La Sicilia

Cultura & Società

Bella storia siculo-fiorentina

Tradotto in italiano il libro di successo della scrittrice americana Lynn Rodolico
Sabato 27 Aprile 2013, Trapani, pagina 29

Peppe Occhipinti

A un anno di distanza dalla pubblicazione del libro «Two Seas», della scrittrice americana Lynn Rodolico, esce in questi giorni la versione italiana dell'opera, curata da Antonino Rodolico, per i tipi della casa editrice inglese «Eccolo Editions». L'impegno editoriale è una sorta di regalo a quanti non leggendo la lingua inglese lo scorso anno non avevano potuto conoscere direttamente la bella storia siculo-fiorentina narrata nel libro. 
I «Due Mari» del titolo alludono al Mar Tirreno e al Mar Mediterraneo che bagnano l'angolo occidentale della Sicilia dominato dal Monte Erice, sacro alla dea Venere. Ed è sulla montagna ericina che Kate e Niccolò, i due protagonisti del romanzo, comprano una casa per le vacanze, con una spettacolare vista sul golfo di Cornino con il Monte Cofano come fondale. Kate è una fotografa americana che vive da un quarto di secolo a Firenze, dove durante un suo soggiorno di lavoro ha conosciuto e poi sposato Niccolò, un fiorentino di origine siciliana. Quella ammaliante vista che si gode dalla casa, sul monte dall'aguzzo profilo triangolare, riflesso sul mare, in continua mutazione per il variare dei venti e delle condizioni meteorologiche, diventa il soggetto della sua ricerca fotografica ed il tema che collega tutti e 26 capitoli del libro. Si impone per la sua presenza quando vengono raccontati gli avvenimenti siciliani e nel ricordo quando la scena degli eventi si sposta in Toscana.
Lynn Rodolico, americana di Santa Monica in California, ha una formazione poetica, è esperta di letteratura inglese che ha insegnato in una università della California, ed è una devota del sommo Shakespeare e dei suoi contemporanei poeti elisabettiani. Il Monte Cofano diventa perciò sotto il suo sguardo un soggetto poetico, oggetto di fascinazione e di narrazione. Ma sotto quello sguardo fotografico non cade solo il Monte triangolare ma anche l'intero paesaggio siciliano animato da varia umanità. Sono il mediatore immobiliare, i venditori della casa, il notaio, i vicini di casa, gli operai che fanno i lavori, i nuovi amici di Erice e di Trapani.
Il punto di vista «americano» di Kate le permette continui confronti tra le diverse realtà e tra i differenti comportamenti sociali. E' lei che racconta nel romanzo. E' lei che parla in prima persona, che riferisce quanto accade ma anche quanto ricorda. Del suo passato in California, nei college e all'università, ma anche del passato del marito Niccolò in Toscana e in Sicilia, ad Erice, dove, da ragazzo veniva in villeggiatura durante le vacanze scolastiche. Kate non è una snob ma con una visione snob dell'esistenza viene spesso a scontrarsi e ciò le procura sofferenza. Sono snob le signore fiorentine e sua suocera Fiammetta proprietaria di una villa antica sulle colline toscane e di un palazzo di città sul Lungarno a Firenze. Per questo quando incontra in Sicilia persone autentiche dotate di quella che viene definita umana «eleganza naturale» non può che restarne incantata.
Sono naturalmente eleganti ad Erice i discendenti di antiche famiglie nobiliari che hanno dato i loro nomi a vie, strade e piazze. Ma elegante naturale è anche il venditore di frutta e verdura pur con la maglietta non proprio pulita e le unghie orlate di nero. Tutti i personaggi del romanzo «Due Mari» hanno il loro giusto spessore, anche quelli minori, non sono mai marionette e insieme animano un vasto affresco che ha come sfondo il mondo intero. Perchè le vicende raccontate non avvengono solo in Sicilia o in Toscana ma anche in America, in Inghilterra e in Olanda dove le figlie di Kate e Niccolò frequentano l'università.
I colori di questo vasto affresco sono differenti. Sono quelli dell'amore, nella parte siciliana; sono quelli corrosivi del distacco nella parte toscana ed americana. Sono anche quelli della tragedia e del dolore quando affrontano il tema della malattia e della morte. La modernità e l'epoca di cambiamento che stiamo vivendo sono rappresentati nel romanzo dal continuo ricorso dei protagonisti ai collegamenti in rete via internet, dalla presenza di lavoratori stranieri immigrati e da un ritorno all'agricoltura con la riscoperta da parte del mercato di prodotti di qualità come l'olio extra vergine d'oliva. www.lynnrodolico.com è l'indirizzo elettronico segnato alla fine del libro per quei lettori che volessero contattare la scrittrice.


