A memoir whose atmosphere is reminiscent of Il Gattopardo, its characters of Il giardino dei Finzi Contini, almost Victorian in its social analysis of the relationship between the poor and the privileged, the winners and the losers. At the end of World War One, in a Venetian villa near the Piave River, the Spada family is forced to host some officials of the Austrian army, the despised enemy they are fighting against. Paolo, a boy nearly 18 years old, was prematurely orphaned and lives with his grandparents, Gustav and Nancy, two eccentrics. She is English, well-educated and audacious, he has been working for years on a novel that presumably will never see the light of day, though he manages to entertain their Austrian guests with the help of his compassion and sense of humour. Also living on their large estate are the servants, Teresa, the multi-tasking governess with her daughter Loretta, and Renato, the imposing butler with a mysterious past. Then there is the unmarried aunt, the country priest and the young and beautiful Giulia who seems to have escaped from an unpleasant Venetian scandal. The war gets more and more complicated and contradictory news along with dozens of wounded arrive from the front, by now not far from the Piave while in the house they are made to improvise a hospital. Yet, what is the butler hiding? Why is he forever fussing about over by the windows and the clothes hung to dry in the garden? As the fate of the war begins to take shape, in the villa things come to a head and each of the characters reveals his or her true nature. And against the backdrop there is the Great War, covered by a façade of heroism and the spirit of chivalry in the Italian collective imagination, in the end revealed in all its cold and stupid ferocity. Not All Bastards Are from Vienna is an unforgettable portrait of the erosion of tradition and the fall of an Italian aristocratic family, whose personal battles burn with more fire than those of the war erupting around them.
Published by Sellerio Editore
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