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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Persecution - Alessandro Piperno, Ann Goldstein Rating: 3.9* of fiveThe Book Description: In a sprawling villa on the outskirts of Rome, the members of the Pontecorvo family have gathered for dinner. Leo Pontecorvo, an internationally revered pediatric oncologist, is forty-eight. His wife, Rachel, is a physician and the loving mother to Filippo and Samuel, two amiable pre-teens. The evening news is on in the living room but nobody pays it any attention until Dr. Pontecorvo's name surfaces from the background noise and a news item airs that will change the lives of the Pontecorvos forever. Leo Pontecorvo has been publicly accused of a vile crime. A spotlight is turned on him that reveals the mistakes, regrets, and contradictions of a lifetime. Every detail of his private and professional life is about to come under scrutiny, to be debated by both friends and foes, by ravenous reporters and punctilious prosecutors. But Leo could bear all this if it weren't for the suspicious gazes of his wife and children. Surely they, of all people, believe in his innocence! Alessandro Piperno is widely acknowledged as one of today's most talented European novelists. His voice is singular and shocking at times, yet always possessed of tenderness and enormous generosity of heart. His vision is broad and encompassing, his psychological insights penetrating and undeniable. In this deeply felt family drama, Alessandro Piperno paints a broad canvas and fills it with psychologically complex characters whom readers will instantly recognize and never forget.My Review: Words can not only hurt, not only damage...they can kill. They can annihilate, destroy utterly the target of the carelessly spoken or maliciously uttered or calculatedly disseminated words. They can blow up a life, a family, a career, a vocation, they can eviscerate the worthy and worthwhile work a person has done.And what if they're true? What if they're not true? Half true? He said, she said? It doesn't matter at all. Words, when spoken, can only be forgiven but never forgotten.Piperno's novel of a Jewish pediatric oncologist's fall from the pinnacle of his life-saving profession is profoundly unsettling. It is discursive in style, and it is peculiarly intimate because of that. Very few paragraphs lead directly to the subject allegedly at hand, but all of them, each of them, serves to build the image of the Pontecorvo world, that of Dottore Leo, la signora Rachel, the pre-teen boys, Telma the Filipina maid...all these intersecting, interlocking worlds are completely and finally and irrevocably smashed and cannot be restored, only re-formed. The tracks in the thickets of words Piperno creates are like the game spoor a hunter follows, requiring patience and attention to interpret and encouraging the reader, the hunter, to look around carefully, to attend to the landscape as much as the path.Ann Goldstein ably translates the Italian text in such a way as to suggest the varying uses made of familiar and formal address. It's a very hard thing to do, and it's impressive to see the job done so well. Part of the job of a translator is to create the mood of the original in a different idiom...never does Goldstein do this better than in the passages where the snobbery and class-consciousness that Leo faces when others refer to or speak to his wife, daughter of an observant Jew who also happens to be a businessman, in contrast to his more assimilated, haute bourgeois background.I was transported in the reading of this novel, though not to a lovely sweet cotton-candy land of milk and honey. (Frankly, that's always sounded revolting to me. Not to mention sticky.) I was immersed in the life of the disintegrating Pontecorvo family. I emerged after a catharsis feeling, oddly, buoyed up, able to see the shore and feel the water of the sad existence below me support me as I started for solid ground.Europa Editions provided this copy in a Goodreads giveaway.