[Saturday Reads] Reading Baricco in Milan

SaturdayReads

Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

Europa Editions Love: Alessandro Baricco’s “The Young Bride”

The Young Bride

Written by: Alessandro Baricco Translated from the Italian by: Ann Goldstein
Published by: Europa Editions (2016). Literary Award: BTBA Best Translated Book Award Nominee for Longlist (2017)
ISBN: 1609453344 (ISBN13: 9781609453343). Bought my own copy of the book.

I didn’t know what to expect from my first Baricco novel. All I know is that it was a fairly short/thin novel – perfect travel companion as my family and I went to Italy a little over a month ago. Naturally, I had to bring with me a book written by an Italian author – perfect for our Literatura Europa reading theme until end of August.

A young bride is to be married into a wealthy family who had four very strange rules: (1) the night is to be feared (2) unhappiness is unwelcome (3) never read books – there is no need for palliatives nor needless distraction, and (4) do not agitate or distract the Father who has an imprecision in his heart. Breakfasts (with an s) last long into the early afternoon, the inhabitants of the house locked deep into the recesses of their individual and secret mysteries, the gradual unraveling of which is akin to a transcendental, psychedelic trip of sorts.

The husband-to-be never figured much in the narrative – he was sent off on a voyage and has been sending packages in preparation for his arrival – pretty useful items such as an empty hatbox, two Welsh rams of the Fordshire breed, twelve very light wool kits and a panel with the train schedule of London’s Waterloo station, among others. The Mother is a postergirl for CougarTown, her sensuality clothed with a sense of propriety – the very act a calculated play of seduction. Modesto was the consummate butler, his warning coughs symbolic of subtleties, emblematic of certain nuances that need to be recognized for what they are – learned through years of service. The Father was like a drawer filled with little secrets that will eventually be emptied out at the end of the story.

To say that this novel is strange would be an understatement. I simply allowed it to take me where it will. There is a cohesion somewhere in the end that provided a measure of comprehensibility, but that is not, I suppose what the novel aimed to do anyway. Regardless, here are a few quotes that might provide some clue as to its lyrical beauty, notwithstanding its labyrinthine plot or its total absence.

If you are into beautiful strangenesses with a taste of magical realism, the absurd mixed in with the profound, then this book might speak to you.

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