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Italian Journey
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First published in France in 1954, Jean Giono's tale describes his journey to the land whence his father's people came. A most reluctant traveler, Giono nonetheless discovers a strange beauty not only in such traditional sights as the palazzos and canals of Venice but in people and objects usually ignored or forgotten: wistful waiters, suspicious hair dressers, pugnacious men of God, recalcitrant coffee machines, telescopic umbrellas, and abandoned field machinery. Giono's world is one where a street gathering that seems to verge on revolution is in reality a stamp collector's market, and where inept municipal musicians can suddenly offer Mozartian joys.

An Italian Journey is also a meditation on the author's development and a manual on how to achieve happiness. Giono is conscious of Italy's obvious beauties -- the fine monuments, the lyrical landscapes -- but his gift is apprehending the joys squeezed from the dark side of life -- from dull skies, grim facades, muddy fields, and the tedium of the autostrada. Laden with anecdote and history as well as the author's exploration of self, An Italian Journey is a masterpiece of travel literature.

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About the Author

Jean Giono (1895- 1970) lived most of his life in Provence. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Blue Boy, The Man Who Planted Trees, and The Horseman on the Roof. John Cumming is a writer, translator, and critic living in France.

Reviews

Around 1951, French writer Giono (1895-1970)‘who in these pages claims that he is not a traveler.... I seem scarcely to have moved in fifty years"‘left his staid, familiar life and traveled with his wife and another couple to post-WWII Italy. Here, Giono (The Horseman on the Roof; Angelo), known for his novels depicting provincial settings, first explores Turin in Piedmont, the homeland of his father's family. From there, he travels steadily westward, though remaining in the Italian north‘for him, "there is nothing attractive about places like Naples and Capri. The exquisite azure blue bores me as much as the rocks and flowers." He journeys to Milan, Brescia, Lake Garda (where "Mussolini set up the vicious yet ineffectual Republic of Salo") and Lonato, where the "countryside of Virgil's Georgics" can be seen. Giono shares folktales and historical tidbits as related by the locals he meets‘though many details will be obscure for those not as familiar with Italian history as he. Traveling through Verona, he finally reaches the dustless city of Venice, where Venetian girls, while very stylish and pale, are so anemic that they have to go to the abattoir to drink blood from a freshly slaughtered ox. While Giono sometimes directs readers to less interesting cul-de-sacs, he captures nicely (assisted by Cumming's translation) the beautiful and seemingly quiet Italian countryside and its people, offering a striking contrast to the many Italian films of the same time that depicted a more depressed and tumultuous nation. (Dec.)

"Giono skips over the obvious, goes right for the magic of his subject, and adds his own richly invested insight. His enchanting invitation to the idiosyncratic charms of Italy stands out brightly among the ho-hum abundance on the subject." --Kirkus Reviews

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