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That Awful Mess on via Merulana Paperback – 15 Jul 1984

3.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Paperback, 15 Jul 1984
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller Inc; Reprint edition (15 July 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807610933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807610930
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.6 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,191,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

" The experimental masterpiece modern Italian literature has long been awaiting.... There is a kinship to Joyce, especially in Gadda's inspired outbursts of comic invective, his ferocious Romantic humor." -- "The New York Times"

"The experimental masterpiece modern Italian literature has long been awaiting.... There is a kinship to Joyce, especially in Gadda's inspired outbursts of comic invective, his ferocious Romantic humor." --"The New York Times "

The experimental masterpiece modern Italian literature has long been awaiting. There is a kinship to Joyce, especially in Gadda s inspired outbursts of comic invective, his ferocious Romantic humor. "The New York Times "" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

'A brilliant, sarcastic appraisal of life in Italy, told in swift-paced prose -a murder mystery intermingled with witty observations and telling phrases that cut through to the bone of the Italian people.' -Newsday --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
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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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.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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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