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Lies and Sorcery

Lies and Sorcery

by Elsa Morante, translated from the Italian by Jenny McPhee

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Elsa Morante is one of the titans of twentieth-century literature—Natalia Ginzburg said she was the writer of her own generation that she most admired—and yet her work remains little known in the United States. Written during World War II, Morante’s celebrated first novel, Lies and Sorcery, is in the grand tradition of Stendhal, Tolstoy, and Proust, spanning the lives of three generations of wildly eccentric women.

The story is set in Sicily and told by Elisa, orphaned young and raised by a “fallen woman.” For years Elisa has lived in an imaginary world of her own; now, however, her guardian has died, and the young woman feels that she must abandon her fantasy life to confront the truth of her family’s tortured and dramatic history. Elisa is a seductive, if less than reliable, spinner of stories, and the reader is drawn into a tale of secrets, intrigue, and treachery, which, as it proceeds, is increasingly revealed to be an exploration of a legacy of political and social injustice. Throughout, Morante’s elegant writing—and her drive to get at the heart of her characters’ complex relationships and all-too self-destructive behavior—holds us spellbound.  

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376844
Pages: 800
Publication Date:


[In Lies and Sorcery] I discovered that an entirely female story—entirely women’s desires and ideas and feelings—could be compelling and, at the same time, have great literary value.
—Elena Ferrante

[Morante’s] signature achievement is to conjure raptures of fantasy from miseries of circumstance.
—Tim Parks

[Lies and Sorcery] is a thrilling sage of love and madness in a southern Italian city…Maintaining an ironic distance, Morante’s lengthy but propulsive narrative describes in detail the characters’ desires, fears, and superstitions, as well as the stultifying class divisions, religiosity, and financial troubles that define their lives. It’s a tremendous accomplishment. —Publishers Weekly

Morante’s vast, sprawling epic of passion and delusion, obsession and madness, certainly contains multitudes...Morante's novel is a masterpiece, and to have it finally translated into English in unabridged form is a great gift.
Kirkus Starred Review

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