27/04/2013

 

 

 

A review by Luigi Giannitrapani
English translation

 

What is the purpose of good literature if not to arouse emotions in the mind and soul of an attentive reader?

Reading a good book must evoke feelings and situations, reminding the reader of impressions already experienced. Additionally, it must provide the occasion to experience new and diverse emotions, created by the imagination of the reader. The writer succeeds in this venture using just one tool: words.

Words are a fundamental tool, a poor man’s tool. Words can be used by anyone; they are available to all and if used well, words become a tool with an unimaginable power.

At the beginning of Oedipus at Colonus, by Sophocles, blind Oedipus, led by his daughter Antigone, arrives at Colonus, a village near Athens, and tells a local character he would like to meet with Theseus, King of Athens, claiming he has something of value to share. His interlocutor asks him:

Coloneo:   And what of value might he receive from a blind man?
Oedipus:   My words will see for me.

During the youth protests in Paris in ’68, the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre shouted at the policemen: "I will destroy you with my words."

These are but two examples, among many, of the power of words, from Sophocles to the 20th century. After more than 2500 years, the power of words remains unchanged.

Yet words must be used with care just because they can be dangerous. The border between using them well or badly is very thin, and can be crossed at any time.

Reading a good novel is like living a second life, in which new horizons are opened, new people are met; at times it seems as if we have already known them.

Sometimes, unwittingly, we judge the quality or the value of a book by its ability to reinforce the notion that life is just like what we know. Every word, every sentence, evokes in us the meaning of life, the true meaning of what it means to exist, to live life.

When the story we read speaks of and describes places or circumstances already known to us, our minds respond automatically with recognition, which enriches our interpretation and personal experience. In fact, because of this automatic recognition, which is undoubtedly different from that of the author’s description, we can, better than others who are lacking familiarity of place or experience, remain enchanted, in the light of unexpected revelations, which hadn't occurred to us ourselves.

This is what happens when reading Two Seas by Lynn Rodolico. The author gives us scenarios, panoramas and visions that have been viewed with the inner eye of her imagination and experience, which  awakens in us feelings and visions which are at times consistent with what we know and at times completely new and unexpected.

Rodolico chooses her words skilfully, making them come alive, so that we can actually see what we have been looking at blindly for a long time.

Much has been written about the comparison between writing and painting. All great writers know that writing well means painting with words. And Proust, referring to his Recherche, confirmed: "my novel is a painting".

Writing a book is equivalent to painting with words, and reading a good book involves visualizing the images created from the words of someone else. Horace in Ars Poetica wrote: such as a picture, this is poetry. However, that is not entirely true. The difference is that literature is an art that reveals itself over time, while painting reveals itself in space: time and space, two fundamental Kantian categories. Looking at a landscape painting, we immediately understand its general meaning: in an instant everything unfolds before our eyes. To grasp the full meaning of a text we need to figure out how the protagonists move, how the players respond in time, and how they change given the circumstances with which they are confronted. In other words, we need time to understand the history, the drama and the events.

In Two Seas, Lynn Rodolico employs time with a technique that is one of the stylistic characteristics of the modernist movement. Beginning with Joseph Conrad, the British- Polish writer who is considered to be one of the great pioneers of modernism in literature, the technique of interlacing time allows us to understand that there is a different way to understand our lives, observing that of others.

In Two Seas, Rodolico presents us with a nonlinear narrative, moving backwards and forwards in time as the narrative requires. In a style that is uniquely hers, time becomes a brushstroke that spreads the word on the canvas of her tale, blending the real with the imaginary. I believe Rodolico, like all writers of quality, has achieved the miracle of transforming a subjective experience into an objective one, shared by anyone who reads the book.

Marguerite Yourcenar, in one of her noteworthy essay on literature, wrote that an appreciable aspect of the novel is the embed expressions like "Please pass me the beans", "who left open the door?" or "Attention, it’s going to rain," phrases taken directly from life and not altered by stylistic revisions (1). Lynn has mastered this lesson impressively: her writing elicits from us reminders of the specific details of our lives; of our everyday experiences. Reading Two Seas, our attention is continually absorbed by some small but significant detail, by the brief instances that flow one after another, which helps us to see a complete overview of the design of our daily lives.

