Through the loves and losses of a middle-class family from Calabria, this heady, atmospheric saga retraces the history of twentieth-century Italy.
As a young man in the Seventies, Valentino leaves home in search of a better life. With age, he begins to feel an intense regret, a longing for the world and the people he left behind, which he might not be able to recover, even after returning. Set in Magna Graecia, the sun-drenched land where ancient Greeks stopped in their travels and happily settled, now full of ruins, South takes us back to a time when notaries and lawyers were undiscussed authorities in small towns. Meet the Notaio, his lover Magda, a Polish countess and a spy, and delve into their love story in Naples; meet the Farmacista, owner of the first chemist’s shop in town, his wife Lea, and their children; follow the paths where these lives cross, and Tamara, Mara for short, marries into the Notaio’s family; get to know charming Uncle Giorgio, an extravagant loner, owner of two small Gauguins, and Gioacchino, the house ghost. Servants, drivers, peasants fully devoted and bound to their masters enliven this tale of love and loss, war and peace, politics and power, told in an elegant, affecting prose that transports us through time and space.
About the Author
Mario Fortunato was born in Cirò, Calabria, Italy.For three decades he worked as a literary critic for the Italian current affairs magazine L’Espresso and continues to work as a columnist for the German daily paper Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has been a member of the Italian Cinema Commission of the Ministry of Culture and the International Advisory Board of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, is a founder of the Napoli Teatro Festival Italia, and Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in London. He is also a former director of the Antonio Ratti Art Foundation and former columnist for The Guardian and Le Monde. In addition to writing novels, he has translated into Italian works by Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf, and Henry James. South is his first novel to appear in English.
Julia MacGibbon has translated works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including Marta Barone’s Sunken City. She lives near Rome.
“[An] archly observed novel…playful, kaleidoscopic…wonderfully eccentric minor characters—chauffeurs, nursemaids, household servants—vie for center stage with the equally eccentric bourgeois clans that employ them…it’s ‘like a page out of Proust but without any aristocrats.’” —New York Times Book Review
“[An] exuberant, dizzying family saga…[a] wild ride through twentieth-century Italy, both political and personal.” —Booklist
“A sweeping story of family, community, and country, South is a saga in the truest sense of the word. In lush, enthralling, often funny prose, Fortunato beautifully captures both the great dramas and small poignancies that make up a life.” —Francesca Giacco, author of Six Days in Rome
“Gorgeous, sensual, seductive, and magnetic…a journey through time, history, space, passions.” —Giornale di Brescia
“[Fortunato’s] most beautiful book…a family saga with all the nuances of love and pain.” —Convenzionali
Praise for Mario Fortunato: “As I read Fortunato’s writing, I have the impression of being faced with that kind of writer, rare in Italian literature, who, despite starting from a poetic state of mind, nevertheless manages to be a storyteller.” —Alberto Moravia “Mario Fortunato is a natural storyteller.” —Doris Lessing