THE RED CARNATION by Elio Vittorini


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This might almost be viewed as an Italian counterpart of The Catcher in the Rye, so often does the reader's mind go back to the sensitive handling of adolescence in that extraordinary book. The very differences mark themselves as basic differences of nationality. Where the boy in approaches sex experience blindly and naively, sixteen year old Mainard takes the intimacies of a brothel in his stride -- an aspect of the book that will shock readers who assume that teen agers are still children. On other scores the parallels are more marked than the contrasts, -- the intensity of emotional response, the conviction that the imaginary passion of the moment is for all time, the confusion and insecurity and determination to prove maturity- in this book by violence rather than experimentation. The story is set against a background of Italy of the Matteotti affair (1924) when to be a Fascist was a test of independence, which ultimately proved instead to be a need for authority. Secret organizations, childish and at the same time adult in implication, become integral to the youth development of Italy, providing groundwork for the burgeoning Fascist power. A book that at various levels proves perceptive, challenging, disturbing.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1952
Publisher: New Directions