After having finished to read a good book like Lynn’s, what leaves a lasting impression is not so much the story and its significance, nor the various characters that we have met, but rather a reflection on the fragility of our lives: the immensity of the world and of the nature that surrounds us, and of our modest role on this stage on which we momentarily tread.

(1) Orhan Pamuk – The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist.

 

 

 

Peppe Occhipinti

Peppe Occhipinti

A review by Peppe Occhipinti
English translation


In the Sunday edition of the Italian Financial newspaper, “Il Sole 24 Ore” it happens occasionally to see a review of a newly released book in English. It would seem an eccentricity, but instead it is essential to draw attention to a work that, while still not yet published in Italian, can be of interest to readers. The book Two Seas is a perfect example: not withstanding that it is written in English by the American writer, Lynn Rodolico, it cannot not solicit the attention of the Trapanese because it speaks about Trapani, Erice and the customs of the Sicilians
.
The uncontested protagonist of the novel is Mount Cofano, one Alpine mountain plunked down into the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.  The author places it in the center of the narrative, and then, as to frame it, recounts the purchase of a little house in the mountains of Erice that enjoys this spectacular view. Also part of this frame is the couple, spanning both sides of sixty, with daughters away at university, who fall irrevocably in love with that house with a view. She is a photographer, American. He, Niccolò, retired, is the son of a Sicilian father and a noble Florentine mother. Kate and Niccolò met in Florence, and they have lived in that Tuscany city for twenty five years.
 
In Italy, when one refers to the novel genre, there arises immediately an odor of mildew, that reminds us unpleasantly of the 18th century. Instead, American literature—above all Hemmingway—invented a new form, more dynamic, descriptive and colloquial, in which characters are described in present tense, as if they themselves were keeping a diary of their everyday activities. In the construction of this literary fresco, the outstanding quality here is that the author shuns any and all descent into autobiographic-ism, which allows for a larger vision. Moreover, due to the author’s international vision, there is an intense comparison between diverse social realities. Kate and Niccolò, watching Mt. Cofano from the window of their house, come in contact with a variegated humanity composed of neighbors, real estate agents, owners of houses for sale, as well as with the upper echelon community who find themselves in Erice for the summer holidays. Further, through the use of flashbacks, the cultural comparisons are accentuated by their formative experiences, for Kate, in America, for Niccolò in Florence. The results are vividly detailed portraits in which affection and gratitude are evident but also irony and sarcasm. The writer, Lynn Rodolico, after two previous novels, Heart and Soul and Intimates, paints her primary and secondary characters with indulgence, but she doesn’t fail to underline the defects and idiosyncrasies that surface from the natural comparison between the behavior of the characters, regardless if they are American, Florentine, Sicilian....

Also held up for comparison is the snobbism of the Florentine “Madonnas” contrasted to the elegant, camaraderie of the Sicilian upper class women who are affable from the first encounter, even though their names are sculpted in marble on the street signs and at the entrance to the city’s museums, which keep their celebrated ancestry alive in the citizens’ awareness.

The attentive and precise observations are not limited to the characters but also the landscape—natural and urban. In this way, the architecture of the houses in Erice and the restoration of the historic center of Trapani also come under analysis, as well as the Soviet style bloc buildings built by speculators in the 1960s. In Trapani, the couple discovers a furniture shop between a pornographic movie theatre and the city cemetery. In this place, they buy most of the furnishings for their new house: functional and at a good price. 

The book, Two Seas, published by Eccolo Editions, printed in the UK, is made up of twenty five chapters for a total of 400 pages, at a cost of €18. The final image shows the couple seated in front of the fire place, in winter, hypnotized by the flames. The house that they thought would be their summer home has surpassed the test of winter. “They have made a home for all seasons.” –Peppe Occhipinti

Peppe Occhipinti is a journalist, art critic, poet, painter and professor emeritus. His paintings can be viewed at :

www.fotoegrafica.net/occhipinti/

 

Translating is an art unto itself, and while it has been necessary to transcribe these extraordinary reviews of Two Seas into English, the elegance of the words and the grace of the syntax has been lost in translation. I offer my apologies for the literal but not literary translation. --LR

 

 

Teresa Stefanetti: “An American glance from Erice”

English Translation of Sunday’s review in La Repubblica

“The book Two Seas by the American writer Lynn Rodolico has as its cover a photo of Mt. Cofano.  It presents  the view of the Erice countryside where Kate and Niccolo enjoy their summer holidays—says Teresa Stefanetti of the Main Street Bookstore Libreria del Corso in Trapani . The writer, in the manner of Hemingway, bestows on her protagonists her attentive and accurate observations of both the physical nature and the human panorama of Sicilia in a continuous and constant comparison to the American reality where she was born as well as the Tuscan reality where she has lived.”

