Books I have read in 2019
by Lorenzo Piccoli
I first saw The Schopenhauer Cure in Luxemburg, Torino, next to a dozen other books by the same author. Irvin Yalom is a psychiatrist who turns philosophy into a work of fiction. Arianna gave me this book towards the end of 2018. For some reason, I remember reading it on two distinct occasions: in a café on the hill leading up to the Sacré-Cœur during a cold December night; and at the RER stop in Gentilly, on my way to the Maison Doisneau on a grey January afternoon. I would suggest this book to those who are curious about psychotherapy, meditation, and pain.
Arnold Odermatt, worked as a photographer for the Nidwalden district police in Switzerland from 1948 until his retirement in 1990. He was initially trained as a banker and took up photography as a hobby. His work, which I discovered at Images Vevey, is gracious and ironic. I read and smiled over On Duty in Arianna’s temporary apartment in Marcadet, Paris, courtesy of Mavi. In the future I would like to add to my humble collection his other books, Karambolage and Off Duty.
At some point in January I had to go back to Switzerland, but all trains were full. I remember reading La photographie sociale at 6 in the monring inside Coffee & Friends (a cozy café in the train station of Geneva) after a seven-hour bus ride. This little book is one of the gems of a wonderful collection by Photo poche, Actes Sud. (In Italy, these books are available as Fotografia Contrasto and can be easily found in most museums).
I read most of Waiting for the Barbarians on the train to the Diagonela; then I lost it, found it, lost it again, found it again, and finished it once and for all. I am happy to keep it on my shelves because it reminds me of Florence: I took this book when I left the apartment in Via Ponte alle Riffe, where we (Ada, Dani, Jonas, and I) originally found it in 2013, abandoned there from the previous tenants. The story is not really Florence-like, though: harsh, matter-of-fact, existentialist, with a desolate atmosphere of imperialist denial and defeat. It reminded me of Il deserto dei tartari and Mad Max – weird combination, ain’t it?
I listened to The Human Stain following Alkistis’ suggestion to dig a bit into the work Philip Roth. I started in Cuba, in 2018, during my wacky journey with Thomoose. However, the general mood of the vacation did not bode well with this book. I stopped for a few months and then resumed. I listened to it mostly on the plateau next to Neuchatel while training for the Marcialonga. This is why it reminds me of these valleys. Ironically, one of the most iconic scenes of the movie is set in a place that could very well be La Sagne, Eglise. This is a difficult book with some truly extraordinary pages. I recommend it highly, although it takes some time to get into the flow. It is a story about public morality and political correctness.
Back in Trento for a couple of days after the Marcialoga I read Il gusto del cloro (which reminded me of Turin, when I used to go swimming quite often ), 100 Brani di musica classica da ascoltare una volta nella vita (this, too, I had first seen it in Luxemburg, Torino), and another book on classical music, Twentieth-Century Classical Music: A Ladybird Expert Book (I remember buying it at Shakespeare and Co.). What a waste, having moved out of Florence where in Winter I could – and often did – go to classical music concerts at La Pergola every Sunday evening. I did not understand a thing, sometimes I fell asleep, but I enjoyed every single session. These are simple books that you can read in-between breaks. Did I learn something new? Probably not, but I felt more intelligent while reading them.
In March I listened to The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception. This is my fourth Emanuel Carrere book, and hopefully not the last. The story is relatively short, so it only took me one lonely, pleasant day skiing in Les Portes de Soleil. (Sometimes you have to take yourself out on a little date on the snow). This book is mesmerising; but if you want to get into the heclectic prose of Emmanuel Carrère I would humbly suggest to start from some other books he wrote.
In March I went to Brussels where Arianna and I were elegantly hosted by Delina and Giacomo. During our short stay I bought some high-quality bande dessinée: Le Chat, Tome 21 : Chacun son chat (you gotta love Belgian authors); and Egon Schiele (beautiful: brought me back to the exhibition I had seen with Arianna in 2018, Schiele and Basquiat, Fondation Louis Vuitton).
