Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681375939
Pages: 224
Publication Date: December 7, 2021

A Very Old ManStories

by Italo Svevo, translated from the Italian by Frederika Randall, introduction by Nathaniel Rich

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An NYRB Classics Original

A Very Old Man collects five linked stories, parts of an unfinished novel that the great Triestine writer Italo Svevo wrote at the end of his life, when the international success of Zeno's Conscience in 1923 had put an end to decades of literary neglect and set his imagination free. Here Svevo revisits with new vigor and agility themes that fascinated him from the start—aging, deceit, and self-deception, as well as the fragility, fecklessness, and plain foolishness of the bourgeois pater familias—even as memories of the recent, terrible slaughter of World War I and the contemporary rise of Italian fascism also cast a shadow over the book's pages. It opens with "The Contract," in which Zeno's manager, the hard-headed young Olivi expresses, like the war veterans who were Mussolini's early followers, a sense of entitled born of fighting in the trenches. Zeno, by contrast, embodies the confusion and paralysis of the more decorous, although sleepy, way of life associated with the one-time Austro-Hungarian Empire which for so long ruled over Trieste, but has now been swept away. As always, Svevo is attracted to the theme of how people fail to fit in, whether at the office or at home. Absurd as such people may appear to others, and often to themselves, it is they, he suggests, who offer a recognizably human countenance in a world ravaged by the ambitions and fantasies of its true believers.

Frederika Randall's new translation of A Very Old Man allows readers of English to encounter the final masterpiece of one of the twentieth century's most original imaginations.