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Love In Vain Selected Stories [Paperback]

Federigo Tozzi , Minna Proctor
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 31 2001
Love in Vain: Selected Stories of Federigo Tozzi is the debut short-story collection in English of one of Italy's most distinguished early modern writers. The twenty stories of Love in Vain were selected and translated by Minna Proctor, who received the 1998 PEN/Renato Poggioli Award for her then unpublished renderings of Tozzi's fiction. "The investigation of naturalism, of truth," writes Proctor in her biographical introduction, "defined Tozzi's poetics. Impassioned by literature, yet isolated from the mainstream, Tozzi found nothing so fascinating as the unfettered expression of the inner lives of normal people." His work is at once a mixture of subtlety and melodrama, of psychological perception, primitive emotion, and raw physical need, as his plain subjects, yearning for connection and love, forever grasp at the unattainable.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

PEN award-winner Minna Proctor translated the 20 pieces by prolific Italian realist Federigo Tozzi (1883-1920) that make up Love in Vain: Selected Stories, in which the young characters' search for the romantic ideal often leads only to misery. Jealousy, obsession and betrayal are brought to the fore in these stories of smalltown lovers driven by their passions, trying desperately to connect usually without success. "What good does love do me?" one anguished character asks. Through the arranged marriages, secret trysts and unfulfilled desires, disappointment and frustration are never far off.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

Nervy, sexy stories from a rediscovered Italian master...[Tozzi's] lovers love so hard it hurts. -- Salon.com, Maria Russo, 11 June 2001

[A]n almost Chekhovian delicacy. -- Context, James Crossley, Fall 2001

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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Tozzi's name won't be found heading many encyclopedia articles, but he was by all accounts a prolific and significant figure in pre-Modern Italian literature. Although he didn't survive into his forties, his relatively few years of authorial productivity resulted in five novels and over one hundred short stories, among other works of poetry and drama. Of these considerable efforts, only the twenty tales in this volume are readily available in English. They range in date of composition from 1910 until 1919, and the highlight of the collection is the opportunity to trace Tozzi's growing facility with the story form. The early stories are barely more than vignettes, but the later ones show an increasing degree of sophistication, employing varying narrative techniques and more involved plots to explore a consistent thematic preoccupation, the confused psychology of semi-rural characters. In Tozzi's world, emotions swirl implacably, and motives are barely more intelligible to the reader than they are to the protagonists. Typically, in "First Love," a character named Giacomo is "dizzy with youthful ecstasy" for Emilia but can't find words or even actions to express himself. Her kindly replies to his vaguely expressed worries are met only with thoughts: "You? I'm ashamed of you. I don't like you. I don't believe you." Here, as in every story, a character experiences conflicting impulses in a single moment. In this example, Tozzi yokes disparate emotions together with the abruptness of a clumsy lover, but with time, he learns to interlace them with an almost Chekhovian delicacy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Compilation of Tozzi Stories May 23 2001
Format:Paperback
When I heard that this was coming out a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to hear that an edition of Tozzi's stories was finally being produced in English translation. And having just received it, I am not disappointed. Minna Proctor does a phenomenal job with her translations, making them both fluid and faithful to the atmosphere generated in the originals. As the title implies, the majority of the stories revolve around love, but, where Tozzi is concerned, that definition is quite broad, ranging from conjugal and hyper-romanticized to nebulous and bizarre (i.e. "Pigionali" ["Boardinghouse"], one of my favorites).
Like Kafka, Walser and Buchner, Tozzi's internal conflicts between his own identity, sense of self-worth, and how these fit (or not) into the greater whole of humanity immediately comes to the forefront of many stories in this collection. In my eyes, only Buchner's "Woyzeck" feels as anachronistic as Tozzi's best, most passionate stories, totally out of step with the literary style of their peers and having much more of an impact on the post-WW2 generation of Italian writers, people like Moravia, Brancati, Berto, etc.
I'm also very thankful for Proctor's extensive introduction to the book, which provides vital biographical information on a writer not often included in literary reference texts, even those dealing specifically with early 20th-century Italian fiction. As Proctor states, much of this undoubtedly has to do with the constant use of the "provincial" label to describe, or belittle, his body of work. Perhaps this will counteract that misconception.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Savagely realistic and deeply human April 1 2010
By Luca Graziuso and Marina Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The collection here compiled by the translator and editor Minna Proctor is nothing short of a gracious and prodigious rendering of 20 short stories that narrate the delusions and the distrust of lives under the stress of capricious whims and passionate obstructions that define and deride what it means to be human. Each story totters amidst the ruins of a reality that victimizes and exalts, it frustrates and absorbs the depths of a nightmare that is lived as if through a dream from which one is reluctant to wake. The delicacy of the prose is suffused with a lyrical aftertaste that blushes the wisdom into the caricature of an individuality straining to conform as it wanders through the mundaneity of affairs as if by an encarcerated impulse. Idleness, anarchic adlurterations of the everyday situatedness of each life is molded with such intimacy we confide with the eternal that mystifies the beauty of our unique ambitions. Yes, these musings here reported are but the slightest crystallizations that Tozzi is able to sentence through a way of describing and storytelling that the kinship many have hinted at (with Checkov) is not misplaced - if only with the difference that in the Italian writer there is an excess of a truth that, instead of following protagonists like a shadow, it vanishes at every turn we spy a glimpse of it. The beauty of this singular style is a hard task to approximate in any language, so much so that I should note the Italian Tozzi writes in is a Tuscan (he was a Siennese) inflected prose that dazzles with a fluidity and a marked rhapsodic savagery that it brings the poetic to a temperament of lush virtuosity and dignified provincialism (somewhat similar to Hamsun if you are hard-pressed for comparative liasons). Tozzi was a man of such an anamolous nature that his biography is long overdue, and the usual narratives that simply concentrate on his relationship with his father, and his frightening sensibility for the emotional stronghold we rationalize our lives through, are but the starting points of a life that in barely 40 years lived as it wrote: beauty, pain and the heartful lust with every single experience whose force and vanity is that of a child in the throes of a magical stay amid disenchantment. Excellence. Beauty. Truth. It's a short book, one that you will cherish for as long as there is thirst for wisdom in your heart.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Compilation of Tozzi Stories May 23 2001
By James Bunnelle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When I heard that this was coming out a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to hear that an edition of Tozzi's stories was finally being produced in English translation. And having just received it, I am not disappointed. Minna Proctor does a phenomenal job with her translations, making them both fluid and faithful to the atmosphere generated in the originals. As the title implies, the majority of the stories revolve around love, but, where Tozzi is concerned, that definition is quite broad, ranging from conjugal and hyper-romanticized to nebulous and bizarre (i.e. "Pigionali" ["Boardinghouse"], one of my favorites).

