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The Worst Intentions [Paperback]

Alessandro Piperno , Ann Goldstein

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Book Description

July 1 2007

"A resounding success! I'm telling everyone they must read it."-Gad Lerner, Vanity Fair

"Sumptuous, comic, tragic, miraculously and admirably uncertain throughout, whether it is tragedy or parody."-Corriere della Sera

Italy's leading daily newspaper called The Worst Intentions "a dangerous novel." Right from the title, wrote La Repubblica, this daring book "proclaims the furiously bellicose and iconoclastic spirit that drives it."

Daniel is the thirty-three-year-old heir to the dappled fortunes of the Sonninos, a wealthy Jewish-Italian family whose staggering rise and fall during the years spanning the end of World War II and the beginning of the twenty-first century provides the richly colored backdrop to this remarkable tragicomedy. Daniel has inherited his grandfather's extravagant passions and his father's servility, as well as the excesses of his social class. He is also the victim of a crippling infatuation with Gaia, fountainhead of his erotic fantasies and fetishes.

This novel will be justly compared to the works of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. An audacious, sumptuous saga about ritual and liberty, love and war, sex and betrayal, set in the opulent neighborhoods of contemporary Rome.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions (July 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933372338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933372334
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 12.9 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #692,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This gall-coated Jewish-Italian family folly opens with patriarch Bepy Sonnino, a textile magnate, lying dead in his rosewood coffin, leaving wife Ada, sons Luca and Teo, and aging ex-mistress Giorgia Di Porto bereft—well, sort of. The crackly, all-seeing first-person narrative falls to Luca's 33-year-old ne'er-do-well son, Daniel, who seems born to the task. He shows us his Uncle Teo, an émigré Israeli who backs the Likud party; sexually frustrated Aunt Micaela, Teo's wife (an adolescent encounter with her feet hurled me into a vortex of depraved fetishism); cousin Lele, whose testicular cancer has rendered his homosexuality academic; and Daniel's father, Luca, who makes a cameo in his Porsche and exits in a cloud of irrelevance. Gaia Cittadini, the granddaughter of Bepy's business partner, possesses eyes that drive Daniel to distraction. Rome's Jewish community feels as tight-knit and claustrophobic as mid-century New York's: She's anarchic, says Daniel of his mother, but, like all people who enjoy appearing disillusioned, deep inside hasn't given up the dream of happiness and pleasure: she has only buried it socially. This is a very bitter, very funny book. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A prizewinning best-seller in Italy, Piperno's debut novel will likely strike some American readers as recycled Philip Roth. For Daniel Sorrentino, the 33-year-old narrator and grandson of a Jewish Italian family, is given to the same erotic obsessions and hypersensitivity to class distinctions that preoccupy the narrators of Roth's early novels. In a monologue that is sometimes bitterly funny and sometimes overly digressive, Daniel sketches in his once wealthy family's disastrous loss of the fortune that was amassed, in large part, by Daniel's grandfather, Bepy, a textile manufacturer whose falling out with his partner precipitated the family's financial descent. Daniel devotes asides to his workaholic father and his put-upon, self-sacrificing mother before zeroing in on the defining moment of his young adulthood—his obsession with Gaia Cittadini, the granddaughter of Bepy's business partner. Content to be her friend in the hope of eventually becoming her lover, Daniel subjects himself to a series of increasingly humiliating encounters that cripple his self-esteem. What Daniel's meandering monologue lacks in pacing, it makes up for in setting, as he describes in envious detail the luxurious residences of Rome's upper crust. Wilkinson, Joanne

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh young weird voice -- artistic, comic and complex. I loved it. Sept. 19 2009
By Linda Linguvic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This 2005 first novel was a best seller in Italy. Now translated into English, it was the choice of my book discussion group at our local bookstore. I had never heard of it before and was delighted to experience this fresh new young and comic voice. It is quite outrageous in its way and, especially at the beginning, I laughed out loud at some of his character descriptions.

The book is set in modern Italy and tells the story of a Jewish-Italian family through the eyes of the narrator whose father is Jewish and whose mother is Catholic. Told in the first person, the narrator is a self-effacing academic who uses an excessive amount of complex words to create a family portrait. He's sadistically clever in probing the depths of human relationships, sparing nobody. There are times he is annoying and mean spirited but there are truths in what he says and he comes across as a very bright weirdo who uses his words well. He's always an outsider but I felt little sympathy for him mostly because he whines just a little too much.

I loved the characters, all of them. There's his Jewish grandfather who lived through WW2 and became a wealthy textile baron, only to lose his fortune because of bad decisions. There's his uncle, who defied the family and became an Israeli. There's his father, a globe trotting albino. A lot of the book deals with social class and the love of his life, a very rich young woman who treats him badly. His romantic life doesn't exist with the exception of his obsessive fetishism and we hear a lot about that too.

Basically, there is no defined plot. And even the ending can be thought of as open ended. The story is uneven and it doesn't flow evenly. However, despite all this, I loved the book, loved its weirdness and the artistic use of the words. I recommend it for the adventurous few who want to read something different and who might be curious as to the kind of book that has such tremendous popularity with young Italian audiences. This is not for everybody of course. But for those looking to expand their literary horizons, it is a real treat.
3.0 out of 5 stars Worst in translation Oct. 2 2010
By Vining - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although the characters are of interest, the writing style left me numb. The run-on (and on and on) sentences and subordinate clauses were fatiguing. It was a struggle to continue and ultimately a struggle not rewarded. Have loved so many Europa publications I am surprised at this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing book July 5 2010
By selena - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book a lot, even though the plot isn't very transparent, it gets you involved in the minds of people so you can understand what drives them to act in the way they do. The story evolves around psychological issues of young people, who are spoiled with money yet very insecure and shows how these insecurities come out on the surface as snobbishness and cruelty towards others. The vantage point of the story itself is interesting, being an insider and outsider at the same time, the author describes multiple characters as well as his own personality and their issues. This book tells a story of struggling characters who fail to become what they struggle to be, possibly even without grabbing the meaning of the situation, but helps you see these people's motives very well. Definitely recommend reading it
4.0 out of 5 stars outstanding first novel May 28 2008
By John Moran - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book authentically captures the atmosphere of a wealthy Jewish family in Rome after the war, struggling to come to terms with what it means to be Jewish. Piperno is an excellent writer who through telling details makes his story captivating and somehow universal.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars spastic June 3 2010
By Jessica Confessore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I could not get into this book at all. It's all over the place. I think this guy has ADD because it jumps subjects per paragraph. Maybe it's a bad translation, but it did not make sense to me at all. One good thing was that it did have an authentic Italian vibe. It reminded me of my childhood in the Italian section of Hartford, CT. One of those Italian men(my mother's boss) bit my cheek because I refused to kiss him. Ahh memories....

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