Three young men set out to establish a textile firm in Florence, Italy.
It’s the 1970s, and the Italian economy is booming. Ivo Barrocciai, whose father has long run a small but well-established textile company, dreams of setting out on his own: establishing his own factory, modernizing, wildly expanding. Failure doesn’t seem possible. “Wasn’t it a miracle that anyone could try his hand at opening a business?” another character wonders in Nesi’s (Story of My People, 2014) new novel. Ivo decides to build a massive factory and, to do so, acquires two partners, of sorts: Cesare Vezzosi, a scatterbrained, philandering tennis prodigy; and Pasquale Citarella, a simple, hardworking painter who blushes easily and has never had a bank account. The novel traces their business journey, along with several underlying threads: as Cesare pursues a mistress, Ivo pursues Cesare’s wife, and Cesare’s son pursues a classmate. Pasquale, meanwhile, tries to keep the business on track. Unfortunately, all these narrative threads fail to add up to anything. Ivo and Cesare are selfish, unsympathetic characters, and Nesi is so condescending in his treatment of Pasquale that those pages are difficult to get through. Nor are the joys and wonders of capitalism, the underlying theme of the novel, entirely convincing. And though we’re told, many times, that Ivo’s new factory is beautiful, very beautiful, incredibly beautiful, we never get any more specific details.
A bubbling but empty-headed tribute to manufacturing, production, and the wonders of capitalism.