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He feels urges without a need to define them, and he is capable of a fairly accurate description of sexual acts without ever having experienced them. The book opens with Ernesto being awkwardly seduced at work by a man ten years older than him. Ernesto next visits a prostitute, and despite finding her old age and the hair above her upper lip off-putting, he nevertheless has no mechanical issues. The old woman tells him to come back, that she might not even charge him, his being so delightful.

Next, Ernesto gets himself fired by writing a nasty letter to his boss, full of indefensible invective. His mother is grief-stricken at his action and runs to the boss who has already had second thoughts and agrees to take Ernesto back, his being so useful in addition to being so charming.

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It is there that Ernesto sees the boy just a year younger than himself who is to Ernesto as lovely as Ernesto is to everyone else. It is perhaps love at first sight. For here, Umberto Saba stopped writing what we are assured was a semi-autobiographical tale. Jan Morris made me do it. See, I read her Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere earlier this year, and how she wrote about this Adriatic city, once Austro-Hungarian but now Italian and maybe leaning with one wind to Slovenian and on another wind to Croatian.

Complicated, Jan Morris wrote, smiling, like herself. And so too, perhaps, Ernesto. This is a Triestine author and a Triestine setting. It is not a matter of a peculiar accent. It is not jargon or street slang. This work is abbreviated and short and took a lot of explaining both before and afterward.

Ernesto is only a piece of something larger, a giant mosaic perhaps; something self-assured, or maybe not. View all 3 comments. NYRB describes this as a "classic of gay literature," just now available translated into English.

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It is said to be possibly autobiographical, but readers coming to it expecting a simple narrative will be surprised. The author never finished the book. The translator includes helpful information at the beginning and end of the content to help situate the reader - there is even one letter from the author inserted at a point in the writing where he couldn't decide which direction to go or if he even NYRB describes this as a "classic of gay literature," just now available translated into English.

The translator includes helpful information at the beginning and end of the content to help situate the reader - there is even one letter from the author inserted at a point in the writing where he couldn't decide which direction to go or if he even wanted this published. If you go into it expecting the fourth wall to be transparent, it will be a better experience. I would call this a non-essential read, personally.

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Thanks to the publisher who provided a review copy through Edelweiss. I skipped the intro so knew absolutely nothing going in. I loved the writing! Someone the narrator is telling us the long ago story of a boy Ernesto and "the man". There are a lot of parentheses, multiple per page ;- After awhile I looked forward to the next comment that was in parentheses.

It is very conversational and almost comforting to read, if that makes any sense okay, I could be the only one with this reaction, but that's how it felt. There is some graphic sexual description, in case you like to know these things before you read. After I finished the novel I loved reading the introduction to find out more about the very troubled author and the supplemental history at the end. It's a gem of a book. Thanks Ryan! Nov 22, Herschel Stratego rated it it was amazing.

Very well written and translated from the Italian. It is full of chapter to chapter quantum parallels! Si ha la netta impressione che Saba vagheggi una Trieste ormai scomparsa all'epoca in cui scrisse - ormai vecchio - il romanzo, la Trieste austroungarica dove italiani, slavi e austriaci convivevano in un melting pot contraddittorio ma fecondo. Quando ha conosciuto, smette con la stessa leggerezza con cui aveva cominciato. Un unico appunto allo stile di Saba: l'eccessivo uso di parentesi esplicative, a volte superflue e che spezzano un ritmo narrativo che altrimenti fluisce leggero come la corsa di Ernesto verso la vita.


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While not quite the 'classic of gay literature' the publisher would lead you to believe, this short, quick autobiographical book is nevertheless an interesting view of adolescent sexuality at the turn of the 19th Century. Although the author abandoned plans for a lengthier work, it doesn't really matter that it is 'unfinished', as it DOES more or less come to a satisfying conclusion. The translation reads a bit stilted at times, but a note from the translator indicates that no 3. The translation reads a bit stilted at times, but a note from the translator indicates that no one can really reproduce in English the Triestino dialect in which much of the book is written.

A beautiful but unfinished novel. Extreme pain at the thought of what "might have been" had Saba been able to finish. That said, what is here is gorgeous enough. The translation is near flawless, resulting in a captivating and charming--and quintessentially Italian--coming of age tale.

Strongly recommend. Valutazione: 3. Capirete quindi che sono rimasta sorpresa nel sapere che, tra le altre cose, ha scritto anche questa storia, tra il racconto di formazione e quello erotico. Sono propensa a pensare che, se fosse continuato, avremmo visto un Ernesto imbruttito, geloso, probabilmente una versione peggiorativa del suo primo amante.

Jan 01, Carlos rated it it was ok Shelves: lgbt-sexuality , fiction.

However, this removed the reason for which I had decided to read, as an example of an early gay novel. The only thing that I would say in defense of the author is that he did not see the novel to the end, as he thought the subject matter made it unpublishable, but I would fault those who made the decision to publish it as an independent book. I would have suggested publishing it in a collection of unfinished manuscripts that while serving the need of the avid Umberto Saba fan who could see the promise it may have held, it would have also indicated to casual readers that it may not be worth.

