A theme that has been gutted (too much?) For almost two years now, the house is at the center of the narrative. In reality, the house has always been in all novels, the objects that inhabit it and the daily gestures that animate it have a fundamental role. We have chosen the books released in 2021 that we liked the most and we explain why - and for whom - are the gift right for Christmas.
To meet the most disparate tastes, we combine fiction books with a essay narrated in the first person, a volume of short stories , a colorful story strong and two with gothic atmospheres, even a thriller. In common: the house as a character and high-level writing. For the plot we refer you to the back cover, what we want to highlight are the specificities that struck us. Since “no book that talks about a book says more than the book in question”, explains Calvino, the advice is to be inspired without investigating too much the events narrated (and not even the reviews) and read them.
The house is essential because the walls guard our memory
First of all, why is the house so important, in storytelling (therefore) in life? Our memory, it is known, chooses what and how to remember, walls instead are reliable : they store events , emotions, the said and the unspoken - even the mysteries - and tell. The walls, floors, doors and windows, the furniture that you carry around from house to house, even the mattresses resting on the ground, testify who we were in that moment, not the version we choose ( we shape) to remember. The walls guard, the pieces of us that we left there.
Il libro delle case by Andrea Bajani
power inhabits every page of Il libro delle case by Andrea Bajani, published by Feltrinelli. The power of writing, the power of structure. Algida and impersonal the first, architectural and fragmentary the second. Written in the third person, referring to a person "who by convention we will call I" , short chapters build a puzzle that jumps in space and time, compose an unstitched, and therefore incomplete, identity portrait. We talked about it in this review: Andrea Bajani gives voice to the real and symbolic places inhabited by the protagonist in a domestic, sentimental, sometimes collective biography.
Who is it for
For those who love exact prose . Each chapter is compact, leafless, calibrated, visualized thanks to a - detached and distilled writing yet full: a dense prose as a - poem that invites you to enter the spaces, to smell them.
For those who love History . Those narrated are places that over the course of 50 years tell a personal story intertwined with the History of Italy, returned, with rare delicacy, in the figures of Prisoner, Aldo Moro, and of Poeta, Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Even for those who love playing Cluedo: Book of houses is composed like a collage that investigates, between cadastral maps - just as if it were a game of the famous boxed game - between everything that a person was in those houses, at that moment, and what he wanted (or had to?) forget.
La filosofia della casa (The philosophy of the house) by Emanuele Coccia
Nel suo (citatissimo) libro La filosofia della casa. Lo spazio domestico e la felicità, edito da Einaudi, Emanuele Coccia explores domesticity as a moral place, the space where the tension towards happiness is consumed. We talked about it in depth in this interview with the author, so the house, neglected by philosophy, is the space to imagine a post-digital future.
Through chapters that deal with themes ranging from removals to loves, from bathrooms to wardrobes, from bedrooms and corridors to kitchens, from pets to woods and gardens, an idea of home is outlined ( and happiness) which goes beyond the simple volumetric and compositional dimension to become “the moral reality par excellence: a psychic and material artifact that allows us to to be in the world better than our nature allows it”. So “designing a house means subjecting those who live there to a precise psychic planimetry”, specifically, referring to the bathroom, house within the house, “an order of spatialization of our soul or of gesturalization of the body”.
Who is it for
For those who love a hybrid form between the essay and the novel . In fact, the philosophical reflections on the meaning of the house and the symbolic value of everyday objects are intertwined with personal events and the author's memories that make the reading dynamic and engaging.
For those who love underline. It is impossible to report all the quotes that have enlightened us, so we choose moving, a well-known topic by Coccia who in 45 years of life has faced 30, which “proves that there are no houses, there is only making a house”. And “to make a home it is not enough to find a physical place and give it shape: it is impossible to be at home without crossing the body of others and letting the things that surround us pass through“.
For those looking for pieces of themselves in every book he reads. “We build houses to welcome in a form of intimacy the portion of the world - made up of things, people, animals, plants , atmospheres, events, images and memories - which make our own happiness possible”.
Casa è dove fa male by Massimo Cuomo
In Casa è dove fa male by Massimo Cuomo, Edizioni E/O is a condominium that tells - in first person - the seven families (and the seven deadly sins) that live there. In an intertwining - daily and involuntary - the thoughts, dissatisfactions, repeated or unleashed actions, the repressed or discharged feelings of the tenants converge and go up pipes and walls (like the colony of mice that, silently, is expanding), spread through the vibrations of the floors they transmit, they radiate emotions, frustrations, even blows like ribs of a single body. Because the houses observe, perceive, remember. And they react.
Who is it for
For those who think that the house is the mirror of manias, vices and fragility of those who live there. Home is where it hurts is a book in strong colors that examines mercilessly, floor by floor, family by family, the (toxic) relationships between neighbors of an apartment building on the outskirts of Mestre.
