Translation of 2 books, from Italian to English:
The Anonymous Novel examines the social, political and cultural realities of Gorbachev’s Russia as it attempted to liberalise itself in the face of long-suppressed problems – too long suppressed perhaps for any rational solution.
The main plot concerns the bold efforts of Tanya, a postgraduate history student, to investigate the Stalinist purges in the southern city of Baku. She is not just motivated by historical curiosity or a random choice to expose the misdeeds of a previous generation, because her grandfather was one of the victims of those Baku purges. Her research provokes the hostility of almost everyone she encounters.
The past is both an essential part of what it is to be human and an inconclusive and elusive commodity. The future is even more threatening, as the sub-title based on a quote from Mandelshtam suggests. All this takes place in an unstable transitional reality, which created an environment of both hope and anxiety.
In The Nocturnal Library, the protagonist Jerome encounters the nightmarish experience of an exam in a nocturnal library governed by a despotic head librarian and two perverse and demonic assistants. The environment is hostile, decayed and permeated with a sense of evil. Jerome meets other library staff and readers who produce some contradictory accounts of each other and nothing is quite what it seems in the history of this bizarre library.
The novel has two thematic levels. The first concerns the library as a powerful metaphor for our puny and grotesque civilisation which is overcome by biological decay and renewal. The putrid corridors contain rotting printed matter and every form of animal life, with particular emphasis on insects. The futility of the library regime is emphasised by its bureaucratic rigidity and its inability to supply readers with the books they require. Not only is nature taking over, but parts of the library represent the earliest history of the planet.
The second thematic level is more closely concerned with the library as such. It is the idea that the written word is itself pernicious. There is detailed discussion of the soporific effect of reading on readers, as they pore over the decaying and insect-infested text which gives off noxious gases.