Cover image for Conversations in Sicily
Conversations in Sicily
Vittorini, Elio, 1908-1966.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Conversazione in Sicilia. English
Publication Information:
New York : New Directions, 2000.
Physical Description:
xv, 182 pages ; 20 cm
Format :


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It stands as a modern classic not only for its powerful thematic resonance as one of the great novels of Italian anti-fascism but also as a trailblazer for its style, which blends literary modernism with the pre-modern fable in a prose of lyric beauty. Comparing Vittorini's work to Picasso's, Italo Calvino described Conversations as "the book-Guernica."

The novel begins at a time in the narrator's life when nothing seems to matter; whether he is reading newspaper posters blaring of wartime massacres, lying in bed with his wife or girlfriend, or flipping through the pages of a dictionary it is all the same to him--until he embarks on a journey back to Sicily, the home he has not seen in some fifteen years. In traveling through the Sicilian countryside and in variously hilarious and tragic conversations with its people--his indomitablemother in particular--he reconnects with his roots and rediscovers some basic human values.

In the introduction Hemingway wrote for the American debut ofConversations (published asIn Sicily by New Directions in 1949) he remarked: "I care very much about Vittorini's ability to bring rain with him when he comes, if the earth is dry and that is what you need." More recently, American critic Donald Heiney wrote that in this one book, Vittorini "like Rabelais and Cervantes...adds a new artistic dimension to the history of literature."

Author Notes

Elio Vittorini was an Italian writer and novelist. He was a contemporary of Cesare Pavese and an influential voice in the modernist school of novel writing.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Vittorini was arrested and jailed by the fascists on account of this 1941 novel. After learning that his father has abandoned his mother, a son returns to his roots and is reintroduced to the land and people of his past. This reprint retains the introduction by Hemingway that appeared in the 1949 U.S. edition. That's worth the price alone. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.