[Recensione di The Mussolini Canal sul Sunday Herald firmata da Rosemary Goring]
In the week that the last old-style Man Booker prize was awarded, one can’t help wishing that in its bid to widen its horizons, the prize organisers had decided in future to include English translations as well as all works in English published in Britain.
Were that the case, a novel such as The Mussolini Canal would be a shoo-in.
Winner of Italy’s prestigious Strega Prize in 2010, this is Antonio Pennacchi’s second novel, his first, Il Fasciocomunista, having won the Premio Napoli. As the labyrinthine story unfolds, the reader scarcely needs Pennacchi’s prefatory note that: “For what it’s worth, this is the book I came into the world to write.” In every line The Mussolini Canal feels personal, as if its plot and cast emerge not from the writer’s imagination but from his marrow. A hefty work, of more than 500 pages, it is so beguiling one does not want it to end. Rambunctious and picaresque, it is the story of a generation of poverty-stricken peasants from the Veneto and Tuscany, who were enticed south in the 1930s by the promise of land in the dreaded Pontine marshes, near Rome. Until that time, nobody sane would have gone there, the place a mosquito-infested swamp. But under Mussolini’s fledgling rule, the marshes were properly drained for the first time in history, allowing land to be reclaimed, and many lives with it. Read the rest of this entry →