books of the month

Peter Türchin, The armed monkey (utet)
Translation by Luca Fusari, Sara Prencipe

Peter Turchin is quite a unique scholar. Trained as an entomologist, at a certain point in his academic career he decided to leave “science” to devote himself to the study of history and to apply mathematical models capable of tracking and predicting its dynamics. Because of this (and also because of the fact that he threw himself into near-fulfilled predictions), Turchin was portrayed by the world’s major newspapers as a sort of incarnation of Hari Seldon, the character created by Isaac Asimov, the founder and priest of Psycho , was invented -story. In fact, it belongs in the same category as Jared Diamond and Harari, the great popularizer of human history. In this book recently published by Utet, Turchin is not only concerned with predicting catastrophic future events, but also with explaining to us why, with the exception of the social insects (and ants in particular), humans are the most cooperative species on the planet and their Evolution owes success to this very ability, but also to how “ten thousand years of war actually (and surprisingly) helped cement ultrasociality, that is, people’s ability to form large groups of strangers working together: from small towns to to big metropolises , to whole nations and beyond”. It really makes a strange light effect The armed monkey Looking up from the images of the war in Ukraine, it’s much more than a transition from the particular to the general, it’s a very abrupt transition from emotionality to logic, ironically even refusing to talk about emotional things like the millions of people caused dead to speak deaths in its history. In the way Turchin narrates the anatomical specificity of humans as stone-throwers and the crucial ability to control so-called missile weapons (anything that does not involve close combat), we create a distance from ourselves and with our history that allows us allows us to see ourselves as if we were observing the behavior of an animal species. A strange change of perspective these days, but maybe useful in a way. (Cristiano de Majo)

antonio delfini, diaries (Einaudi)
Curated by Irene Babboni

A diary like Antonio Delfini’s, for eighteen years from 1927 to 1944, can be read two ways, and it is so: as an intimate coming-of-age novel of a restless nineteen-year-old growing up in little Italy little by little the fascist power, and as a time window, time machine, historical documentation without hypocrisy or self-absolution. The version Einaudi sent back for printing was edited by Irene Babboni, the previous ones from the 1980s were edited by Giovanna Delfini and Natalia Ginzburg. The only other diary that shows an era as a journey into the past in this way, writes Marco Belpoliti in the introduction, is The craft of living by Pavese. But Pavese was already in exile and depressed and with feelings often akin to those a modern reader would expect, brother in a sense, to find a little self-evident. Delfini, on the other hand, is a crazy and very shy teenager who stomps like a little horse and worries for everything and everyone (and everyone): rich son of Modenese landowners, he studies as a self-taught, accultura in moves wildly through Modena and Viareggio as a flaneur who would like to rebel against something but does not know what the goal could be. A perpetual teenager, writes Belpoliti, who rails against everything. Delfini starts out as an enthusiastic fascist, and how a very young man manages to identify with that vitalism that seemed rebellious and soon turned into violent gangrene is in itself a rare document of history. And then there is love, which, alongside writing, has occupied Delfini throughout his life. Love felt as shame and inadequacy, and a culture that one feels does not belong to. The serenity spreads over everything only when the writing rests on the landscape and the land, and it does so with an unexpected and very sweet lyricism. Fascism gradually turns into anti-fascism, but the spirit of rebellious individualism remains: “I quarrel with the conservatives to defend my ideas as a communist. I quarrel with the communists to defend my ideas (in this case it would be better to say: my feelings, my memories, my affection) as a conservative ». At the armistice he wrote against the fascists and also against the British and the Soviets. Then he also writes: “The smell of plucked chicken was in my moleskin pants.” And in the background the Italy of a campaign destined to disappear in a short time, seen by a privileged and absurd wanderer like the protagonist of one Walser Romans. (David Coppo)

Rick Bass, petroleum dog (Mattioli 1885)
Translation by Silvia Lumaca

Completed the twelve stories of petroleum dog I thought it had seldom happened to me to read (and know an author) a book that is explained so precisely and essentially by the title printed on the cover. All Rick Bass stories can be divided into three parts. There are the detailed descriptions of animal life, continuous homages to what Thoreau called Walden’s “raw neighbors.” There are the adored testimonies of nature as a reminder, of seas turning to deserts and life melting to oil: the sands of Texas, the Mississippi rivers, the mountains of Utah, the forests of the Yaak Valley of Montana, 338 inhabitants. including a Texas writer who has lived and written in a 1903 cabin since 1987. And there are people: every time a critic tries to place him in the very American genre of nature writing, Bass replies (angry, resigned). actually cares about his species. He is interested in boxers, teachers, students, firefighters, dog trainers and oil prospectors, lonely and reluctant heroes whom Bass observes without elitist mercy or tourist curiosity. In his stories, these characters become Shakespeare lovers and medieval hermits who take on an epic dimension by engaging in what Bass defines humanity: exploration and struggle. The protagonists of his stories are seekers, explorers fighting over the ruins of the modern American frontier. And unsurprisingly, when asked which literary genre he feels most comfortable with, Bass always gives the same answer: the western. Because it’s the story of exploration and struggle, and that’s how he learned to write. Before becoming a writer, he worked as a geologist for oil companies in the 1980s. He spent months in the middle of nowhere looking for something that might not even be there. “It may seem inexplicable, but this profession and that of the writer are practically the same.” (Francesco Gerardi)

Christine Schuett, anime (Playground)
Translation by Chiara Messina

In the USA All souls came out in 2008 and made it into the Pulitzer Finals Trio (won by Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout). It’s a chaotic book, written by an author who has taught high school for years and therefore knows very well how insane the school environment can be, particularly that of a prestigious New York girls’ institute where the bathroom pipes are rusting due to the students’ vomit . Mental disorders, loneliness, growing up, parents killed in tragic Javel accidents, anime Mix up some ingredients Florida (published in Italy by Nutrimenti in 2009), another book by Christine Schutt, finalist for the National Book Award, but in an even more fragmentary way, because if Florida had a single narrating voice, the orphan Alice, anime brings together a collection of scenes and characters that revolve, or rather stagger and stumble, around a single fixed point: college student Astra Dell, who is stricken with a very rare form of cancer and hospitalized. Angered by the forced optimism and stereotypes about the disease, her best friend Carlotta, anorexic, begins writing cruel and direct letters contemplating her impending death (“I know you’ve imagined your funeral. All those who that you will miss. . Absence is the most effective way to affect the lives of others”), letters that Marlene, the outsider who has become obsessed with Astra (but only since she has been ill), intercepts and hides for fear that they might upset her.Carlotta’s brief reflections are the best part of the book, a rare glimmer of clarity, a claustrophobic maelstrom in which everyone – students, professors, parents – is clumsy, selfish, gross, inadequate, liars, and superficial and we care remember how stupid we know we are, in every capacity and at every age.(Klara Mazzoleni)

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