Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Fireflies of Autumn: And Other Tales of San Ginese, by Moreno Giovannoni

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Melbourne writer Moreno Giovannoni dazzles with this impressive debut.

Writer and translator Moreno Giovannoni starts his collection of interconnected short stories with a character named Ugo. Ugo is ninety years old, born in the Tuscan village of San Ginese in 1927 and migrating to Australia in 1957. He tells the reader that he has written the following stories himself, with a few contributions from fellow villagers, and had them translated into English. His own writing skills are fairly rudimentary, he confesses, but assures that the translator has added some literary finesse.

Village life in San Ginese is noisy, earthy and gossipy. The agricultural clock governs everything: sowing vegetables, tending animals, working olive groves, separating wheat from chaff by hand. The sweet fecundity of the earth is matched by its opposite: cesspits, fertilizer and excrement. (In one story the noxious gases from so much bodily waste creates an explosion). Life may be poor, but it is also good, full of wine, wheels of pecorino, slabs of polenta and dried figs. Populating this rich, fertile land is a colorful cast of characters, everyone from pig merchants to chaplains.

The Fireflies of Autumn, Giovannoni's debut work of fiction, is wonderfully accomplished, creating a fully realised, self-contained world. The prose is gently ironic and rich. Readers longing for a transformative experience will find it in spades here.

The Fireflies of Autumn: And Other Tales of San Ginese, by Moreno Giovannoni. Published by Black Inc. ISBN: 9781863959940  RRP: $29.99

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