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Posted October 2, 2012
It is a slight volume, less than 150 pages. But you find yourself with a forgotten author in a forgotten corner of Italy, Calabria, as he seeks out vestiges of forgotten times of glory of ancient Greek cities dotting the Ionian coast. A favorite moment is coming across his reflections on a memorial to an Italian youth, victim of the Risorgimento conflict, wondering at the useless fight against time and its burial of countless similar youths and memories. While the Wkipedia entry tells us Gissing turned on his revolutionary/socialist past in his older years, one finds throughout this later work - published two years before his death, a sympathy for the misery of the poor he encounters along his travels. He asked an old man what people do here, to which the reply is C'e miseria. Yet he also attuned to the wonderful spirit of the people he comes across; an old fig seller sitting on the curb "smiled only as an Italian can" and bestows a complimentary fig upon our admiring traveler.
One also finds some prophetic comments about the ravages to come from nationalist devotion.
Not a major work of literature, just an intimate time with a sensitive mind who is kind enough to share his time with us as her travels from town to town observing the landscape and the people with an appreciative eye and spirit.
My first work by Gissing ; I will be looking for others.
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