♦Toramaao Landolfi. Dialogo dei massimi sistemi. Florence Italian Fiction
Published: September 25, 1938
Copyright © The New York Times
“Dialogue on the most important systems:” If the book were really such a dialogue* it would be highly advisable to publish it under another title. But it is not; it is a series of short stories* and some of them contain what used to be called purple patches. But the author’s one worry* obviously, is that his book may fall in the hands of those who look for such purple patches, and mark the pages, and pass them on to their friends. He has done his best to prevent his book from being read. He has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. We doubt if there has ever been a book so little read as this…
Have we said enough to convince our readers that we have the greatest belief in I^andolfi’s genius and in his literary future ? If we stress this so much, it is because this affirmation myst be largely taken by faith, except for those who read the book in the original, or perhaps in a translation. It is impossible in the brief space allotted in these columns to give any idea of these stories.
– Some of the characterizations are unforgettable, possessions forever: the old gentleman who pretends he has been a Conrathan sea captain and lives in deadly fear of spiders; the woman who disappears down’ a quicksand; the half-wit who torments his devoted old servant to death; the reveries of a young girl as she wakens to womanhood; the description of a mouse killed by a dog; the limping horse, are little masterpieces of Italian prose; one reads them again and again with fresh delight; one comes back to them the next day and seems never to have read them before.
While I was talking with the gardener, a woman at a window in the house opposite took it into her head to tell me an interminable story, pathetic and obscure. She was planting basil in a pot; I could understand perfectly that when she stuck the peg into tlTe ground she was alluding to the mistreatment she had suffered at her husband’s hands, and when she stroked the leaves she implied the fact that she had brought a respectable dowry with her; all that was quite clear; but what the deuce did she mean by pressing the earth with her fingers around the lit- tie sprigs she had planted ? And why all this mystery; if she really had something to tell me personally, it would have been so simple to say it in words. But perhaps the woman was afraid of me. In the end I was irritated by the monotony of her sordid tale, and so went back into the house.