Palandri, Enrico 1956-
PALANDRI, Enrico 1956-
PERSONAL: Born 1956, in Venice, Italy.
ADDRESSES: Home—England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, via Andegari 6, Milan, Italy 20121. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Novelist, radio and film writer, journalist, translator, and professor. University College, London, England, writer-in-residence, 2002.
Bologna marzo 1977, Bertani (Verona, Italy), 1977.
Boccalone, L'erba voglio (Milan, Italy), 1979.
Le pietre e il sale (title means "The Rocks and the Salt"), Garzanti (Milan, Italy), 1986, translation published as Ages Apart, Collins Harvill (London, England), 1989.
La via del ritorno, Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1990, translation published as The Way Back, Serpent's Tail (London, England), 1993.
Allegro fantastico, Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1993.
Le colpevoli ambiguità di Herbert Markus, Bompiani (Milan, Italy), 1997.
Angela prende il volo, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 2000.
Also author, with Marco Bellocchio, of the screenplay Diavolo in corpo (title means "Devil in the Flesh").
Contributor to Italian and English radio and television as well as to several Italian newspapers.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Venice in 1956, Enrico Palandri has established himself as one of the most important Italian fiction writers of his generation. His books have a post-modern feel and demonstrate the influence of other Italian masters such as Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco. In addition to his books, Palandri has collaborated on projects for cinema, radio, and television. Palandri has worked in Covent Garden as a language instructor for opera singers, a writer for Unità and Diario della Settimana, and as a writer-inresidence at University College, London.
Palandri initially made his mark as one of the first Italian writers of the Seventies Generation to write in a more traditional narrative style, departing from the avant-garde experimentation and disillusion of the late sixties and early seventies. His first important work was Boccalone, published in 1979. The novel deals with the lives of a group of young activists involved in the student/autonomist movement in Bologna in 1977. The book presents issues important to the younger generation but also tells an entertaining story marked by unique linguistic invention. Palandri's next book, Le pietre e il sale, appeared in 1986 and solidified his reputation as a talented, inventive writer.
In 1990, La via del ritorno was published and once again showed Palandri's skill in presenting ordinary people dealing with personal situations. The book focuses on the feelings and sensations of Davide, an Italian psychologist living in England. Returning to Rome with his Scottish singer girlfriend, he recalls the key events that have led him to that moment in his life. There are memories of his Polish-Jewish mother who fled to Italy during the war while the rest of her family perished in a concentration camp, school, his participation in radical leftist groups during the turbulent 1970s, and finally his new life in England. Arriving in Italy triggers memories of Livio, a childhood friend whose family's wealth, elegant home, and material advantages contrasted so much with his own humble origins. Davide's dilemma is one of identity; he feels Italian yet will undoubtedly return to the life he has carved out in England. At times, the book, which is more a parade of memories and images than a unified story, seems to represent the experiences of the generation that came of age in the 1970s, a generation that Palandri sees as decimated by both drugs and the dark cloud of political terrorism. Once again, Palandri's linguistic abilities and turns of phrase tie together the book's powerful recollections.
During the 1990s, Palandri published two books. The first was Allegro fantastico, published in 1993, a seamless collection of thirteen short stories, each under twenty pages, in which there is little distinction made between reality, dreams, and fiction. Subjects such as the power of television, a credit card to prove one's identity, and dreams take the reader on a literary voyage where a change of characters or stories is not always immediately apparent. Le colpevoli ambiguità di Herbert Markus appeared in 1997 and deals with solitude and an intellectual's attempt to break out of it. Once again, the book mirrors Palandri's generation and its problems entering middle age in a changing world. There are three basic themes within the novel, the first of which is the disillusion of the left following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where positions and ideals once seemed clearly defined, there is now a confusing array of options and a world where right and wrong seem relative. Markus, once a staunch communist, now can only carry on without a defined ideology. It is this individual solitude that makes up the book's second theme. A generation that was once dedicated to the idea of collectivism now finds itself dealing with a rapidly changing world as detached individuals. Romantic matters, a favorite subject of Palandri, raise their head with Markus loving Zdena, who may be a spy. The couple's complicated, tormented relationship seems to advance the idea that there are no longer reference points in the construction of stable, fulfilling relationships. The book's third theme is the need to recapture a sense of place and day-to-day life amid one's seemingly banal existence. Markus clearly needs this, though there are no easy answers and even he cannot clearly express what his idea of "normal" would now be. The book concludes on a positive note as Markus begins to rise above his fears and existential emptiness.
Angela prende il volo, published in 2000, centers on a sixteen-year-old girl who is trying to overcome emotional burdens while finding herself in a world where she is practically alone. The story begins with her getting off a plane—the title literally translated means "Angela Takes the Plane"—and going to visit her father, who has remarried and now has another family. Never having accepting her father's new status, Angela finds such meetings—as well as general relationships with the opposite sex—difficult and has been forced to grow up faster than most girls her age. Her father is a physicist who speaks often and only about his work, laboratory, and experiments with space/time displacement. With the dreams of a sixteen year old, Angela envisions being able to build a time machine. Leaving Olmo, a friend of her father's who helps the girl with her time-machine research and eventually becomes more than just a friend, she finally meets her first true love, a foreigner named Thomas, on the train. Olmo, who also narrates the story, seems to have a romantic obsession with the young girl but in reality what he desires and envies is her youth and freedom. He knows both of these have passed him by. Time, whether in the form of dreams of a time machine or in the inevitable effects of its passing, is a central element in the book. In the end Angela, who at the beginning of the story is a frightened lonely child, overcomes her fears and achieves a lightness of being that Palandri tells us is the sign of true maturity. With each book, Palandri has impressed both readers and critics.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1994, John Shreffler, review of The Way Back, p. 1328.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1994, review of The Way Back, p. 92.
New Statesman, March 27, 1987, Luca Fontana, "Italy, the Names and the Prose," pp. 39-40.
Observer (London, England), April 11, 1993, p. 59.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 1994, review of The Way Back, p. 80.
World Literature Today, summer, 1994, Rocco Capozzi, review of Allegro fantastico, pp. 545-546.*