The Marchesa Colombi,
This 1885 novella, which reappeared in 1973 under the editorship of the late Italo Calvino, was the most celebrated work of a pseudonymous Italian writer (1840-1920) who may remind contemporary readers of an edgier, funnier George Sand. It's narrated by Denza Dellara, an unlovely provincial woman whose dreams of marrying her (grossly overweight) "Prince Charming" are unrealized, leaving her trapped in an unfulfilling union with a bloodless older husband. Ironical likenings of Della to "Faust's Marguerite" and of her "gray elephant" Mazzucchetti and his drinking companions to Dumas's Three Musketeers are indicative of the artfulness with which "The Marchesa" impudently deconstructs the clichés of popular romance and the lugubrious monotony of late-19th-century realist fiction. A trailblazing work, in its way, and a most welcome rediscovery. Read full book review >
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