In early April, before spending a few days in Iceland, I wrote to Leonardo, a talented writer and avid cycling fan whose work I throughly enjoy. He answered promptly and most kindly with a list of readings. I only managed to read one: The Good Shepherd. This slim book tells the story of a man who goes looking for lost sheeps together with his dog – Leo – and his wether – Gnarly. The book smells like snow. In case you want to read other Icelandic books, you can start from Leonardo’s own book, Il libro dei vulcani d’Islanda, Luce d’estate ed è subito notte, or the other suggestion by Leonardo: Sotto il ghiacciaio.
Back in Paris at the end of April I went for the first time to Arianna’s new apartment, which is also a little bit mine. Nearby we found a good bookshop, Librairie l’Humeur Vagabonde, and we bought Un anglais dans mon arbre and Orwell. Both of them are elegantly drawn, but not particularly original in their story telling techniques.
In May I spent one happy weekend in Rome with Arianna. I was amazed by the exhibition dedicated to Mapplethorpe at Galleria Corsini, where the provocative pictures were thematically blended with other paintings in the crowded galleries. Shortly after I read Mapplethorpe Rodin that, I believe, I found in one of the boîtes d’echange in Neuchâtel.
There are a few books that I read in my Swiss apartment and on the lake shore sometime between late May and early June: Adieu La Suisse ! Construction Et Deconstruction d’Un Mythe (I saw this book at the museum in Winterthur and bought it shortly thereafter), Marx, Freud, Einstein: Heroes of the Mind (this was Arianna’s gift from Shakespeare and Co) and La ragazza con la Leica. I had great expectation on this latter volume, but it turned out to be boring, unexciting. It was a disappointment. Gerda Taro, whose story inspired this book, truly was an exceptional character.
During a short visit to Florence in June I discovered a strange place: Galleria Immaginaria. I was walking in via Cavour and looking for a quiet spot to work and I bumped in this gallery, wine place, and bookstore. The guy who was there invited me to stay ‘but I have to leave. Here, take my keys. My colleague will be back in half an hour‘. And he left. I was slightly worried this would turn out to be some sort of an insurance scam, but I went with the flow and stayed, a lonely kid managing a shop he just discovered. The colleague who arrived half an hour later was happy to find me there and invited me to a full Chianti tasting, which they have on the menu. In exchange I bought from their library I colori nell’arte. Sweet book. If you visit this place, remember the door is made of glass – I did not realise it and smashed right into it upon leaving the place fully drunk.
In late June I read L’ombra del vento at the Circolino. It was a suggestion of Fabio. Probably a younger version of myself would have liked this book better. Then, just before traveling to Portugal, I read Donna di Porto Pim; in the Azores I read Viaggio in Portogallo; and upon returning from Lisbon I read Poeti di Lisbona. If you have to choose, read Tabucchi and some of the poems written by Pessoa.
Ricordo di aver letto Cacciateli!: Quando i migranti eravamo noi nei giorni in cui ero a Murren. Del libro mi ha colpito la desolante descrizione delle domeniche svizzere per gli immigranti italiani, nella quale mi ritrovo ancora oggi. Però nel complesso non raccomanderei questo libro, a differenza di un altro lavoro di Concetto Vecchio, anche quello molto personalmente sentito, che invece regalerei volentieri ad amici e conoscenti.
On the train before my hike on the Pale di San Martino with Giallu I read this collection of essays by Susan Sontag. It is one of the greatest classics in the field of photography. You are likely to find a copy in the bookshops of all photo-museums and exhibitions. For me, this is one of those books that I could easily read over and over again because of its depth and beauty. I was genuinely happy to able to recognise most of the examples used by Sontag, mostly because of the many photography books that I have skimmed through over the last three years. I reckon the essays might not be as interesting for those of you who do not care that much about photography.
Back in Paris in October, I remember reading the following three books. First, a short but powerful collection of essays: Sull’Iliade. This is a poetic and profound text for all my friends who like epical tales like I did as a kid. Second, quite unrelated, Modigliani: Prince de la bohème. Bought it in Madrid at the market next to the Buen Retiro, I read at Le Village in Place Michael Petrucciani. The third book is another comic text on an artist from the twentieth century: Capa. L’étoile filante. I must have bought it in Brussels. This is a good one, although I recommend Capa’s own ironical autobiography or his and Magnum’s biography by Russel Miller.
