Michele Mari

Verdigris

Winner of the 2008 Grinzane Cavour Prize

At the tail end of the 1960s, the thirteen-year-old Michelino spends his summers at his grandparents’ modest estate in Nasca, near Lake Maggiore, losing himself in the tales of horror, adventure, and mystery shelved in his grandfather’s library. The greatest mystery he’s ever encountered, however, doesn’t come from a book – it’s the groundskeeper, Felice, a sometimes frightening, sometimes gentle, always colourful man of uncertain age who speaks an enchanting dialect and whose memory gets worse with each passing day. When Michelino volunteers to help the old man by providing him with clever mnemonic devices to keep his memory alive, the boy soon finds himself obsessed with piecing together the eerie hodgepodge of Felice’s biography . . . a quest that leads to the uncovering of skeletons in Nazi uniforms in the attic, to Felice’s admission that he can hear the voices of the dead, and to a new perspective on Felice’s endless war against the insatiable local slugs, who are by no means merely a horticultural threat.

And yet nothing could be more fascinating to Michelino than Felice’s own secret origins. Where did he come from? Is he the victim or the villain of his story? Is he a noble hero, a holy fool, or perhaps the very thing that Michelino most wants and fears: a real-life monster.

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This work has been translated with the contribution of the Italian Ministry of Culture’ Centre for Books and Reading (CEPELL).

Domenico Starnone gave the following answer in response being asked by I-Italy, ‘If you were to give a book award to a living Italian writer, man or woman, whom would you pick and why?’:

‘Many of my friends, men and women, are good writers whom I’ve been following for years and for whom I have high regard and affection. It would be difficult for me to give an award to this one rather than that. But I want to name a writer I don’t know personally, and yet I’ve been reading his books with pleasure because they are outside the box. I’m referring to Michele Mari.’

You can read Michele Mari’s interview with the New Yorker about You, Bleeding Childhood here.

Print status: Pre-order
Author: Michele Mari
Translator: Brian Robert Moore
Original language: Italian
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 2 January 2024
ISBN: 9781913505905
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505912
Availability: World English
Number of pages: 224

Reviews


Times Literary Supplement

‘Mari is known as a master of old literary forms and languages, with stylistic mannerisms that he calls “literary vampirism” … For lovers of the gothic and the supernatural there is much to admire in Michele Mari’s work. But what remains long in the mind is a feeling of extreme loneliness, regrets and longings for an irretrievable past, for loving family and accepting friends, which no amount of memories can return.’ Times Literary Supplement


Financial Times

‘Moore’s translation is lively and inventive … It’s as easy for adults to rewrite history, Mari suggests, as it is for children to retreat into fantasy. Consequently, a strange world emerges, one in which “everything flows and nothing stays”. This “gothic fantasy”, as Mari has called it, can be read as a commentary on collective amnesia, a condition affecting not just contemporary Italy, where fascism is becoming a real threat again, but also societies all over the globe. As Europe’s far right raises its head, literature that exhumes ghosts of the past grows vital. If left undisturbed, they will keep haunting the future.’


Irish Times

‘A pleasingly strange, crepuscular novel’

Barry Pierce

‘The novel is an intriguing mystery ... Brian Robert Moore’s translation is astonishing work.’


Asymptote

‘Mari and Moore are returning with Verdigris, a novel that further displays Mari’s masterful construction of mystery and fantasy with the story of a young boy, Michelino, and his developing friendship with a strange groundskeeper, Felice.’


Kirkus Reviews, starred review

‘A curious teenager's conversations with an odd groundskeeper yield far more than he'd bargained for [...] Kudos to translator Moore, whose consummate conversion allows readers to luxuriate in the language of even deceptively minor moments: "amid the heads of lettuce, languished the halved cadavers of red slugs." A gripping, beguiling, occasionally discomfiting, and utterly fascinating tour de force.’

Carla Benedetti
L’Espresso

‘One reads it quickly, in one go, but then it stays to “breathe” in one’s soul for days, as though it were to a living thing – just like the turquoise poison referenced in the title, once it’s dissolved in water. A writer of great talent, Mari seems to have even outdone himself.’


Asymptote

‘Mari and Moore are returning with Verdigris, a novel that further displays Mari’s masterful construction of mystery and fantasy with the story of a young boy, Michelino, and his developing friendship with a strange groundskeeper, Felice.’

Stefano Giovanardi
la Repubblica

‘The theme of the “double”, in its various forms, is a favorite subject of the modern Western literary imagination (from Hoffmann to von Chamisso, from Stevenson to Wilde, and many others). But no writer, I believe, has managed to conceive in this regard what Michele Mari offers us in his new novel, Verdigris.’

Giorgio Vasta
Nazione Indiana

‘There are books before which there came other books, and then there are books before which – and after which, too – there’s nothing else.’


Praise for the Author

‘There’s a Calvino-esque blend of the playful and the rigorous to You, Bleeding Childhood. A uniquely refreshing book . . . idiosyncratic, amusing and moving.’ The Guardian

‘If I were to give a book award to a living Italian writer, man or woman, I'd pick Michele Mari.’ Domenico Starnone, I-Italy

‘The greatest living Italian writer.’ Andrea Coccia, Linkiesta

‘The charm that Mari exercises on his readers, from the most devoted to the most distracted, is incredible . . . More than anyone else, Michele Mari represents today a model of writer that seems on the point of disappearing – fully literary, lofty, in short, twentieth-century.’ Sara Marzullo, Esquire