In 1897 the Victorian novelist George Gissing undertook a brief but eventful journey in southern Italy. His itinerary took him from Naples to Reggio di Calabria, via Paola, Cosenza, Crotone and Squillace, through the area once known as Magna Graecia. Meditating on the vestiges of Greco-Roman civilization, Gissing visited tombs and temples, museums and cathedrals, in search of the imprint of antiquity and "that old world which was the imaginative delight of my boyhood." The result was By the Ionian Sea, first published in 1901. Gissing's journey by boat, train, and carriage revealed not just the ruined glories of a classical past, but also the hardships of life in turn-of-the-century rural Italy. Meeting poverty-stricken peasants and corrupt local officials, he endured discomfort, danger and illness in a remote and little visited corner of Europe. Yet throughout he appreciated the warmth and generosity shown to him by local people, curious about this solitary stranger with a seemingly tragic background. By turns lyrical and melancholic, Gissing's masterpiece of travel writing alternates between light and dark, life and death, Paganism and Christianity. Looking at Italy in both its classical and contemporary dimensions, By the Ionian Sea celebrates Calabria's rich cultural past and beautiful landscapes while providing a candid account of hardship and poverty in southern Italy. More than a century after its first publication, this is the first critical edition of the book in English.
|Publisher:||Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group|
|Series:||Century Travellers Ser.|
About the Author
George Robert Gissing (1857 - 1903) was an English novelist who published twenty-three novels between 1880 and 1903. From his early naturalistic works, he developed into one of the most accomplished realists of the late-Victorian era.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.