Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Places of My Infancy: A Memory" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Looking for a small book in size to read on the subway trips from Manhattan to Bushwick, I picked up the elegant Gluseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's miniture memoir of his childhood "Places of My Infancy."  The most remarkable aspect of this book is that its not about people.  Its about his home or one should say estate in Italy during the turn of the Century.

Reading this I reminded of "Against Nature" by Huysmann, but this is the real deal. At least through the eyes of an adult looking back at his life as a child.  Detailed architectural accounts of various rooms, including the dinning room which has life-sized portraits of the owners (the first one's) eating their meals.  One would think why would they want a painting of themselves eating in a room where you actually take your meal?  But that's the charm of the super rich - if one could even use the word super in this category, its more super-duper.

In his house he had a theater that can hold 300 people, and his family would allow traveling theater people to do shows for the local citizens.  Some rich, but a lot were peasants.  Eventually the theater became a movie theater.  di Lampedusa has a way to comment on changes that he remembers through his childhood.

In the book di Lampedusa admits that he is more attached to things than humans, and this is very much the tale of things - most cases the architecture of his home as a child, including detailed descriptions of rooms, furniture, etc.  But the truth (as he knows as well) that 'things' can tell a narrative better then a human at times.  Remarkable book.

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