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What were my criteria? To gather together as many of the authors who have inspired and nourished my love for Italian literature, and for the Italian short story in particular. I wanted a volume I and others would be excited to teach from, and that students, ideally, would be eager to read. I wanted to include a wealth of styles, and a range of voices. The resulting collection, by no means comprehensive, reflects my judgment and sensibility, and also encapsulates a specific moment of my reading trajectory.

I cast a wide net and, as is inevitably the case, a somewhat arbitrary one. Some authors—including several particularly dear to me—were consciously excluded due to one rationale or the other; others simply escaped unseen. Once the list was final, it struck me that these forty Italian authors would not necessarily be familiar to any one Italian reader.

Many of them have fallen out of favor, or have been sporadically published, and are therefore hard to come across in Italian bookstores. Ironically, I could only get my hands on them thanks to Firestone Library in Princeton or, if I was lucky, at the Porta Portese flea market, which brings hundreds of secondhand books, every Sunday, to Rome.

Even after I had made my choices, people kept mentioning other writers I ought to have included, and suggestions will surely only proliferate now that the book exists. I have focused predominantly on the twentieth century, though a few of the authors were born and began writing in the nineteenth, and others remained active into the twenty-first. It was my priority to feature women authors, lesser-known and neglected authors, and authors who practiced the short form with particular vehemence and virtuosity.

My aim is to present a portrait of Italy that reflects its reality. Then again, one has only to read the literature of any given place to recognize that bad things happen to everyone, everywhere. Several members of this group knew one another during their lifetimes. They sustained, influenced, promoted, edited, reviewed, and were at odds with one another.

They formed part of a community, a network, bound together by vital personal and professional friendships and, in one case, even by marriage. And as I stood back to absorb the details of their lives and the nature of their creativity, I realized that they were all, by and large, hybrid individuals, with multiple proclivities, identities, signatures, and shadows. They were writers of fiction and at the same time they were almost always other things: poets, journalists, visual artists, musicians.

Many had demanding editorial responsibilities, were critics, were schoolteachers. Some were professional scientists and politicians. They served in the military, held bureaucratic positions, had diplomatic careers. And the vast majority were translators, living, reading, and writing astride two languages or more. The act of translation, central to their artistic formation, was a linguistic representation of their innate hybridity. The majority of these writers shuttled between dialect and standard Italian; though they all wrote in Italian, it was not necessarily the language they grew up speaking, or the first they learned to read and write in or were originally published in.

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Four were born outside of present-day Italy, and most of them spent significant amounts of time either studying, traveling, or residing abroad. A few turned to other languages, writing novels in French or Portuguese, experimenting with German and English, teaching themselves different dialects, complicating their texts and their identities further still. Whether linguistic or stylistic, their creative paths were marked by experimentation, by willful mutation. They were artists who questioned and redefined themselves over time, some defiantly distancing themselves from earlier phases of their work.

A central underpinning of their hybridity is manifested in the striking number of invented or altered names. Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym that has taken the literary world by storm, but long before her, Italian writers created alter egos for political or personal reasons, either to protect themselves from the law or to disassociate themselves from their origins. Eight of the authors on this list were born with different names, and others published specific works under pseudonyms.

Not surprisingly, many of these stories address the theme of identity, of fluctuating selfhood, and accentuate the issue of naming in particular. Always pertinent to the discussion of identity is the question of women in Italy: how they were defined, how they were seen. Many of these stories are portraits of women, some confronting and challenging patriarchal ideology, others revealing attitudes in which women are objectified, belittled, maligned. One option, on my part, would have been to exclude such stories in order to protest against these objectionable depictions.

But this would misrepresent a society and its history as reflected in its literature.

Short stories for kids | LearnEnglish Kids - British Council

As a woman, and a woman writer, these stories help me to better understand the cultural context of Italian feminism, and to admire the great strides that Italian women have made. The fact of the matter is that many of the most moving depictions of women in this collection were written by men. But the whole of the twentieth century, which witnessed the collapse of a series of powerful social institutions, including marriage, was a laboratory in which individual identities were being lost and found, regained and shed.

Hybridity is also manifested in the number of animal characters that abound in these pages, a recurrent metaphor that calls into question the porous barrier between the animal and human worlds. In this sense, some of these works can trace their lineage to the fables of Aesop, to the Metamorphoses of Ovid and to folkloric tradition, in which the animal kingdom has always played a delightful and prominent role. The significance of animals in literary satire was appreciated by the poet Giacomo Leopardi, whose Paralipomeni della Batracomiomachia translated into English as The War of the Mice and the Crabs is a mock epic, inspired by an ancient Greek poem, adapted by Leopardi to criticize imperial politics and false patriotism in Italy.

A great number of these stories feature animals that talk, behave, think, and feel just as people do. They substitute as friends, lovers, philosophical interlocutors, a spouse. They serve as mirrors and filters that reflect and reveal myriad emotional and psychological states. The reader will note various characters who feel more animal than human, or are themselves both animal and human.

