The off-the-path travel author (Lost Worlds, 1993, etc.) spends a ripe year in the boot of Italy.
Yeadon takes readers into the heart and ways of Aliano, an old hilltop village in the region known as Basilicata, way down south. Not quite as “remarkably unexplored” as Yeadon would have it—the settlement can trace its roots back to the sixth-century b.c.—it’s still a wild place, not without its pagan aspects, full of the unexpected, the troubling, the wonderful. What was that howl he heard when the moon was full, that rustling in the deserted rooms of a rain-racked ghost town, and who was that ancient woman who got his broken-down car to start one night by a laying of hands on the motor? For insights into the mysteries of the place, Yeadon turns frequently to the writings of Carlo Levi, the anti-fascist author of Christ Stopped at Eboli, who was sent into internal exile in Aliano by Mussolini. But he also consults a fine company of locals, from the maker of excellent bricks to the seller of excellent sardines and the men and women with a hand for cooking. They tell him stories, they explain a widow’s obligations, they usher him, haltingly, into the archaic and animistic. Yeadon will visit, and describe in leisurely detail, cave dwellings, a cathedral from the 13th century, and a handful of improbable hilltop villages; he will eat wild-boar stew, and he will find a town “still mysterious and elusively tied to a darker age and deeper pagani touchstones of knowledge and belief.” Remarkably, for Yeadon is practically defined by his restlessness, Aliano makes him sit awhile and feed his many interior selves.
More fine work from a stylish and cultured writer with a hungry, open curiosity, a knack for compressing without diminishing, and an unfettered love for life and serendipity. (46 line drawings)