Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow and Guilt by Giorgio Pressburger

"All the stories contained in this volume are true" we are told in the introduction to this curious and beautifully written book, which is translated from the Italian. While reading it, however, I could not help but think, "How could this be true? How can this detail of others' private lives be real?" I'm still not sure, but I remain intrigued.

Before the first story, the author explains that he decided to seek out information on his schoolmates from more than forty years ago. His research is revealed in the six stories in this slim volume, all of which have elements of tragedy. In one of the longest stories, "Message for the Century," we follow the life of a severely disabled man who exhibits a mix of hatred and love for his parents. In another, "The Case of Professor Fleischmann," a married man becomes obsessed, in a very unhealthy way, with a mysterious woman he has a sexual encounter with.

Once I picked this book up, I could not put it down. I was compelled to read on, even though I found some of the "characters," and their actions, disturbing and, at times, unforgivable. Still, the author dissects the emotional landscape of humanity, including its darkest corners, very well. At times, he also presents hope, beauty, and sacrifice, but something dark hovers over the majority of the text.

I was amazed by the following author's note that appears on the final page:

"There were thirty-nine of us in our class. Including wives, children and grandchildren, today I should be giving an account of two hundred and fifty individuals. I have put together brief notes about all of them. The publisher will be able to send a copy to anyone who asks for it."

Is this, like the rest of the book, really true? How bizarre. The publisher will send me these notes if I inquire?

I am happy for having discovered such an unusual creation.


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