May, 2016

La Dolce Vita

Posted on May 1, 2016 by | Posted in about LibriVox, Blog, For Volunteers, Monthly Picks, News | Comments: Comments Off on La Dolce Vita

Romance is the big theme in May, and where better to go and find it than in Italy? Let’s have a look at 10 gems from our catalog written by authors from Italy.

When talking about Italian romance, the Betrothed Lucia and Renzo come to mind. Deeply in love with each other, they are still prevented to marry in the masterpiece by Alessandro Manzoni. Interestingly, before Manzoni started writing at age 15, he was considered a dunce, but already his first sonnets were highly acclaimed.

The above book was a milestone in developing modern Italian, something the Renaissance humanist scholar Sperone Speroni would have been proud of. His Dialogo delle lingue is a defense of the vernacular languages of Italy instead of Latin, which was still favoured when he lectured on philosophy in Padua.

Another philosopher, this time of the Age of Enlightenment, was Cesare Beccaria. Appalled at what he saw as a jurist, he penned An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, condemning torture and the death penalty. Beccaria was considered a most talented jurist, and his ideas are known to have influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Giovanni Verga was also set to become a jurist, but while officially studying law, he used his fathers money to publish his first novel. Under the Shadow of Etna: Sicilian Stories is a selection of his short stories that revolve around rural life in Sicily as he knew it from childhood.

Cuore, the diary of a 10 year old boy, sends us back to childhood as well. It was published when school began in 1886 and became an immediate success amongst children (and possible adults too). It is the most acclaimed work of Edmondo de Amicis, an officer in the Army of the Kingdom of Italy, who turned novelist, journalist, and short story writer.

Hundreds of short stories and more than 40 novels came from the feather of Luigi Pirandello, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. Here we offer you Il fu Mattia Pascal, who, unhappy with his life, sneaks away to Monte Carlo where he makes a fortune. On the way back home he discovers that his wife had declared him dead, which leaves him free to go wherever he likes…

Equally fond of travelling was Emilo Salgari. Born in Verona, he wanted to explore the sea, but he never graduated from his studies of seamanship, thus ending his dream. Instead, he turned to writing, for example Le meraviglie del Duemila, a brilliant science fiction story where two men from 1903 travel to 2003 and explore railroads under ground and cities under water.

Guido Gustavo Gozzano did travel quite a bit between the Riviera and mountain villages, but it was not done for amusement, but to improve his health. Unfortunately, it did not work as hoped, and he died when only 32. What a loss, because his book of poetry I Colloqui, published only 5 years before, was an acclaimed success.

Successful were certainly those who made it into the Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari. He himself was a painter and architect, and a friend of Michelangelo’s, but he is most remembered for the book above, which is considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing; and that despite a certain bias in favour of the Florentines.

The Venitian catholic priest Lorenzo da Ponte may not have cared for fame very much. Still, he left us 28 librettos that were turned into operas by 11 composers. Among them is Don Juan, which Mozart famously renamed Don Giovanni and set to unforgettable music.

Enjoy finding new Italian authors in our catalog!


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