The modern Italian classic discovered and championed by James Joyce, ZENO'S CONSCIENCE is a marvel of psychological insight, published here in a fine new translation by William Weaver - the first in more than seventy years.
Italo Svevo's masterpiece tells the story of a hapless, doubting, guilt-ridden man paralyzed by fits of ecstasy and despair and tickled by his own cleverness.
His doctor advises him, as a form of therapy, to write his memoirs; in doing so, Zeno reconstructs and ultimately reshapes the events of his life into a palatable reality for himself - a reality, however, founded on compromise, delusion, and rationalization.
With cigarette in hand, Zeno sets out in search of health and happiness, hoping along the way to free himself from countless vices, not least of which is his accursed "last cigarette!" (Zeno's famously ineffectual refrain is inevitably followed by a lapse in resolve.) His amorous wanderings win him the shrill affections of an aspiring coloratura, and his confidence in his financial savoir-faire involves him in a hopeless speculative enterprise.
Meanwhile, his trusting wife reliably awaits his return at appointed mealtimes. Zeno's adventures rise to antic heights in this pioneering psychoanalytic novel, as his restlessly self-preserving commentary inevitably embroiders the truth.
Absorbing and devilishly entertaining, ZENO'S CONSCIENCE is at once a comedy of errors, a sly testimonial to he joys of procrastination, and a surpassingly lucid vision of human nature by one of the most important Italian literary figures of the twentieth century.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 437 pages, maps
- Publisher: Everyman
- Publication Date: 28/09/2001
- Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781857152494
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by StevenTX
Review by jwhenderson
A gritty English version by Italophile Weaver (Open City: Seven Writers and Rome, 1999, etc.) resurrects one of the indispensable 20th-century novels: the work of a prosperous businessman (whose real name was Ettore Schmitz), it’s a majestically ironic in-depth portrayal, in his own reluctant words, of its eponymous protagonist’s ruefully unromantic struggles with his domineering father, then the querulous family into which he marries, as well as the ignoble ravages of adultery and aging, psychoanalysis and tobacco addiction. You can hear Flaubert’s pugnacious mandarin contempt for all things bourgeois, and Dostoevsky’s furious comic voice in “Svevo’s” measured revelations of the slow erosive effects of quotidian disillusionment and passivity. A revolutionary book, and arguably (in fact, probably) the finest of all Italian novels.