For those who love caustic books but also have a passion for details old fashioned , for houses animated by vintage objects and analogue habits rooted. 'Tinelli' with glass cabinets and favors, living rooms with covered sofas and never creased alternate with domestic images that speak more than every turn of phrase, like people collapsing on the sofa “ in a solitude of telesales”.
Sette case vuote by Samanta Schweblin
Sette case vuote by Samanta Schweblin, Edizioni SUR is a collection of disturbing tales: seven stories built around a concern. Each character is confronted with fears, their own and others, which are hidden in the ripples of everyday life, in the most banal objects. Reading each story one perceives that what can happen in houses - empty but inhabited by absences - is nothing other than what happens inside and among people.
Who is it for
For those who love stories. Distilled narratives that photograph a precise moment, pure and exact forms: the sum of the art of writing. “Stories I was catapulted into in a line or two. I was fascinated by their rigor, the absolute economy of words and images, the complexity they could hide, the big inside the small "writes Paolo Cognetti in A pesca nelle pozze più profonde. Meditations on the art of writing short stories, published by Minimum Fax. Stories that, knowing how to see the thread, are sewn together.
For those who love the unspoken , the fringe situations that collide with the common sense of 'normality'. In None of this, a daughter seems to indulge her mother's obsession who breaks into other people's homes to take possession of valueless objects. Something in their lives has broken, but words are lacking to understand each other, to be saved.
Books with a gothic atmosphere: Loro and L'altra casa
If, with explicit references to the literary tradition, Loro by Roberto Cotroneo, published by Neri Pozza , is a novel that takes place in Villa Alessandra, a 'glass house' contemporary designed by Rem Koolhaas which has nothing gothic at all, but exercises with its total transparency ( disturbing?), an indisputable (dark) magnetism, Villa Giacomelli ne L'altra casa by Simona Vinci, Einaudi is just as expected: it has “a vegetable soul”, seems to emit a so rtilegio, wrapped in her mysterious garden. Here, where the mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Pasqua (1851-1930), much loved by Giuseppe Verdi lived (and hovers), the events of four characters in crisis take place. But it is the house is the protagonist of the novel: it addresses visions, perspectives and events. A building that tells layered stories, in a vertigo of time.
Who I am for
For those who love Gothic reinterpreted in a contemporary key and for those who love punctual and elegant prose, full of of literary references .
For those attracted to the topos of gothic literature: the haunted house. “The newly abandoned houses (...) bear the ' warm imprint of those who lived in them”. “Buildings seem to feel anger at abandonment. They moan, bang, creak, try to settle down and find no peace”. “The houses keep us in the memory and they don't want to let us go”.
For those who love reconstruction accurate - historical, architectural, musical - but it remains perturbed by that something ineffable and elusive that remains pending. “M many of the events narrated in this novel really happened, many are not, others I don't know” Simona Vinci writes at the end of her book.
Questo giorno che incombe by Antonella Lattanzi
In Questo giorno che incombe by Antonella Lattanzi, HarperCollins the house in Rome, which for the protagonist who came from Milan with her family must have been the perfect place to start a new happy life, gradually becomes a prison in which she feels trapped. Inside a condominium / world that will prove to be inhabited by a herd/sect, the house begins to breathe. That house - first loved by her, then theater and witness to memory lapses, paranoia, panic attacks and amnesia - speaks to her, gives her advice, perhaps orders, until the day her child disappears.
Who is it for
For those who feel torn between home and work, love and terror. The protagonist's crisis is triggered by the sense of inadequacy as a mother, poised between the ' boundless love for daughters and a lack of professional/social fulfillment leading to fear/awareness of being able to harm them.
For those looking for sensations from pressing thriller. In This impending day the house amplifies, encourages, instigates, consoles, eviscerates. The house as a sounding board, of dissatisfaction and insecurities, repressed needs and unexpressed (and inexpressible) desires. The house as an alter ego, to which the protagonist, in the crescendo of events that overwhelms her, trusts to try to put order, inside and out.
For those who believe that the house can have a voice . A (haunted?) House that manages to communicate even when it no longer speaks. From nest to trap: the house that protects you from the monster or the house that turns you into a monster?
La porta (the door), in the center of a masterpiece
We conclude with an older book , yet still powerful: La porta by Magda Szabó, Einaudi. A book about love (in all its forms) and distances (to be kept). Everything revolves around a door that must not be crossed (or everything crumbles). And to Emerenc Szeredàs, the old woman Magda's maid, a writer who binds to her in a relationship of dependence, which from factual becomes mental, becoming one the keeper of the other, one obsession with the other.
Who is it for
For those who see the door of the house as a metaphor for the barrier between oneself and the other: opening it means exposing one's inner world, one's soul.
For those who love those figures of literature so intense that they can't shake them. Emerenc is a grumpy and despotic character, suspicious but empathetic. Imperious. Wonderful.