From Italian writer Bufalino (Lies of the Night, 1991): a rich feast of a novel that—with just the right mix of poignancy and comedy—details one golden summer's gift of love to a man whose youth had been spent amidst mud and blood. The narrator decides, now that he's old, to write a ``happy book'' about the summer he spent as a 30-ish high-school teacher in a town on the Sicilian coast—a time when he was ``twenty reborn'' and ``convalescent in the sun,'' enjoying that summer's gift to him, a gift owed him because of the war. Eager to love and forget, even if only for a month or two, he describes how he first falls in love with tempestuous Maria Venera, granddaughter of Don Alvise Salibba, one of the town's last aristocrats, who lives in a crumbling palazzo. Nonagenarian Don Alvise is a ``splendour of a fellow with the gift of the gab'' who loves to tell ``cynical, titillating yarns.'' The narrator's love is briefly shaken when Maria tells him she's pregnant by another man and asks him to help her get an abortion. Still obsessed with her beauty, he has a brief but intense affair with the discarded mistress of a local magnate, flirts with former pupils, and daydreams. But when his close friend becomes betrothed and Maria runs off with a French filmmaker, he realizes that all he's done is ``play-act love.'' The summer ends with his transfer, and now, years later, dying in Rome, he wonders whether ``memory behaves as the body does when confronted with an onslaught of microbes—a defence force isolates the most dangerous, and leaves them immortal but inert within us.'' These ``golden moments'' we resuscitate later in writing—that ``prosthesis of living.'' Witty, wise, and ebulliently literate: a modern fable about the tricks that love and memory play on us.
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