Speaking of Magnum, in October I read Magnum Mountains, which I bought at the related exhibition in Le Locle where I went with Arianna on a grey Swiss Sunday. Around the same time in Switzerland I read Dalla mia Terra alla Terra and Quino’s Manger. Quelle adventure, which I bought in a little Neuchâtel bookshop when Iris came to visit me.
I found the book below in an exchange box in Neuchâtel. I have not read many female Italian writers, so I jumped right into L’indomani. It is a short story, intimate, melancholic. A few months later, in the same exchange box, I was to find another book that probably speaks more to my feminist conscience – more on that at the end of this verbose text.
After reading about Mordillo’s death I recovered some of his books at my parents place, and a bought a couple others from second-hand retailers. These are strongly recommended to all the readers of this blog: All’arrembaggio, Lovestory, and Football.
When I went to visit Alberto in Milan, I had a couple of hours to kill, so I visited the Mondadori store in Piazza Duomo and bought Storia d’Italia in 100 foto. My suggestion, if you go to Milan, is to visit the Hoepli bookstore instead. Do not read these random books put together rather haphazardly.
Di ritorno a Parigi in ottobre, mi sono letto d’un fiato le Settantacinque poesie di Kavafis, un regalo di Arianna. Valgono per questo libro le stesse cose che ho scritto per Sull’Iliade e, non a caso, quelle che scriverò poi per le Memorie di Adriano. Un tuffo elegante nelle gioie e nelle contraddizioni della cultura classica. Negli stessi giorni ho letto anche L’arte di essere fragili: Come Leopardi può salvarti la vita. Era sulla mia lista dai tempi di Torino, dopo aver ascoltato un volontario che ne leggeva alcuni paragrafi al circolo per i non- vedenti. Sono rimasto piuttosto deluso: ho trovato il libro ripetitivo e, a tratti, stucchevole quanto il blog che state leggendo. Magari le condizioni non hanno aiutato: lo ho letto nel treno notte verso Parigi, un’esperienza particolare. Ricordo di essere salito pensando a Grand Hotel Budapest. Prendo una birra nel vagone ristorante con Jack (autore di questo bel podcast). Poi lui mi saluta: buona fortuna e buona sopravvivenza. Cosa avrà voluto dire? Prendete anche voi un treno notte e lo scoprirete. En Cuisine avec Kafka. Letto a Reinitas, simpatico, snello.
It is time for the book of the year: Mémoires d’Hadrien. This was a present from Eliana. I started it in 2017 when I was doing research for my Ph.D. thesis in Spain. I dropped it half-way through, because I became unable to find any pleasure in reading. I started again this year, when I found a used copy in this little bookstore next to our house in Paris. I read it and read it all over again. This is a wonderful work, historical, philosophical, poetic, all at the same time. I highly recommend it to all of you, my dear readers, and I suggest you find a version that has the author’s notes with it. Yourcenair’s diary is as poetic as her prose. There is one example that I have posted in a separate space. It is a long quote, but it is magnificent.
I bought Koudelka: Zingari: bought in Milan when I was with Anna, Jonas, and Irene – right after visiting the Museo del Novecento. This is not an expensive photography book as others. Get a copy. It is a wonderful collection of portraits made in different European countries. I read in Paris together with other photographic classics: Bill Brandt: Shadow & Light; Sebastiao Salgado’s Kuwait, a Desert on Fire and Terres de café, voyage au pays de l’arôme.
La prima guerra del football: ho letto questo libro a Trento, in maniera intermittente, tra giugno e dicembre. Mi ha fatto pensare a Giacomo Zandonini e alle sue avventure con Francesco Bellina. Particolarmente belli i racconti sull’Algeria, Nigeria, e Sudafrica.
Chiudo l’anno con due libri in italiano. Il primo è L’inverno del disegnatore, riprendendo in mano un fumettista strepitoso. Questa storia relativamente è corta; come per tutti gli altri autori che già conoscevo non è la migliore, ma disegnata benissimo e con un taglio storico originale. Se però volete conoscere Paco Roca iniziate con i suoi libri che ho letto nel 2016. Il secondo libro, che si legge piuttosto in fretta, lo ho trovato una delle bussole di scambio libri a Neuchâtel. Invoglia a cercare antichi testi arabi di letteratura erotica.