Malac­qua: Four Days of Rain in the City of Naples Wait­ing for the Oc­curence of an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Event

Ni­cola Pugliese Shaun White­side (Trans­la­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction / Adult Nonfiction - KAREN RIGBY

& Other Sto­ries (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $15.95 (208pp) 978-1-911508-06-9 Pugliese deftly turns the dark clouds of imag­i­na­tion into a life-af­firm­ing ode.

Ni­cola Pugliese’s un­usual was first pub­lished in 1977 by Italo Calvino. Never reprinted un­til af­ter Pugliese’s death, it ap­pears for the first time in English trans­la­tion by Shaun White­side.

This metic­u­lous lit­er­ary ex­per­i­ment pre­sents a tidal wave of cat­a­logs, over­heard in­ti­ma­cies, emer­gen­cies, mono­logues, and breath­less moods over the course of a few days in Oc­to­ber. Against the back­drop of tor­ren­tial rain, a sharp sense for the bound­ary be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate thought re­veals all the ur­gency of a doc­u­men­tary.

The mul­ti­stranded, ex­pan­sive nar­ra­tive fea­tures Carlo An­dreoli—a news­pa­per­man who loosely threads the work—as well as men and women who ex­pe­ri­ence the rain’s pro­gres­sion from nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena to nui­sance, warn­ing, mys­te­ri­ous force, and psy­cho­log­i­cal in­tru­sion.

One sec­tion, which fea­tures a doll that pro­duces strange noises, em­bod­ies the un­set­tling qual­ity of the storm. Ac­ci­dents com­bine with eerie events that high­light the bu­reau­cratic na­ture of a city cop­ing with the un­ex­pected. As ser­pen­tine para­graphs rake over mun­dane and philo­soph­i­cal de­tails, coun­cilors wres­tle over whether or not the ac­ci­dents were due to neg­li­gence. De­spite the char­ac­ters’ frus­tra­tion, there’s lit­tle trace of cyn­i­cism.

Pugliese cap­tures the res­ig­na­tion of a peo­ple who quickly adapt to cir­cum­stance. The work be­comes as much a twen­ti­eth-cen­tury por­trait of en­durance as it is a chal­lenge to con­ven­tional sto­ry­telling. Wind­ing, ec­static, with full knowl­edge that rain must even­tu­ally cease, the work bar­rels for­ward in a sur­pris­ingly mov­ing con­sid­er­a­tion of or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ences. Sub­tler side sto­ries prove fas­ci­nat­ing.

Loves, deaths, the hopes of par­ents, il­licit af­fairs, piv­otal mem­o­ries, grief, and ev­ery­day con­cerns gather with in­creas­ing pres­sure, then rapidly fade. Char­ac­ters en­ter and leave with min­i­mal fan­fare. Their in­tense, in­ter­nal wan­der­ings mark their cross­ing.

The re­sult is a city of voices ex­ist­ing in sus­pended drama. Carlo An­dreoli’s lengthy in­ter­lude, which splices the act of shav­ing with re­flec­tion, ex­em­pli­fies the book’s ex­treme ap­proach to time, which stretches thin, ap­pears to pause, then re­sumes. When the end fi­nally ar­rives, Pugliese deftly turns the dark clouds of imag­i­na­tion into a life-af­firm­ing ode.

The an­i­mals who tell the tale soar above all, over­lay­ing the harsh, mono­chrome world of hu­mans with glimpses of a richer world, won­der­ful in its va­ri­ety but heart-break­ingly be­yond our per­cep­tion.

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