Like Kafka, Walser and Buchner, Tozzi's internal conflicts between his own identity, sense of self-worth, and how these fit (or not) into the greater whole of humanity immediately comes to the forefront of many stories in this collection. In my eyes, only Buchner's "Woyzeck" feels as anachronistic as Tozzi's best, most passionate stories, totally out of step with the literary style of his peers and having a profound impact on the post-WW2 generation of Italian writers, like Moravia, Brancati, Berto, etc.

I'm also very thankful for Proctor's extensive introduction to the book, which provides vital biographical information on a writer not often included in literary reference texts, even those dealing specifically with early 20th-century Italian fiction. As Proctor states, much of this undoubtedly has to do with the constant use of the "provincial" label to describe, or belittle, his body of work. Perhaps this will counteract that misconception. One can only hope that New Directions or another publisher produces English translations of his longer works, especially RICORDI DI UN IMPIEGATO ("Journal of a Clerk", out-of-print in english for fifty years and a personal favorite), TRE CROCI ("Three Crosses", out-of-print since its initial release in the mid 1920's), IL PODERE (never translated), and CON GLI OCCHI CHIUSI ("Eyes Shut" and "Ghisola", two different translations of his first book.) In the meantime, Proctor and New Directions has given us this beautiful compilation to enjoy.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding and Mysterious March 17 2010
By Eric Maroney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This collection of Tozzi's short stories, masterfully translated by Minna Proctor, is appealing as it is mysterious. Tozzi had a gift of keeping his readers off balance. There is a constant shift of mood and tempo; it is as if the self has no fixed point or center, but roams around from one fleeting sensation to the next. The outcome is spellbinding. The reader is left adrift like Tozzi's characters. What will happen next? And it keeps one turning the page.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So I've been reading the work of an unsung Italian . . . . Oct. 29 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tozzi's name won't be found heading many encyclopedia articles, but he was by all accounts a prolific and significant figure in pre-Modern Italian literature. Although he didn't survive into his forties, his relatively few years of authorial productivity resulted in five novels and over one hundred short stories, among other works of poetry and drama. Of these considerable efforts, only the twenty tales in this volume are readily available in English. They range in date of composition from 1910 until 1919, and the highlight of the collection is the opportunity to trace Tozzi's growing facility with the story form. The early stories are barely more than vignettes, but the later ones show an increasing degree of sophistication, employing varying narrative techniques and more involved plots to explore a consistent thematic preoccupation, the confused psychology of semi-rural characters. In Tozzi's world, emotions swirl implacably, and motives are barely more intelligible to the reader than they are to the protagonists. Typically, in "First Love," a character named Giacomo is "dizzy with youthful ecstasy" for Emilia but can't find words or even actions to express himself. Her kindly replies to his vaguely expressed worries are met only with thoughts: "You? I'm ashamed of you. I don't like you. I don't believe you." Here, as in every story, a character experiences conflicting impulses in a single moment. In this example, Tozzi yokes disparate emotions together with the abruptness of a clumsy lover, but with time, he learns to interlace them with an almost Chekhovian delicacy.
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