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The Unforgivable

The Unforgivable

And Other Writings

by Cristina Campo, translated from the Italian by Alex Andriesse, introduction by Kathryn Davis

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Format

The January 2024 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club

Cristina Campo published only two short collections of essays in her lifetime: Fairy Tale and Mystery (1962) and The Flute and the Carpet (1971). The Unforgivable and Other Writings brings together both volumes, along with a selection of essays on literature and an autobiographical short story, offering readers of English the first full-length portrait of a writer who has long been admired in Italy and abroad.

Campo's subjects range from the canonical to the esoteric. She writes stylishly about Shakespeare and Doctor Zhivago, as well as flying carpets, sprezzatura, and the theophagic origins of the Latin liturgy. Her passion for Marianne Moore and T. S. Eliot makes her a modernist, but like these American counterparts she is a modernist preoccupied by the deep past and by her desire to escape from personality through sustained attention to form. For Campo, writing was a spiritual discipline, and her sentences are at once wonderfully and wildly alive and serenely self-effacing. "I have written little," she once said, "and would like to have written less." 

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681378022
Pages: 288
Publication Date:

Praise

Christina Campo was an anchorite with worldly manners [and] the face of a fifteenth-century Tuscan statue. She lived amid contradictions, between hope and despair, passion and scorn, gentleness and rage. She had a sovereign sense of limits and frontiers, but her soul was immoderate. She longed for the unknown homeland, the God hidden behind the visible gods.
—Pietro Citati

Eschewing the Romantic idolisation of the imagination, Campo argues that fairy tales are the surest guides to reality, the paths on which we travel to the real...It was because she was dedicated to the pursuit of sprezzatura in her life, as well as in her writing, that she was able to find a joyful way of being in the world, and that she was able to stand back—though never aloof—from the controversies of her day to produce the numinous prose we are now so fortunate to have in an English translation.
—Roy Peachy, European Conservative

Campo's creativity was a vocation in the truest sense; always at a remove, indifferent to attention or success....Perfection was her theme, aesthetic as well as moral.
—Jhumpa Lahiri

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