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Novel set in 1960s ROME
17th August 2021
Last Summer in the City by Gianfranco Calligarich, novel set in 1960s Rome. Translated by Howard Curtis.
“..Rome by her very nature has a particular intoxication...”
This is the first time that this cult classic has been printed in English and, to get to this point, the script has certainly endured a difficult journey. When the author first wrote it, he couldn’t find a publisher, it was rejected time and again. Then it was spotted by Natalia Ginzburg (a renowned writer and essayist) who moved heaven and earth to get it into print. It gained a book prize. It then fizzled into oblivion. The whole process repeated and again it disappeared into the annals. Now, here it is once again.
This is a dense and charismatic story of Leo Gazzara who moves from Milan to Rome. It could well be autofiction as there are many overlaps between the author’s life and that of his character. The prose is richly evocative as Leo forges his way through a peripatetic lifestyle that involves alcohol, women and a variety of short term lodgings in the city. Turning 30 he meets disorganised Arianna from Venice, at a party, and escorts this young woman, now wearing an eye catching red plastic coat to counter the rain, to her home in Via de Glicini. There is spontaneity in the air, and a gaiety tempered with sobriety that permeates the narrative. This is the start of a love affair that powers Leo through the hot summer months. But there is an ultimate melancholy that underpins the story, through film making (there has to be a film being made, it’s the 1960s when anything felt possible) and loss, friendship and, well, life, love and death.
My copy opened with a Foreword by André Aciman who, at length, describes the inspiration for the novel and provides a mini synopsis. As I read through the book thereafter, there were several junctures where I was involved with the characters and caught myself thinking “Oh, I already know that..” and that was because Aciman had detailed things at the beginning. He has written effusively about this work and has got carried away, offering far too many details of the novel that prove to be spoilers. A real detractor to the reading experience.
Rome comes across so well and is so evocatively brought to life, there is something very lush about the storytelling, its era and setting. Love the cover, which perfectly captures the content. On that basis I urge you to avoid the Foreword.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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