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The Worst Intentions

The Worst Intentions

by Alessandra Piperno, Ann Goldstein (Translator)

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"A resounding success! I'm telling everyone they must read it."-Gad Lerner, Vanity Fair

"Sumptuous, comic, tragic, miraculously and admirably uncertain throughout, whether it is tragedy or parody."-Corriere della Sera

Italy's leading daily newspaper called The Worst Intentions "a dangerous novel." Right from the title,


"A resounding success! I'm telling everyone they must read it."-Gad Lerner, Vanity Fair

"Sumptuous, comic, tragic, miraculously and admirably uncertain throughout, whether it is tragedy or parody."-Corriere della Sera

Italy's leading daily newspaper called The Worst Intentions "a dangerous novel." Right from the title, wrote La Repubblica, this daring book "proclaims the furiously bellicose and iconoclastic spirit that drives it."

Daniel is the thirty-three-year-old heir to the dappled fortunes of the Sonninos, a wealthy Jewish-Italian family whose staggering rise and fall during the years spanning the end of World War II and the beginning of the twenty-first century provides the richly colored backdrop to this remarkable tragicomedy. Daniel has inherited his grandfather's extravagant passions and his father's servility, as well as the excesses of his social class. He is also the victim of a crippling infatuation with Gaia, fountainhead of his erotic fantasies and fetishes.

This novel will be justly compared to the works of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. An audacious, sumptuous saga about ritual and liberty, love and war, sex and betrayal, set in the opulent neighborhoods of contemporary Rome.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This gall-coated Jewish-Italian family folly opens with patriarch Bepy Sonnino, a textile magnate, lying dead in his rosewood coffin, leaving wife Ada, sons Luca and Teo, and aging ex-mistress Giorgia Di Porto bereft-well, sort of. The crackly, all-seeing first-person narrative falls to Luca's 33-year-old ne'er-do-well son, Daniel, who seems born to the task. He shows us his Uncle Teo, an émigré Israeli who backs the Likud party; sexually frustrated Aunt Micaela, Teo's wife (an adolescent encounter with her feet "hurled me into a vortex of depraved fetishism"); cousin Lele, whose testicular cancer has rendered his homosexuality academic; and Daniel's father, Luca, who makes a cameo in his Porsche and exits in a cloud of irrelevance. Gaia Cittadini, the granddaughter of Bepy's business partner, possesses eyes that drive Daniel to distraction. Rome's Jewish community feels as tight-knit and claustrophobic as mid-century New York's: "She's anarchic," says Daniel of his mother, "but, like all people who enjoy appearing disillusioned, deep inside hasn't given up the dream of happiness and pleasure: she has only buried it socially." This is a very bitter, very funny book. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In this new work by Italian author Piperno, Daniel Sonnino, a 33 year old from a wealthy Jewish family in Rome, ruefully looks back on his youth in the 1980s. Daniel recalls his extravagant grandfather Bepy, whose life in post-Holocaust Italy embodied the adage that living well is the best revenge-at least until the family fortune takes a nosedive. The rest of the novel centers on Daniel's unrequited infatuation with Gaia, the beautiful blond granddaughter of Bepy's former partner. Jews, no matter how wealthy, remain outsiders to the Roman upper classes, and Daniel dramatically refers to himself as the second Jew crucified by a Roman oligarchy. Though the novel is rich in detail, one might wish that reading about the revels of wealthy Romans were more fun. Daniel's obsessive dwelling on the embarrassments of his youth grows somewhat tiresome after 300 pages. Though this title was a prize-winning best seller in Italy, it seems unlikely that it will be that popular in America and so might be best for academic and larger public libraries.
—Leslie Patterson

Kirkus Reviews
A prize-winning, controversy-stirring novel in the author's native Italy, this debut won't likely have a similar impact Stateside. Piperno's novel depends almost entirely on the voice of its first-person narrator, 33-year-old Daniel Sonnino. And though Sonnino says that he's a fledgling novelist (as well as the author of the scholarly All the Anti-Semitic Jews: From Otto Weininger to Philip Roth, something of a scandal in academic circles), his narration lacks the most rudimentary elements of most fiction: plot momentum, character development, introspection, a compelling voice. Instead, this extended monologue proceeds in fits and starts, digressions and disjunctions, that keep circling toward the romantic triangle that gives the last quarter of the novel its focus. Up till then, Daniel is primarily a bystander, and not a terribly observant one, as he details his family's descent from riches to socially marginal, and his own identity crises as the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. Plainly, themes of ethnicity aren't all that Piperno has transplanted from Philip Roth, for Sonnino is both a fetishist and a compulsive masturbator, as well as a participant or bystander in plenty of other bodily perversions and embarrassments (flatulence and worse). And references to Roth are but a small part of the novel's literary name-dropping, as the text makes mention of Tolstoy, Hemingway, Twain, Austen, Fitzgerald (or at least Gatsby), both Arthur and Henry Miller, David Leavitt and Bret Easton Ellis. Either Sonnino is more of a literary construct than a cohesive, convincing character, or Piperno is showing off his library. (Or both.) In addition to the tension between Catholic and Jew, thenovel encompasses the cultural differences of Italy, Israel and America. Ultimately, it challenges the reader to weave together the various strands to discover how the different fates of two grandfathers, partners and then rivals, leave legacies that lead to the unrequited love that humiliates the narrator. Plenty of coming-of-age novels are more cohesive and coherent than this.

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.95(d)

Meet the Author

Alessandro Piperno was born in Rome in 1972. He is a professor of French literature at Rome's Tor Vergata University. In 2000, he published his non-fiction book, Proust Anti-Jew, dividing his readers into staunch supporters and fierce detractors. His debut novel, The Worst Intentions, was an instant bestseller and won the Campiello Prize for first novels.

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