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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

This Is the Garden, by Giulio Mozzi

Italian Literature
Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris

First published in Italy in 1993
Published in USA in 2013 by Open Letter Press

Awards: winner of the 1993 Premio Mondello

Eight Short Stories:
Chapters, Notes & Quotes
Cover Letter
The Apprentice
On the Publication of My First Book
Claw
Trains
Glass
Tana
F.

Story Ratings
Favorite: Cover Letter, The Apprentice, Claw, and Tana.
Runner Ups:  F., On the Publication of My First Book
Least Favorite: Trains and Glass

Themes
Isolation, loneliness, anonymity, desire, acceptance, and introspection.

Motifs
Dreams, gardens

The Garden Connection
In each of the stories there is something elusive the protagonist is searching for - those essential elements that develop and effect the human psyche. Lacking, is the sense of connection to others and a need for understanding. The Garden is the promise of our undefined, yet desired, paradise.


Quotes and Notes,
Cover Letter
An unnamed purse-snatcher narrates the letter he is writing to a woman from whom he stole her purse.  His purpose, ostensibly, is to return the personal letters he found inside her purse. Yet, in essence, it is a love letter.

p. 4    "You should never own something you didn't desire first." As simple as this statement is, it exudes a sense of foreboding.

Humor: This story is filled with irony and satiric humor. A few examples of this can be found in these and other statements made by the purse-snatcher narrator:

p. 6    "I have to say that I'm not inclined to think of myself as a thief. I live this way because I want to, but if someone else chooses a different lifestyle, I don't hold it against him."
pg. 7: "...this will sound strange - I do need to feel something for the ladies who (just between you and me) I like to call my clients...I prefer 'clients' to 'victims', because when it comes down to it, I really don't think what I'm doing is all that bad."
pg. 8: "I need to like my clients."

Much of this sounds creepy, and is creepy. Yet, in the context of the story, it is oddly funny.

p. 13    On waking up:  "Sleep fills his entire body, every cell, and though his body can move, can walk around in the room this isn't a man walking; this is a gathering of clouds, and all it would take is just one breath to scatter the clouds away. Then the soul drops from the sky, crashes through the ceiling, a whirlwind that tears the room apart, a wind blowing into his hear, swelling his heart, pushing out sleep, rolling in his blood, flowering in his mind, opening his mind to another day, you can see it in his eyes now, his soul, still smelling of sky and stars, a memory of the divine, mingling with the scent of his warming flesh."   A lovely tactile description of a luxurious moment in time.

The Apprentice
"The apprentice is a glorified delivery boy who desperately desires to learn and master the unnamed production work the other men do in this shop."

p. 23    "...an apprentice doesn't quite exist in the present: he's more of a future person, so in the present, an apprentice is absent..."

p. 25    "A delivery boy's a delivery boy - a promise of nothing."

p. 34   "The boss owns his future, so the apprentice loves him."

p. 35    "...boss, you're like some strange, rough, tiny god; but to me, a teeny-tiny apprentice, you're great and powerful; and I love you, because when it comes to gods, you either love them or you hate them..."

p. 40   "The apprentice knows you can only make sense of something after it's happened..."

On the Publication of My First Book
p. 47    "I haven't made my bones yet, and now I have to use them."

p. 50  "I believe each of us has to do what we can to preserve our own existence, according to our own convictions of what we need in order to be."

 p. 57    After receiving an acceptance letter from a publisher for his book: "...now they have broken Pandora's vase. I truly felt my body was like a vase, and someone had struck my body so hard it cracked, and through this crack seeped my entire imagination, and my body was left empty. All my imaginings were left to wander the world, beyond my control."   An interesting concept: sharing your thoughts on paper with the whole world. No longer are they secret, preserved, or entirely yours.

Claw
p. 73    "Now he can die. When god's claw decides to strike him."

Trains
p. 74    "The dreams you can't remember are the most important kind - they protect your vital secrets."

p. 78  Regarding a troubled relationship: "They had so many dreams, in those two years, but they were dreaming on their own, and their timing was always off."  Divergent, yet simultaneous dreams.

p. 80    "In their secret places, children collect rare things, marvelous things, things that are theirs alone, and private: in their secret places, children hide their heart, knowing, if the place is truly secret, no matter what occurs, they can always retrieve their heart, touch it, fell it beating, caress it, tell it stories, cry with it, love it."

Tana
p. 89    "...the passengers seemed to be opening their mouths with no sound coming out; they were silently laughing."    I love the imagery. Like Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream, but with laughing. 

p. 93    "...the wings...they weren't bird feathers: they were flesh, like very slender tongues..."

F.
p. 111   "The magistrate knows there's always a precise correlation between a lie and the reality hidden behind that lie..."

p. 112   "The magistrate felt like a torturer, like a surgeon who has before him Siamese twins that share a single heart and liver and has to pick which one to kill and which one to save."

p. 115   "They wouldn't know what to give a child; they would raise him like a plant blowing in the wind."

p. 117  "All those who dreamed of bringing back a paradise on earth just wound up producing indiscriminate terror..."

Final Thoughts
Normally, I do not prefer short stories. I love a long expansive novel, midsized-to-tome, filled with unique characters, esoteric themes, and beautiful writing, for example.  I like to be fully absorbed over a period of time. Short stories often leave me wanting more - a complete account or elaboration.

Periodically, I do find a good short story collection that engages me and leaves me, literature-wise, satisfied. Mozzi certainly does. His Kafkaesque overtones captivate and appease my reading appetite. Within The Garden, he creates a complete idea for each story, yet develops a singular theme that permeates the entire collection. No two stories are alike, yet all speak of a certain loneliness that comes from a fallen, elusive paradise.  Mozzi handles his complex subject matter with knowledge and ease. He is a master of his form and easily sits among Chekhov, and similar peers, within this genre.