I Hadn't Understood

( 1 )

Overview

Malinconico is a Neapolitan lawyer without a single case. He goes through the motions every day, leaving for the office punctually, shuffling papers when he gets to the studio he shares with a group of un-gainfully employed professionals like him. His personal life is a shambles: his wife has left him, his two teenage children are rife with adolescent angst and busy screwing their lives up royally. And his professional life, as noted, is nonexistent.

But one day a miracle ...

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I Hadn't Understood

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Overview

Malinconico is a Neapolitan lawyer without a single case. He goes through the motions every day, leaving for the office punctually, shuffling papers when he gets to the studio he shares with a group of un-gainfully employed professionals like him. His personal life is a shambles: his wife has left him, his two teenage children are rife with adolescent angst and busy screwing their lives up royally. And his professional life, as noted, is nonexistent.

But one day a miracle occurs. Indeed, two! The first is that he is assigned a case. And not any old case! He has been named the defense attorney for a member of the Neapolitan underground, Mimmo the Burzone. The second miracle bears the name Alessandra Persiana-the most beautiful woman to ever grace the Neapolitan courthouses -who, it appears, has fallen in love with Malinconico.

However, the real miracle for readers in this rollicking novel is the hilarious and eccentric voice of Vincenzio Malinconico. The novel orbits around the bizarre and irresistible mind of Malinconico, a mind that pauses to contemplate every aspect of the life he sees before him, the life he has lived, his memories and his future; a voice that seduces, entertains, and moves the reader from the first page to the last.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Despite the less-than-scintillating title, De Silva has crafted a sharp-edged comedic novel of a semi-hapless Italian lawyer, Vincenzo Malinconico. Vincenzo is 42, and his life is unraveling. He's an unsuccessful counselor with a failed marriage (to Nives, a psychologist) and two adolescent children he doesn't understand. But then things begin to happen. He has an opportunity to defend a member of the Mafia, Mimmo 'o Burzone—though at first he turns down the case. He then spends some time brushing up on his law skills, which have sadly deteriorated from years of desuetude. About this same time he finds out that a knockout celebrity lawyer, Alessandra Persiano, might be lusting after him—and he can't quite believe his good luck. But the book doesn't present a tight narrative line. It's really about the comic perception of Vincenzo, whose skewed vision of the world is both insightful and wry. Early in the novel, for example, he notes: "I'm an inconsistent narrator. I'm not a narrator you can rely on. I'm too interested in incidental considerations that can take you off track"—and, one might add here, way off track. He fantasizes for pages about what he'd like to say to his estranged wife, and when he finally beds the comely Alessandra, he starts thinking about St. Francis of Assisi. De Silva's strength lies in the creation of Vincenzo's unique and self-deprecating voice; his awareness of his status as a cuckold (because his wife is having an affair with Emilio, an egregious architect); and his ultimate triumph over the pettiness that has consistently marred his life. Comic exuberance on a grand scale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609450656
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Diego de Silva was born in Naples in 1964. He is the author of plays, screenplays and six novels. I Hadn't Understood was a finalist for the Strega Prize, Italy's most prestigious literary award, and winner of the Naples Prize for fiction. His books have been translated into eight languages. He currently lives in Salerno.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    more fun than a legal story should be

    Translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar

    "The fact is that I’m an inconsistent narrator…I’m too interested in incidental considerations that can take you off track. When I tell a story, it’s like watching someone rummage through the drawer where they keep their receipts and records.

    All this is just another way of saying my thoughts don’t seem to grip the road, they tend to skid and drift."

    So explains Vincenzo Malinconico, the Italian lawyer who becomes one of the most lovable protagonists I’ve ever encountered in this story by Diego De Silva. On the surface, it is the story of a lawyer strong-armed into defending a low-level criminal backed by a dubious source, while at the same time dealing with the aftermath of a painful marital split. But, while the plot is fast and furious, the real draw is the character of Vincenzo. Hearing a character’s inner monologue can really be a risk, as it can veer into boring pretty quickly. But in this case, you really just want to hear him talk.

    And talk he does! At times using lists and bullet points, his mind races around analyzing everything. He does a two-page riff on Camorra interior décor, to the point I had to grab Kleenex from laughing so hard. Another phenomena that Vincenzo investigates with wit and insight is the way some people talk in public, raising their voices so their imagined audience can see how cynical and world-weary they are. He manages to capture the insecurity that's revealed in the gestures and chatter of those desperately hoping that someone finds them fascinating. Edgy and fast-paced, the scenes that take place in the courthouse have some of the best dialogue I've read.

    The thing that is so unique is that while he pokes fun at others constantly (but most of all himself), he's never really mean or nasty. That would get tedious after awhile. Instead of arrogance, it's with acceptance that he realizes just about everyone he knows is a jerk in some way or another, including himself, so he doesn't seem to take any of it too seriously.

    At another point he tries to understand the difference between perception and actuality:

    “The thing is that reality mumbles. It expresses itself in incomplete sentences. And the translations that circulate are terrible, done by incompetents. Riddled with misreading, typos, entire lines missing. I make imperfect translations in an effort to get by until, one fine morning, I meet reality in the street –nonchalant, understated, never vulgar – and I stand there, rooted to the spot, staring as she passes me by and vanishes…”

    At one point, he discovers he’s being followed. Vincenzo has to look at his options.

    “In these cases, in fact, the first thing you do when you’re out walking is to slow down, take a deep breath and square your shoulders, as if somehow you feel incredibly interesting all of a sudden.

    Obviously in your case this is all just a farce, because if you really did think that a criminal was following you in order to rob you or settle some account that you know nothing about, at the very least you’d start running like a sewer rat or you’d scream for help in the general direction of the first policeman, traffic cop, or mailman (anything wearing a uniform, in other words) you happen to see; I very much doubt you’d waste time acting like the poor man’s James Bond.”

    A fun read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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