This is a curious little book. First of all, Saba never finished it and it was unpublished in his lifetime. Secondly, NYRB is billing it as a "classic of gay literature" but I'm not convinced it deserves that title.

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Although Ernesto engages in homosexual acts, he doesn't seem to self-identify as gay, and the queer content is merely a short-lived subplot. Perhaps that would have changed if Saba had a chance to complete the novel, since there are some hints of homoeroticism in the friendship he st This is a curious little book.

Perhaps that would have changed if Saba had a chance to complete the novel, since there are some hints of homoeroticism in the friendship he strikes up with a younger boy later near the end of the narrative. However, Saba is gifted at characterization and Ernesto emerges as a three-dimensional, sympathetic and occasionally infuriating character. Grande, grande scrittura, grande viaggio nell'animo umano e negli sterminati campi della giovinezza.

E peccato anche per tutto quel dialetto. Like many other great Renaissance and late Renaissance mercantile cities, Venice was inhabited by a number of different groups. The permission for the establishment of a church according to their ethnic and religious tradition was finally accorded and inaugurated in with the approbation of the Holy See, even though in Rome this wide presence of members of the Greek Orthodox church was perceived as a threat. Like many European cities, Venice is able to recount a special story with regards to its Jewry.

The establishment of the ghetto was the outcome of two cultural traits of Christian society. Scholars acknowledge that a compulsory area allotted to the Jews followed the structure and development of the city where foreigners from various provenances, largely specialized in their functions and religiously or ethnically homogenous, as stated above, were gathered in separate quarters or islands.

The establishment of the ghetto was, therefore, the coherent and logical outcome of the city planning process. In contrast to Protestants and Muslims, Jews were allowed a public space for their religious service, as we shall see below.


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As Protestant reform spread across Europe, gaining states and cities in its path, Catholic policy against the Jews was to be reformulated. The Protestant threat was not only spreading throughout many Italian states, but it contributed to the drastic change to the urban religious landscape around Europe, either radically transforming the social and institutional fabric of a city or dividing it into a religious battlefield. Catholic politics directed at the Iberian new Christians and Jews was for the most part controversial and ambivalent.

When the privileges granted to the Iberian Jews began to be withdrawn in other Italian cities, Venice decided to welcome them and issued a few charters which granted a number of privileges. The ghetto had expanded and its social and cultural structure had metamorphosed into a microcosm of different Jewish sub-cultures. The older layer comprised of Ashkenazi Jews and the Italian descendents specialized in money lending and small enterprises; a second layer was composed of Levantine Jews who had been subjects of the Turkish empire and had converted to Judaism in the Muslim land; and ultimately a layer of a more recent migrated population originating from Spain and Portugal, from northern Europe and other Italian states which negotiated a charter at the end of sixteenth century, and were legally recognized as Ponentini Jews.

Venice — like Amsterdam — had many benefits to offer to Jews. Besides the traditional occupations, there were opportunities for business and trade, the chance to attend one of the few universities open to Jews in the nearby city of Padua and partake of the thriving printing enterprise which made the city unique. The cultural creativity of Venice during the first half of the seventeenth-century reverberated through the walls of the ghetto, inhabited by a multitude of different personalities and crossed by a number of different activities.

It is precisely at the intersection between the city and the ghetto that two of the most important books on Judaism were created, written and published. Leon Modena has been deemed one of the most controversial, misunderstood yet significant, rabbis of the early seventeenth century. His extensive works covered all possible literary genres and answered the multifarious needs of a religious community. Although some scholars have pointed out his marginality, he played a pivotal role not only in Venice, but also for the Jewish community of Amsterdam.

Simone Luzzatto his younger fellow and colleague, was a renowned scientist whose works were highly praised amongst scholars of the time. His fame relied on his oral teachings, if we believe what Isaac Cantarini reported in one of the letters he sent to the Christian hebraist C. Leone Modena and Simone Luzzatto both contributed to a new concept of the collective identity of Jews and their role within Christian society during times of religious strife and fragmentation.

In attendance were the brother of the king of France, who was accompanied by some French noblemen and by five of the most important Christian preachers who gave sermons that Pentecost. God put such learned words into my mouth that all were pleased, including many other Christians who were present. A few years later, his sermons would be also attended by Henri Duc de Rohan, an eminent Huguenot refugee who was spending his exile in Venice as a commander in chief for the Venetian Army.

Christian princes and nobility enjoyed attending the sermons in the synagogues of Western Europe. A short time later however, in a different yet closely related setting, the Prince of Orange, Frederick Henri, and the Queen of England, Henrietta Maria, visited the marvelous Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam, where Manasseh ben Israel gave a moving sermon especially for the occasion.

