Prima di noi
Starting from this year, each month, newitalianbooks will ask a translator to suggest a book he or she would like to translate. This month, Howard Curtis presents:
Giorgio Fontana, Prima di noi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2020
The family saga has become one of the most popular genres in Italian fiction in recent years. Giorgio Fontana’s Prima di Noi (Before Us), published in 2020 after a decade’s research and writing, takes the genre to another level. Rarely can an Italian writer have taken such a vast chunk of his nation’s history for his canvas. The story begins in 1917, when an army deserter meets a girl from a farming family and gets her pregnant. The generations that follow from this initial union are depicted through a century of social and political change, all the way to 2012. The emphasis throughout is on the characters, all of whom are given equal weight and are brought vividly to life in a direct, accessible, occasionally visceral style. The 900 pages fly by. Prima di noi, which has sold 60,000 copies in Italy, won five prizes and been adapted as a TV series, is an overwhelming portrait, not only of a family but of a country. In the words of writer Marco Missiroli: “We always hear of the Great American Novel. But what about the Great Italian Novel? Giorgio Fontana has written it. Here it is.”
Howard Curtis has translated more than a hundred books, mostly fiction, from Italian, French and Spanish. Among the Italian writers he has translated are Luigi Pirandello, Beppe Fenoglio, Leonardo Sciascia, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Gianrico Carofiglio, Pietro Grossi, Filippo Bologna, Gianfranco Calligarich, Fabio Geda, Andrej Longo, Paolo Sorrentino, Matteo Righetto and Marco Malvaldi.