A reverie of Hofstadter’s days in Campania is evoked in vibrantly loving terms by the smitten reporter (The Love Affair as a Work of Art, 1996, etc.).
For every tourist to Naples, the view of the blue gulf shimmering in the sunshine, Vesuvius in the mist, may be unforgettable. But that’s not what this book is about. Somehow lodged under the rubric of nonfiction, this is no more a travel book about Naples than Death in Venice is a guide to the old city on the Adriatic lagoon. As Hofstadter’s subtitle suggests, it’s a romance with a felicitous setting and a characteristic supporting cast. In the background, there are the roaring Vespas and the busy piazzas, the tripe “dripping over the tripe altars,” the lotto-betting and the colorful native Neapolitans. There’s Donato, the wedding photographer; Luca, the hustler with his inflatable crèche; Michele and Salvatore, the geographers of subterranean Naples; Gigi, the stuttering actor; Gennaro, the radio soothsayer. Co-starring with the author, who takes the classic role of ex-pat writer, is mysterious, fetching Benedetta. The story he tells of their transitory reunion after a three-year hiatus is relayed with a cinematic attraction. Chapter headings (“The Letter,” “Signora Perna and the Other World,” “Benedetta in Springtime”) are redolent of his tale, which, in truth, fits somewhere in the literary twilight betwixt factual personal history and engaging fictive memory.
The author’s recollection of the love he found and left in Napoli, artfully told.