TERRAROSSA by Saverio Strati


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Terrarossa, a mountain village in southern Italy, is the archetype of peasant poverty-- squalid, corrupt, and primitive. The arrival of a group of masons from the city (the youngest of whom tells his story) precipitates unrest, even incipient rebellion on the part of a people already too downtrodden to hope for amelioration of their lot. Houses are built to replace the caves; magical electric light is envisioned instead of smoking pine-drippings. But the religious acceptance of God's will, coupled with a tradition-bound society, protects Terrarossa from the slightest balm of change. In comparison, Filippo's own story becomes a sadly deficient account of his sensual rites de passage: only women--any woman-- consume his energy and interest. But the honor code of Terrarossa makes his bumbling exploits with village girls a dangerous habit. His personal problem is animalism--pure and physical; and if there weren't such men as Costanzo, a serious-minded master mason, and Biasi, a sagacious village peon, the fate of villages like Terrarossa would seem justifiably hopeless. The writing rings of truth, but with a somewhat hollow sound, although much of the fault may be due to Elizabeth Ellman's over-simple, over-literal translation. Moreover, if the narrator were less sexually obsessed, the more important portrait of the village tragedy might emerge with greater clarity and significance. As it stands--a fictional commonplace.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1962
Publisher: Abelard-Schuman