The paradoxical valence of animals merits close attention in that they represent both a state of freedom as well as subservience, both innocence and savagery. As these stories make clear, they are creatures both cherished and consumed, both worshipped and sacrificed, beings that both define and question what human even means. Giovanni Verga was the first of the authors gathered in these pages to die, in , the year Mussolini marched to power in Rome. All the rest lived under Fascism at some point or another, and were affected directly by its legacy. The ugliest manifestation of Fascism was to dehumanize, to treat people as animals, or worse.


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The irony of course was that in order to achieve their aims, it was those in power who behaved like beasts. The regime sought to standardize and flatten the language, to weed out dialect and other anomalies, above all, to turn it inward.

Bite-Sized Literature: Take a Piece of One of These 18 Easy English Short Stories

The entire twentieth century can be read as a battle of wills between the wall Fascism sought to erect around Italy and Italian culture, and those—many of the writers represented here very much among them—determined, despite running grave risks, to break it down. The forty authors on my list hailed from all parts of Italy, though I acknowledge that my base in Rome and my love for southern Italy contributes a slant. They came from rich families and poor ones. They had all sorts of political leanings and varying degrees of political commitment.

Stylistically, they covered the spectrum: realist, neorealist, avant-garde, fantastic, Modernist, postmodernist. Some cultivated literary fame; others actively shunned it. Many were celebrated, powerful, influential figures.


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  • A few never saw their work published in their lifetime. If there is a dominant point of reference, it is World War II. Two were in Nazi concentration camps, and another escaped en route to one. At least a dozen were forced to live, for a time, in hiding, either because they were members of the anti-Fascist Resistance, or because they were Jews.

    World War II and its aftermath drastically and irrevocably altered Italian society, penetrating the collective consciousness, traumatizing it, but eventually reinvigorating it culturally and economically.

    The proliferation of literary magazines after the war, the redoubled and innovative publishing initiatives and the spirit of community and collaboration among writers, means that this time is now regarded as something of a golden age in Italian literary culture. Having said this, and in spite of the myriad personal connections among many of these authors, the anthology contains powerful meditations on alienation, estrangement, states of solitude.

    It was imposed upon a linguistically and culturally diverse population, late in the nineteenth century, when the separate regions of Italy were unified in the name of national identity. The roots of the modern Italian short story are themselves hybrid: at once deep and shallow, at once foreign and domestic. Siciliano was a writer, critic, and journalist from Rome, and he became the editor of the influential literary journal Nuovi Argomenti after the death of its founder, Alberto Moravia.

    Between Bandello and Boccaccio one must also acknowledge Masuccio Salernitano, whose own Novellino , a collection of fifty posthumously published tales, included one noted for being among the sources for Romeo and Juliet. What, the reader may ask, is a novellino? It is a book that gathers together various novelle the plural of novella , which, in Italian, is not a slim novel, but rather, a word used to describe a short story or a tale.

    Though Boccaccio titled his great work The Decameron , he explicitly refers to the tales themselves as novelle. Siciliano investigates the difference between the terms novella and racconto in Italian, seemingly interchangeable terms, both to be differentiated from romanzo , the word for novel. A racconto aims to communicate a story, personally and purposefully, to a listener.

    Thus raconteur , a French word that has also become English, refers specifically to a human figure, a storyteller, especially a captivating one. The spirit of the racconto implies a dynamic relation, with at least two people involved; though distinct from dialogue, it indicates a form, immediate and typically brief, of exchange.

    In modern Italian, the verb raccontare is commonly used, in conversation, when people want to narrate something casually but colorfully, imbuing this literary term with ongoing quotidian currency. Fleeting by nature, short stories, in spite of their concision and concentration, are infinitely elastic, expansive, probing, elusive—suggesting that the genre itself is essentially unstable, hybrid, even subversive in nature.

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    Lirriper and her friend send stories to her son at school. A short story first published in in All the Year Round magazine. Collection of short stories - Public Life Of Mr. Collection of short tales revolving around Victorian railway station.

    Rich collection of short pieces presenting a variety of scenes and characters. Collection of short stories focusing on couples. A parody of social relations between the sexes. Sarcastic and humorous work describing various types of Victorian young gentlemen - dedicated to the young ladies. Story about a waiter who stumbles upon some luggage and tries to identify its owner.

    A political tract that was written as a protest against a law that would prohibit all work and all recreation on Sunday. A novella published in as one of the Christmas stories, portraying the struggles of daily lives. A Christmas morality tale about self-respect and the consequences of the choices we make. A heartwarming Christmas fable telling a story of John Peerybingle and his much younger wife Dot. The last novella in Dickens' Christmas series tells a story of Professor Redlaw, who is haunted by his ghostly twin.

    A warm short story that focuses on romance and the baggage that comes with it.