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When the Night: A Novel

When the Night: A Novel

by Cristina Comencini
When the Night: A Novel

When the Night: A Novel

by Cristina Comencini


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Manfred, a surly mountaineer recently abandoned by his wife, rents the upstairs apartment in his home in the Dolomites to Marina, a woman from the city, and her difficult young son. Deeply suspicious by nature, especially of women, Manfred spies obsessively on Marina, in whose shortcomings as a mother he finds resonances of his own mother’s desertion of him in childhood. When Marina’s frustration over her son’s refusal to eat or sleep leads her to harm the child, Manfred steps in, and the silent power struggle between them escalates. Yet Manfred’s attraction to Marina is as powerful as his distrust. In this alternately shocking and moving novel, Cristina Comencini has created a complex, psychologically profound portrait of two damaged, vulnerable people and the painful bond that develops between them as they are drawn into each other’s worlds.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590515112
Publisher: Other Press, LLC
Publication date: 04/24/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Cristina Comencini is an Italian novelist, screenwriter, and director. Her 2005 film, based on her novel La bestia nel cuore, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She is currently finishing her film adaptation of When the Night.
Marina Harss studied comparative literature and translation at Harvard and New York University. Her translations include Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Stories from the City of God (Other Press), as well as Conjugal Love and Two Friends, both by Alberto Moravia. Her translations have appeared in The Latin American Review, Bomb, and Brooklyn Rail.

Read an Excerpt

It’s been raining for the past two days. Each morning we go out for a walk, and then turn around and come back inside. The baby has a cold; his nose is stuffy and he can’t breathe. The pharmacist gave me some homeopathic drops. They’re useless. Back in the city, I usually give him antihistamines at night, even though the pediatrician says I shouldn’t.
   “The only physiological solution is to give him an extra pillow so he can breathe more easily.”
     An extra pillow? He wouldn’t sleep at all. These silly mountain folk won’t sell me antihistamines without a prescription. We haven’t slept in two nights. Every time I sit down, I begin to drift off. I have to be careful. He’s attracted to light sockets; he likes to climb up on the wood chest; he pulls down vases, plates, anything and everything. Toys don’t interest him.
   “Mamma, go away!”
   That’s what he says to me. He’s determined to do as he pleases. I’m on my third coffee. I have to stay awake ’til eight, and it’s only five. The rain is steady, and there’s no one outside. It’s Sunday, and the shops are closed. Nothing to do until evening, not even a bath, because of his cold. Plus the house isn’t heated. He’s always so happy in the bath, and I can relax.
   “We’ll go swimming when we go to the beach. You’ll love it! I’ll buy you an inflatable raft and we’ll row around with Daddy.” When I say the word “Daddy” he stops and stares. He misses Mario. When Mario calls, he listens and then turns away. He hands me the phone. He doesn’t want to talk.
   I talk to him while he plays in the water, not just to calm him down but because I think he’s old enough now, he can understand what I’m saying.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Cristina Comencini recounts the shocks to the heart, the pain, and the unhappiness of lives wounded by destiny.” —La Stampa
“Comencini has constructed a novel that is as hard as the mountains in which it is set and as implacable as a true love story should be.” —Elle (France)
“Comencini writes the story of generations in an Italy in flux, of family relations, of solitude and love.” —La Reppublica

"Comencini is adept at creating an extraordinary portrait of psychologically scarred characters.” –Kirkus

“Comencini’s writing is as clean, spare, and intimidating as the novel’s alpine setting. Her terse conversations and taciturn characters reveal weakness and desperation while trying to show strength and independence. Their hearts are closed, because they never found the right person who could open them. Until they meet each other.” –The Coffin Factory

"Comencini knows how to tell a gripping story, slowly churning the primary tension with measured restraint...When the Night is an engaging read, best for those looking for something with the hint of a psychological thriller or, perhaps, seeking to imagine the crisp air of Italy’s Dolomites." –World Literature Today

When the Night is a deep psychological tale that looks into the souls of two mentally wounded warriors who fear relationships because they have failed at them.” –The Midwest Book Review

“In spare, exact prose Cristina Comencini lets this story unfold against an Alpine setting that is so vivid it, too, becomes a character in this strangely compelling novel. The attraction between these two people…begins to have an edge as sharp as the winter, Alpine air, and their mental observations about each other glitter with as many facets as the Alpine ice.” –Arts Fuse

“Comencini deftly handles rapid shifts in point of view that illuminate the misunderstandings, missed opportunities and unspoken desires that dog these two lonely souls. When the Night is a haunting portrait of wives, husbands, mothers — and the lingering effects even small decisions and actions can have throughout a life.” –Tulsa Book Review

"Comencini builds the tension between Manfred and Marina with a master’s precision: the yearning, the terror, the desperation, and the unbridled passion of two lonely, disparate souls. The meeting, finally, of these improbable lovers is so torturous, so exquisitely painful, that like the lovers, the reader has cast aside all pretensions of restraint. This is a blinding, brilliant exercise in the absurd perfection and healing power of human relationships." -Curled Up with a Good Book

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