Outsiders by Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci

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Outsiders by Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: An interesting collection of short stories, including one non-fiction piece, from modern Italian authors themed around isolation and exclusion.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: February 2013
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 9780857052445

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Outsiders is a collection of six pieces of writing by Italian authors. The pieces have been collated from a supplement to an Italian daily newspaper and six have been chosen around the theme of outsiders for translation into English. Thus, the pieces themselves were not written around this specific theme but have rather had this theme imposed on them in this collection. Since the outsider is often used in various forms by writers to observe the status quo, this is not a big leap of imagination.

There is a clear Italian theme here, both in the obvious nationality of the authors but also in the subject matter, which gives an interesting insight into the cultural view of the Italian writers. There are one or two issues that, in my opinion, let the collection down slightly but overall, it's a strong collection with one or two really terrific pieces of writing.

The stand out piece in the collection for me is by the intriguing writers' collective known as Wu Ming, which looks at an Italian academic's involvement in the rights of an American cheese manufacturer to use the term Parmesan and particularly the designation Parmigiano Reggiano which leads him to some interesting discoveries. It's a story that could easily be extended to full novel form even though it works nicely as a short story here. Here the academic is an outsider both from the legal wrangles and as an Italian in America. It's a story that you could imagine David Mitchell having written.

Piero Colaprico's Stairway C is also a strong crime story set in the poor area of Milan. The suspects are those on the edge of society but it seems to me that Colaprico's intent is more to explore the ideas of destiny.

Carlo Lucarelli looks as the colonial presence of Italy in Africa with an Eritrean turn of the last century story about an old Italian businessman whose grip on life and his company takes an unexpected turn thanks to his local maid in Ferengi. Valeria Parrella also takes a historical view, basing her story of rural life after World War Two as a young local girl is introduced to the household of a businessman and his daughter after the death of his wife. Both stories suggest the hidden role of the women in very patriarchal cultures.

It is the collection's opening and closing pieces that seem to work less well. Roberto Saviano's opening The Opposite of Death which opens with the words of a young girl whose fiancé has been killed in Afghanistan starts powerfully but thereafter loses some of its impact. The depiction of the local men joining up to fight as the only alternative to unemployment and poverty is well made but it's a story that always feels like it's been translated - which if course it has, but the best of translations make this seem hidden.

The collection ends with the only piece of non-fiction; Simona Vinci's Another Kind of Solitude which looks at isolation and loneliness - both voluntary and imposed outsiderness if you like. It ought to be a fitting end to the theme but comes over as a rather scrap book like collection of ideas and news stories without any connecting theme. I can imagine it working in its original format but it seems too disjointed to work well here.

Overall, it is an interesting collection with at least one really excellent short story.

Grazie mille to the kind folk at MacLehose Press for sending us a copy of this book.

For more very strong short stories, check out Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod and Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry.

Buy Outsiders by Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Outsiders by Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Outsiders by Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Outsiders by Roberto Saviano, Carlo Lucarelli, Valeria Parrella, Piero Colaprico, Wu Ming, Simona Vinci at Amazon.com.

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