Venuto al mondo

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

<<Miracoli…>> sorride, <<siamo in Italia, si lascia sempre una possibilità per i miracoli, non costa niente.>>

Woah, I’m not even sure where to start.  This 529-page novel was gulped down by me with a literary fervor that comes along every few dozen books, unexpected and heartbreaking.

Venuto al mondo by Margaret Mazzantini is a book that tackles so many themes and plots that it’s amazing how seamlessly and beautifully they all fit together.  Maybe the writing isn’t the most sophisticated.  But the plot and the characters take a grasp on you and don’t let go easily.  And just when you accept a part of the story,  something completely throws you off track.  And you get thrown off that track again and again, until the last twist seems impossible to be the last.  But, as you reluctantly put the book down, you acknowledge the fact that it was indeed the perfect ending.  Or, rather, so imperfect that it’s perfect.

This is the story of a single mother that takes her son on vacation to Sarajevo, where his father died years ago in the Bosnian war.  What she finds is memories, people, stories, and emotions that haven’t resurfaced in years.  This is a story about motherhood- its definition, its role, its pains.  This is a story about love- true love that is just as passionate as it is imperfect.  This is a story about war and peace- about both the war that tore apart the Balkans and the battles that we fight among ourselves.  This is a story about change, about climate, about redemption, and about life and death.

This is the story about Gemma, the mother.  About Pietro, the son.  About Diego, the photographer of puddles.  About Gojko, the Bosnian poet that lives with a bottle of grappa in his hand and sells yo-yo’s.  About Aska, the lamb that has to dance in front of the wolf in order to stay alive.  And about everyone who has loved, who has lost, who has suffered.

Venuto al mondo is a jumble of flashbacks, present narrative, thoughts, and dialogues.  It brings you back and forth, just as linear as life actually is.  Because when you try to follow one straight plot, you realize that there are so many little curves and dents that influence the direction of the wind despite your oblivion to their existence.

What I appreciate and am moved by in books most is the sense of nostalgia that grows as you get further into the story.  A book that starts out so beautifully, full of so much time and hope and future, and then ends in such a way that you ache to go back to the first chapters and stay there with the characters, to cherish the memories and pretend that the future doesn’t follow the past.  Books that paint the passage of time- ruthlessly, honestly, devastatingly accurately.


Mi da’ un mazzo di fiori di carta.
La fioraia del Markale, quella vecchietta che sembra una strega buona, non ne ha più di veri da vendere, così si e’ inventata questi piccoli fiori fatti di pezzetti di carta che arriccia, che colora.  Li guardo, sono bellissimi e tristissimi.  E penso che Diego somiglia a questi fiori di carta, che trattengono la nostalgia dei colori, del profumo, della vita.”

In English:  Twice Born, Margaret Mazzantini, translated by Ann Gagliardi.  Also a movie (2012), starring Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch.


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