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Visiting the Venetian ghetto, in the early seventeenth-century, was a cultural experience many travellers could not miss. Starting from the end of sixteenth century, Christian travellers and scholars would seek Jewish ritual in every city they visited. The most famous depiction is provided in the beautiful travelogue by Michel de Montaigne who, contrary to many others, was not pleased with his Venetian stay.

The most quoted account with regards to the Venetian Jewish ghetto was penned by Thomas Coryat, an English Protestant traveller who published a book in devoted to his European tour. Moreover, during his stay in Venice in the spring of , Coryat described in detail the people who were attending the English embassy. Hieronimo, and but a little from it.

Certainly he hath greatly graced and honoured his country by that most honourable port that he hath maintayned in this noble City, by his generose carriage and most elegant and gracious behaviour amongst the greatest Senators and Clarissimoes, which like the true adamant, had that attractive vertue to winne him their love and grace in the highest measure.

And the rather I am induced to make mention of him, because I received many great favours at his hands in Venice, for the which I must confesse I am most deservedly ingaged unto him in all due observance and obsequious respects while I live. Also those rare vertues of the minde wherewith God hath abundantly inriched him, his singular learning and exquisite knowledge in the Greeke and Latin, and the famousest languages of Christendome, which are excellently beautified with a plausible volubility of speech, have purchased him the inward friendship of all the Christian Ambassadors resident in the City; and finally his zealous conversation, which is the principall thing of all piety, and integrity of life, and his true worship of God in the middest of Popery, superstition, and idolatry for he hath service and sermons in his house after the Protestant manner, which I thinke was never before permitted in Venice, that solid Divine and worthy Schollar Mr.

William Bedel being his Preacher at the time of my being in Venice will be very forcible motives I doubt not to winne many soules to Jesus Christ, and to draw divers of the famous Papists of the City to the true reformed religion, and profession of the Gospell. The information provided in this abstract is rich in detail: above all, it stresses how, even in Venice, the embassy pertaining to a Protestant country was topographically situated near to the ghetto. Second, it clearly states that Protestant worship, which was not allowed in Venice as in many Catholic cities, was performed in private usually in the house of the ambassador, Henry Wotton, whose erudition in ancient languages was highly praised by Coryat.

In Bedell wrote to an English correspondent, stating that Jewish sermons were much more refined and theologically more sound than those found in Catholic preaching. He later recalled, with great nostalgia, his time in Venice, where he had had the most interesting theological discussions with Jews from the ghetto. For example, the scholarly friendship with Andreas Colvius, a Dutch protestant who resided in Venice from to together with the Dutch ambassador, Johan Berck, whose works appear to have been influenced by Sarpi.

Modena was very proud of his Christian friends and acquaintances. His recurrent remarks about his intellectual ties with Christian scholars are reiterated topics within his own private writings. Moreover, during the course of his life he devoted some of his time to teaching Hebrew, the Bible, Rabbinics and Kabbalah to the Christians, and his fame increased over the years. There is, though, an ironic flavor to the story. The book Modena devoted to Jewish rituals and ceremonies stands unequivocally at the centre of his learned encounter.

It was composed under Protestant influences and meant for a Protestant readership. Nevertheless, it was published in Paris in sponsored by the Catholic Orientalist Jacques Gaffarel Gaffarel, who wrote a quite critical premise to the book, and who had met Modena during his travels to Italy while seeking oriental manuscripts on behalf of Cardinal Richielieu. Giacomo Gaffarel, a certain book to read.

I had written it more than twenty years earlier at the request of an English nobleman, who intended to give it to the king of England. In it I relate all the laws, doctrines and customs of the Jews at the present time in their dispersion. I agreed, but did not think of editing out the things that the Inquisition in Italy might find unacceptable in a printed book. Two years later, after I had given up hope that the Frenchman might print it, on the second day of Passover April 10, , someone brought me a letter from him, in which he told me that he had printed the book in Paris.

He did not divulge to whom he had made the dedication or whether he had changed anything in the book, or the like. My heart immediately began pounding, and I went to look at a copy of it that I still had from the time I had written it. I saw four or five things of importance of which it is forbidden to speak, much less to write and needless to say to print, against the will of the Inquisition. Heartbroken, I shouted and tore at my beard until I almost lost my breath.

If it can be said that Modena was accurate, Gaffarel met him approximately around , therefore the first written account of the book must have been written as early as Christian Kabbalists conceived the Jewish esoteric lore as an ancient religious source helping them shed light on Christian dogmas and beliefs. Christian Kabbalists strove to incorporate some of the teachings of the Kabbalah into the body of certain Christian doctrines.

These were inspired by a utopian vision, which proved ultimately to be an elaborate concept of universal Christianity while, eventually, upholding the conversion of Jews. Gaffarel belonged to this assorted group of utopian Catholics who aimed, amongst other things, to find a viable solution to the religious divide in Europe. The Venetian ghetto was an ideal place for cultural exchange. A practical Kabbalah, based on a vast production, circulation and consumption of pamphlets on magic, amulets and horoscopes met the curiosity and need of both Christian and Jewish societies.

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