Holiday reading, Italian style
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
On holiday in Liguria, northern Italy, recently I saw gratifyingly few electronic reading devices: the odd one on the beach but that was really about it. Being nosey, I don’t much care for others’ use of e-readers and tablets – I like to see people’s choice of books. So alongside the Jo Nesbøs and the odd Dan Brown, I spotted, poolside, an Italian translation of a novel by Ali Smith and a heavily bearded guy in the corner reading Hell’s Angel. Cinquanta sfumature di grigio reared its head, inevitably – that’s a book where a tablet would have come in handy.
And if people ran out of reading material between doing lengths and dive-bombing into the pool they could always dip into the basket provided by the genial owner of the bar: not just magazines or guidebooks to Costa Rica, but a good selection of Isaac Asimovs, Redmond O’Hanlon’s Congo Journey, which the publishers Feltrinelli intriguingly describe as a novel,
. . . an Italian translation of La Lampe de Psyché by the French nineteenth-century eccentric Marcel Schwob, Dante, Sciascia, Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo, a novella by Joseph Roth, Gore Vidal’s Judgment of Paris (below) – a pretty highbrow selection on the whole.
Personally I’ve always been allergic to those summer reading recommendations the papers go in for: “I’ll be taking with me the new McEwan/Boyd/Mantel . . . “). But I did admire – “enjoy” would not be the right word here – Deborah Levy’s short novel Swimming Home (2011), in which every character is thoroughly unlikeable. Levy creates a disconcerting atmosphere that stays with you long after the holiday is over.