Thursday, January 29, 2009

Left-Handed Dreams by Francesca Duranti

This is the second work of Italian literature I read recently. The other was Snow and Guilt by Giorgio Pressburger. I have been swept away the last few days by Duranti’s beautiful writing.

Left-Handed Dreams follows a short, yet significant, period of time in the life of professor Martina Satriano, an Italian woman who has lived for many years in New York City. The book is written as if she is speaking to her students.

Martina’s life over the past two years has involved the use of something she refers to as the Machine. The device is one element of the ritualized nature of her daily life. She uses the machine to record her dreams in an attempt to determine if the dream life can be made to flow together night-by-night as the waking life is day-to-day. There is also a question of what is reality: when we are dreaming or when we are awake? This ties into another of Martina’s discoveries.

She believes, from a memory of something decades earlier, that she may have been born left-handed, but was forced to use her right hand by her mother. She begins to wonder if her life would have been different if she went through it using her left hand as her dominant hand. How do we become who we are? Is there another “self” moving along with us that would react and do things differently?

Three male characters also help Martina to realize things about herself. The first, and most significant, is Costantino, a boy she loved and experienced a rich sexual relationship with as a young adult in Italy. The second is her next door neighbor Jerry who helps her realize something about her ability to love. The third is an Italian professor who meets several times with Martina during his attempts to encourage her to accept a job offer and return to Italy. A puppy she rescues in her apartment complex also plays a key role in altering her future.

Reading this novel was a true pleasure. I highly recommend it.


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