Book Review: Italian Short Stories

The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories

Edited By Jhumpa Lahiri

“The entire twentieth century can be read as a battle of wills between the wall of 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.”

An exceptional introduction to Italian literature for English readers, the 40 authors compiled in this anthology gift us with vivid stories that when placed into one binding challenge trite perceptions and unveil a raw, more realistic portrait of Italy, from its birthing pangs as a modern nation to the end of the 20th century.

The award-winning author and Princeton professor, Lahiri’s thoughtful selection of authors exhibits a remarkable cross-section of Italian society that includes both men and women, well-known and unknown, who hail from different parts of Italy, belong to various social classes, and are employed in various professions, from poets to politicians, from musicians to editors, and beyond.

Before each short story, readers are briefly introduced to its author and the Italy in which he or she lived and challenged. This anthology is devoted to portraying an authentic Italy. More than a third of its stories are translated into English for the first time. Short stories, as Lahiri’s writes, are “a source of resistance, a means for creative risks and experimentation,” and perhaps that may be the reason why you won’t be able to put this book down.

— Review by Natalie Wulderk

This book review was published in the 2021 spring issue of NIAF’s Ambassador magazine. Check out the rest of our insightful reviews by visiting niaf.org/ambassador and flipping to page 66.

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