The Betrothed

I Promessi Sposi
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Penguin Classics
1840
eBook
720
Italian
Bruce Penman
July 31, 2021 August 9, 2021
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Set in Lombardy during the Spanish occupation of the late 1620s, The Betrothed tells the story of two young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, prevented from marrying by the petty tyrant Don Rodrigo, who desires Lucia for himself. Forced to flee, they are then cruelly separated, and must face many dangers including plague, famine and imprisonment, and confront a variety of strange characters—the mysterious Nun of Monza, the fiery Father Cristoforo and the sinister “Unnamed”—in their struggle to be reunited. A vigorous portrayal of enduring passion, The Betrothed‘s exploration of love, power, and faith presents a whirling panorama of seventeenth-century Italian life and is one of the greatest European historical novels.

“The 19th-century Italian literary classic renowned for its vivid descriptions of the 1630 pestilence that gutted Milan.” —The New York Times

“Compulsory reading for Italian high school students, The Betrothed gives a historically accurate account of the bubonic plague that wiped out a quarter of Milan’s population in 1629-1631.” —Politico

“This is not just a book; it offers consolation to the whole of humanity.” —Giuseppe Verdi


About the book

The Betrothed is the first novel written by an Italian author and is a milestone in our literature. Everyone, or almost everyone, studied this book in high school, especially those who attended a “liceo” (I’m not going to explain the difference among all the high schools we have) or an advanced technical institute (usually in the second grade which is 10th grade for non-Italians).

With Manzoni, Italian fiction adapts to the modern reality already present in France and England for more than a century, thus guaranteeing the return of our literature in Europe after a crisis that lasted more than two centuries.

Two cultural strands converge in The Betrothed: the Lombard Enlightenment which aims to bring the intellectual closer to society and the Romanticism with its attention to national history. Without Manzoni there would have been no history of the novel in Italy.

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Le masque de Nô

Le masque de Nô
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, Book # 1
Gallimard Jeunesse
August 27th 2020
Paperback
416
French
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June 23, 2021 July 11, 2021

The chronicles of maple and cherry tree form a tetralogy set in seventeenth-century Japan. We follow two heroes, Ichirō, a young samurai with a fabulous destiny, and the mysterious Hiinahime, a stranger who hides behind a Nō mask. In the first two volumes the narrator is Ichirō, in the other two it will be the heroine Hiinahime's turn to tell the story. The first volume, entitled The Nō Mask, traces Ichirō's life from childhood to adolescence. Abandoned, Ichirō is raised as a son by an unknown samurai who teaches him the way of the sword. The boy will live a solitary existence in the mountains, in the heart of a wild nature and at the rhythm of the seasons, between moments of bliss and lightheartedness and an apprenticeship that requires perseverance and courage. But one tragic night, Ichirō's life is turned upside down by the attack of shady samurai. Destiny will then take him to Edo (ancient Tokyo), where he will begin performing in kabuki theaters; there he will make his first friendships and meet Hiinahime, the unknown woman with the Nō mask.


About the book

First book in the series set in Edo period Japan (17th century) entitled Les chroniques de l’érable et du cerisier which, from the Italan translation (sorry don’t know any French) should be The Chronicles of Maple and Cherry tree, a very intriguing title. We are in the period in which the Tokugawa family holds the maximum political and military power in Japan, a period of isolation and persecution of Christians.

The book begins with a Master, a former samurai, who finds a child in a biwa shell in the forest near his isolated mountain home. He takes him home and together with the housekeeper he raises him as if he were his son. The latter, Ichirō, is raised with samurai teachings, of which the Master is an expert, until the Master’s past comes knocking on the door of the isolated house and Ichirō is catapulted into ancient Edo (current Tokyo) where, to survive, he has to beg and live on the streets, until he meets a poet who will help him find work. He also discovers the Kabuki theater and thanks to this, he makes his first friends. In Edo he also meets Hiinahime, a girl who hides behind a mask of the Nō theater.

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