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THE CASTLE OF FRATTA by Ippolito Nievo



Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1957
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin

This long novel is a curiosity. Written in 1858, it was published posthumously and now newly translated from the Italian by Lovett F. Edwards, it makes its first appearance in the United States. Italian critics have praised it as one of the few great Italian novels. Whether the modern reader will agree is another question. It tells of the decay and death of the Italian aristocracy (personified in the family of the castle of Fratta) and of Venice as a political, economic and cultural unit. And against this is set the first abortive struggles for liberty, fostered and then smothered by Napoleon in his sweep across Europe- and finally Italy's emergence as a modern unit. More importantly and interestingly, it tells of numerous people and what happened to them in all of the turmoil; Carlo, the narrator, who loved the Plsana, the younger daughter of the Count of Fratta; Lucilio, patterned on Mazzini, who loved Clara, the spiritual, older daughter. All around these four swirl the aristocrats, the peasants, the priests, the smugglers, revolutionaries, turncoats, heroes and cowards- and perhaps Nievo's greatest gift is his ability to bring all of these to vivid life. If the book were all on this immediate level, it would indeed be a great one. As it is, there are also long passages on love, on religion, on morality, which are dated in content and character. Nevertheless, the novel is noteworthy for its vigorous characters and its lively and witty social history and satire.