Cover image for Sea of memory
Sea of memory
De Luca, Erri, 1950-
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Uniform Title:
Tu, mio. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
Hopewell, N.J. : Ecco Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
118 pages ; 23 cm
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During a summer holiday on an island off Naples in the 1950s, a sixteen-year-old boy, feeling guilty about Italy's recent wartime past, is chagrined to find his family reluctant to answer his questions. Go read books, they tell him; it's all there, but leave us alone. A local fisherman who befriends him is drawn into laconic replies that fill the gaps in the boy's awareness of both Italian and German responsibility.

As the holiday progresses, the boy becomes obsessed with a mysterious, slightly older girl who is also vacationing on the island, and from her he learns what it meant to be a Jew under German domination. Through her story, the boy is consumed with the emotional experience of belonging to another time, another people, another place. Now, a few years after the war's end, Germans have once again invaded the Bay of Naples, but this time as well-heeled tourists. The boy's newfound resentment bursts into a flame of retribution in a remarkable climax that leaves him, and the reader, with the understanding that the past can never be forgotten, nor can it be corrected.

In beautifully written prose, this short, unsentimental novel evokes the sensibility of adolescence, the discovery of love, and questions of guilt and survival.

She pulled so hard I couldn't resist without hurting her. I went to the record player and put on a slow song. She took me by the hand, placing my other one behind her back, and led me into the music. The others took advantage of the record to do the same. "Why did you say I'm an old man?" I asked her, surprised by the deep timbre that issued from my throat.

"You've suddenly become an old man in a marvelous way. You are someone who has come from faraway, like me, someone who has disembarked in a new land, has gray hair, and wonders how he is going to get along."

The bite of the moray had left a pattern of holes: a pale letter on dark skin. Her hand was right on that spot and it was the most intimate gesture I had eve

Author Notes

Erri De Luca is an Italian author, translator, and poet, born in Naples in 1950. His first book, Non ora, non qui (Not now, not here), was published in 1989. He has published over fifty books including "Il più e il meno", and "La Faccia delle nuvole", in 2016. His awards includes the 2013 European Prize for Literature for his body of work. He was the winner of the 2016 Bad S-x in Fiction award for the book, The Day Before Happiness.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This short, moving but slightly strained coming-of-age tale brings the aftermath of the Holocaust to an idyllic Italian island off the coast of Naples. The nameless narrator recalls a summer vacation there during the 1950s; at the age of 16, he learns to fish, falls in love, and discovers the long aftermath of World War II. Eschewing the company of foreign tourists and younger children, he finds a teacher of life in Nicola, a local fisherman who communicates his love of the sea and his memories of war to the boy yearning for knowledge. Attracted by the older, more mysterious girls on the island, the narrator falls in love with Caia, who shares her secret with him: she's Jewish, saved by Italian soldiers from the Nazis who killed the rest of her Yugoslav family. Caia thinks that the narrator shares her father's mannerisms, and may be his reincarnation. Initiated into seamanship by one vicious fish bite and a torrential night expedition, the boy is finally inspired to manifest his newfound manhood, his passion for Caia and his ardent Italian patriotism in a flamboyant, cataclysmic act of destruction, during which his youth, his summer and his tale come to an end. Without Caia's mystic feeling that he embodies her father's spirit, he might lack sufficient motive for the ambitious destruction with which he brings a sort of Armageddon to the island. Nevertheless, the psychic bits hinder what is otherwise an alluring and poignant story about an adolescent in love, in search of himself and of history. Brombert's translation ranges from clear to shimmeringly lyrical. De Luca's other works include three translations from the Hebrew Bible as well as five novels. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Memories of a father killed in World War II come to the surface in this dramatic short novel, set in the early 1950s on a small island near Capri. The narrator, a young man from the city, is spending the summer with his uncle, who is teaching him to fish. In his spare time, the young man enjoys a friendship with his older cousin Daniele and his circle of friends. This group includes Caia, a young orphaned woman with whom our narrator instantly falls in love. He discovers that she is Jewish and delights in sharing this secret with her. At times, he acts and speaks to her as her father didÄas if he embodies her father's spirit. When German visitors on holiday sing the SS anthem in a restaurant where Caia and her friends are eating, she becomes angry and her secret is revealed. This beautifully written novel is De Luca's sixth and the first to be translated into English. Highly recommended for all public libraries.ÄLisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.