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL READERS’ PRAISE FOR TWO SEAS

“Two Seas … recounts as if a love story, the discovery of a place that promises the gift of happiness: the first moments in their dream house, the first months in the new paradise. Between the memories of her youth in America to her arrival in Florence, with her marriage and growing family, Kate lives fully the new season that the house in Erice offers. It is a book dedicated to all those who search for the ideal place, and who don't tire in the pursuit of their dreams.”
— Ranieri

“Simply Beautiful!”
— Tommy

"Two Seas is a truly wonderful book. It is deceptively simple, meaning its depth -- the author's depth -- sneaks up on you as you become increasingly intertwined with the lives of the characters and the magical place in which they live. It reminds me of the best foreign films (foreign to us in the U.S.) in which nothing much appears to happen and yet an entire world unfolds and wraps you in its arms. I was fully engrossed in that world and extremely sorry to come to the last page."
—Cheri Fein

“A new epiphany… Two Seas will inspire a sensitive reader toward a new longing for a fresh search and exploration about the inscrutable aspects of his own life.”
— Luigi

"I very much enjoyed Two Seas, from start to finish. It has a naturalistic style that is striking and reminds me of Wordsworth, who once wrote about the commonality between mankind and Mt. Blanc. Two Seas draws an implicit parallel between Sicily's Mt. Corfu, which is given the dignity of a human character, and the human characters, who are given the authenticity of nature."
—Alexander Reid

“Lynn Rodolico captures the heart of every reader. Each chapter keeps you in suspense awaiting outcomes. I feel I could now visit Erice and know every street and shop from her description of the island of Sicily. Her book brings out the contrast between living in the formality of Florentine society and the more casual lifestyle in Sicily. An enjoyable read that paints a vivid picture of the problems in adapting to life in different cultures. Highly recommended.”
— Gabrielle

Woven into the extraordinary life of the protagonist is a unique insight into the heart of Italy. Breathtakingly, it takes the time to appreciate what is often overlooked. A must read for anyone who wants to take the time to understand Italy's culture and learn how to appreciate everyday miracles. Gripping from the start, it keeps you thinking about the characters long after you've finished the book. Loved it!
—Lisa

“ Lynn Rodolico has written a lovely story - which has so many waves that ripple through and then the tide comes in again.”
— Sara Denning

“Having grown up in California (the author's native state) in the 60's and 70's, the contrast she draws from past to present Tuscany, to present Sicily are profound. The written images are astounding. This book leads our family's summer vacation to Sicily this year!”
— PhilEdward

“The exotic character of the land yields to the author's determined efforts to cultivate an intimacy with its essence--earth, winds, and waters are sensitively appraised, appreciated, and embraced. A most graceful and measured memoir, and one which I will long remember.”
— Maureen Drdak

“Opened the Book...started reading...I've now been standing in the kitchen for 15 minutes reading...Love it!”
— Shawney

“I have been cutting the time of my sacred nightly bath so I can quickly jump in bed to read TWO SEAS. It is wonderful! It pulls me away from the stress of my daily life, and lets me drift towards beautiful Sicilia; an engaging, romantic and loving story.”
Pattie S. 

“I nearly missed my subway/bus stop several times while reading this book. It put me IN Italy while I was reading - and now I'm salivating for more Italian food, landscapes, people. I was particularly touched by the spare but evocative depiction of how a couple & a family relate to each other when they truly love each other and can depend on each other - no `buts,' no monkey wrenches, no contrived crises. Now that I've finished reading Two Seas, I feel a bit bereft and need some pasta with tomato sauce - or even better, a quick flight to Italy.”
— Gena R

“So honest and clear and straight from the heart.”
— Kay

"TWO SEAS is an exquisitely written book: an ode to nature, and a gentle argument for choosing the "simple life." Yes, it is a book about Sicily. But it is more than that. It is a story about the complexities of love and friendship, and where the two overlap. It is also a book about adapting to what life brings you, being open to new experiences, different cultures, and finding beauty in small things, daily tasks and unexpected places.
This is not a book that will give you nightmares. Rather, it will enrich your life and help you to see things in a different way. I found myself surprisingly engrossed, right to the end, and am tempted to read it again."

