Monday, 13 January 2014

Book Review: Bakunin's Son

Il figlio di BakunìnIl figlio di Bakunìn by Sergio Atzeni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No, I didn't read this in Italian, but for some reason the English translation from Italica Press isn't on Goodreads.
This novella recounts the deeds of a left-wing activist in a small Sardinian mining town during the time of Mussolini. Bakunin, the famous anarchist, doesn't actually make an appearance here; the protagonist's father is nicknamed "Bakunin" for his own political activism.
Actually, "protagonist" isn't quite the right term, because the subject of this book is dealt with entirely through third-person accounts from various villagers. We discover early on that these accounts aren't entirely reliable (some people even get key names wrong) and this is what makes this an interesting experiment in fiction. We learn of this man through the eyes of sympathizers and enemies, men and women, all of whom have different opinions and impressions about him. All of them, however, are deeply impressed by him and the changes he tries to make in a conservative society. Even those who dismiss him as stupid or unimportant seem to be doing that as a reaction to his being quite the opposite.
This is a book that will make you think of your own legacy. No matter how much you try to affect those around you, no matter how much of a mark you make on the world, how you are remembered is entirely up to those you survive you.
If you're willing to take a bit of experimentation in your fiction, give this a try. The Italica Press edition is still in print, and although there are numerous weird typos ("buried" is consistently misspelled with two "r"s and the last sentence of the book ends with a comma) consider picking it up.

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D.G. Hudson said...

You do find eclectic books, Sean. Do you visit old book shops?

The photo of the cover shows a guy looking out a window, which looks the same as the photo on the spine of 'The Greater Journey' by D. McCullough about 'Americans in Paris'. That's a stock photo of a painting called 'The Man at the Window' by a French artist.
Thanks for the review!

Sean McLachlan said...

I love old bookshops, as well as obscure libraries! I'm going to do a post about obscure libraries some day soon.
The cover of my English edition is a French border police sheet of "Photos of Persons Subject to Special Surveillance at the Borders". It shows several prominent anarchists such as Kropotkin and Malatesta but not, oddly enough, Bakunin.

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