Acquainted with Grief by Carlo Emilio Gadda

Set in Italy
English Translation ©1969
 Out of Print

CARLO EMILIO GADDA was born in Milan in 1893. He lived not only in Rome and Florence, but for long periods in Argentina, France, Germany and Belgium. He began writing during the First World War, and his journal of his war experiences is considered as important in Italy as Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That is in England. In 1963 he was awarded the $10,000 International Literary Prize. He died in 1973.

Carlo Emilio Gadda

Acquainted with Grief
La cognizione del dolore

(Translated from the Italian by Willian Weaver)

JACKET NOTES:  The setting of this extraordinary novel is an imaginary South American country, but that country, as Gadda makes clear in many hints, is in reality his native Italy. The novel is to a great extent autobiography, and Gonzalo, the central figure, is the author's self-portrait.
"Gadda's description of Gonzalo," writes William Weaver in the translator's preface, "is a lacerating, biting caricature of the sober, fastidiously neat, tall, stooping Gadda who is occasionally--and reluctantly--seen at Roman literary gatherings. Like Gonzalo, the Lombard scene, the bourgeois villas of the Brianza region, the peasants are scrutinized through the same penetrating, but sometimes deforming lens."
The story's central situation is the tormented relationship between Gonzalo and his widowed mother whose social ambitions are summed up in the tenacious possession of an absurd villa in the country. Like Gadda, Gonzalo was brought up in an atmosphere of genteel poverty, "exacerbated by the typically Italian middle-class mania for keeping up appearances, for making a bella figura"-not the least element present in those moments of Gonzalo's magnificent rage against the conditions of his life.
Gadda's War Journal indicates the author's almost pathological attachment to his brother, who was killed in the First World War--an attachment tinged with jealousy of the mother's preference for this older son.
According to Mr. Weaver, who worked closely with Gadda on the present translation, the lasting scars of the relationship explain, in part. why the novel was never finished, and why the incomplete third section. translated here from the manuscript, has never been published in the original Italian, by explicit veto of the author who has referred to it as a self-inflicted wound. "In fact, it is virtually unrevised and, perhaps even in translation, it will be seen to have less Gaddian involution. It is considerably less baroque than the preceding chapters."
The author himself has no use for the term "baroque" when applied to his work. "The world is baroque." he says. "and Gadda has perceived and portrayed its baroqueness."
The fact that 'Acquainted with Grief' (La cognizione del dolore) appeared under Fascism explains the indirectness of Gadda's references to the regime. His anti-Fascism is much more explicit in his novel entitled 'Quer pasticciaccio bruto de via Merulana, published here in translation under the title 'That Awful Mess on Via Merulana.'
(© George Brazillier, Inc.)