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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376844
Pages: 800
Publication Date: August 8, 2023

Lies and Sorcery

by Elsa Morante, translated from the Italian by Jenny McPhee

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An NYRB Classics Original

Elsa Morante is one of the great writers of the twentieth century—Natalia Ginzburg said she was the writer of her own generation that she admired most—and yet her work remains little known in the United States. Morante's celebrated first novel, Lies and Sorcery, written during the war, when Morante, half-Jewish, was living in hiding, and published in 1948, is a sprawling 700-page novel in the grand tradition of Stendhal, Tolstoy, and Proust, spanning the lives of three generations of wildly eccentric women. Set in Sicily, the story is told by Elisa, who, after the sudden death of her parents, was adopted at a young age by a wealthy “fallen woman.” Over the fifteen years that she has lived with her “protectress,” Elisa has retreated into an imaginary world populated by relatives and ancestors. Beginning with the death of Elisa’s guardian, Lies and Sorcery recounts this young woman's attempt to reclaim reality by uncovering the dark details of her family’s tortured and dramatic history. The reader is drawn into a tale, sweeping in scope, of family secrets, of intrigue and treachery, that is also an exploration of political and social injustice. Throughout, Morante’s elegant and elaborate prose as well as her drive to get at the heart of her characters’ complex motivations and relationships and their all-too self-destructive behavior hold us spellbound.
A heavily abridged English translation of Lies and Sorcery came out in the 1950s under the title of House of Lies. Jenny McPhee's new translation is the first complete English rendering of the book that Georg Lukács considered the greatest of modern Italian novels.