiring read. Forza Signor Tim!
(PS If you liked the social/cultural/non-football parts to the book, make sure you read his Italian Neighbours and Italian Education books. The description of which coffee to drink when in the former book is as good as the opening chapter of A Season With Verona)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A superb account of following a team through a season. I don't care for Verona but by the end I wanted them to succeed. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Mark Storey
If you like football, and Italy, and good writing, this is a brilliant book. Teaches a great deal about the Italian culture, regional variations and the passions of Verona's... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Cyberleech
Totally absorbing and unusual book. I bought it on the basis of it being a football book and indeed, in the main, it is but it also has much social commentary on Italian life which... Read morePublished 6 months ago by The Lamb
Never have been a football fan but thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.Published 12 months ago by H. R. Bennett
proud of reading something about my city ,only for real football fanPublished 13 months ago by anna