— Helena R.

“Two nights ago, I re-read Two Seas. The book is even more poignant and exquisite with a second reading. The first time I read it, I was eager to know how Kate’s life goes, and missed its literary beauty. But on second read, the structure and beauty are more apparent to me. I am amazed continually at the author’s notice of physical detail to fill in the characters’ inner lives. I realize it is a book about love, and is a peaceful example of lives lived well, something we can all aspire to.”
— Mary Beams

“In "Two Seas" Lynn Rodolico weaves a complex and elegant tapestry of places, people, and flora, each element acutely observed. Her psychological notations for each of the main characters are rapid, economical and very effective. Her love for the places she describes is palpable. All these ingredients make for a good read, whether the reader knows or not the beautiful places described. Locales, mountains and fields are as much part of the story as the protagonists themselves.”
— M. Abbozzo

“Lynn Rodolico has written yet another great novel. Two Seas is a beautifully written literary work. The author brings the characters to life in an introspective and inspiring manner, where you feel their emotions and grow to love and care for them.”
— Pamela B.

“Breathtakingly, Two Seas takes the time to appreciate what is often overlooked. A must read for anyone who wants to take the time to understand Italy's culture and learn how to appreciate everyday miracles. Gripping from the start, it keeps you thinking about the characters long after you've finished the book. Loved it!”
— Elizabeth

“A very enjoyable read. Written in a direct and simple style, "Two Seas" is a wonderful account of the author's life in Trapani, Sicily and Florence, Tuscany. A life full of work, joy and discovery. The accounts of the main characters' happy marriage adds warmth and color to the story. A lovely book
— Stephen Heuser 

From the stunning view on the cover of the book to the visual descriptions and insights about life, this book is a great read, uplifting. I was thrilled to be reading a book about an American who moved to Italy, married an Italian, and created a rich and rewarding life. My daughter did the same. I have visited Sicily and do find it enchanting, especially Erice. I am grateful to Lynn Rodolico for sharing her perceptions about life and her experiences with her readers.
— Susanna Lombardi 

A warm and entertaiing novel, so easy to read, so hard to put down. Subtle yet powerful, the writing is as convincing as the characters--and as enjoyable. Truly another world filled with so many fabulous images, so similar yet so different from life in the USA. It's like taking a visit to Italy without the hassle and the jet-lag...a trip to Italy from the couch. A perfect summer's read! Fantastic! The words on the page may not be enough...I may have to experience it myself.
— Neil Resnick

I highly recommend this book. I love the author's writing style and I felt as though I were there experiencing the moments with her. Images of Sicily abound in this work and the scenes she describes are so beautiful. I felt like I was visiting a dear old friend and couldn't get enough.
Susan J.

Two Seas is an excellent book for anyone who has ever lived or travelled in the Mediterranean. Its vivid descriptions are beautifully portrayed; it made me nostalgic almost immediately! It is a thoughtful and graceful memoir, and a delight to read.
— Sara March 

I just finished reading "Two Seas" and I loved it! The author seemed to bare her soul in the stories of her life in Sicily and in Florence. I felt like I was right there, with her in the same room, participating in the Sicilian parties, or enjoying the outdoors in her garden and the Tuscan olive harvest. If you love Italy, you'll love this book!
— Elaine

"Two Seas" is a real page turner--I read it in three days! Every detail is carefully written to describe the beautiful landscape of Sicily and the beauty that can be found in human relationships.
— William's Daughter 

I thank Lynn Rodolico for her enchanting novel TWO SEAS, a joyous memoir that, when finished, you'll want to turn right back to page one and happily read again, as I did. TWO SEAS is a graceful hymn to perennial love and how that love can be mystically enhanced when living surrounded by beauty. Nicolo' and Kate, a middle-aged couple, move to a country home on the dramatic northwest coast of Sicily near Trapani-Erice. The sea is below, the mountains and fields all around, with wild winds under that golden sun - intense beauty that interrupts them daily to insist they stop work to admire in joy and silence. And there, just below, rising dramatically from the sea, is their Mount Cofano, magic talisman for a perennial first love to always grow stronger. With rich understanding of Sicilian tradition and living, Lynn Rodolico - eyes wide open - weaves ribbons in muted medieval colors throughout the narrative as she shares her magnificent island describing the generosity, the humor and great warmth of its ancient peoples, its traces of a long, long history , its fine, complex traditions in daily life. And always her magic, beloved Monte Cofano.
— LouKay