Over July, and perhaps August, of 2020 we’re reading Alessandro Manzoni’s romantic blockbuster ‘I promessi sposi’. Join us for a chat about the book by scrolling down to the bottom of this page and leaving a comment – comments will be pre-moderated – your email address will not be published or used for any other purpose.
For people who want to read the original, it’s available free online here and here.
And there’s a RAI audio (abridged, presumably) here: http://www.raiplayradio.it/playlist/2017/12/I-promessi-sposi-2d8d9f0f-7e74-4661-83dc-ace81168138f.html
If the original’s beyond your current level in Italian, why not buy our, very short and simplified, ‘easy reader’ ebook. Click here to view it in our online shop. Please download and read/listen to the free sample chapter before you buy the full version – that way you’ll know that ours is a fraction of the length of the original, which is, of course, absolutely deliberate.
Original or ‘easy reader’, the fun of a book club lies in being able to share your progress with other people, rather than reading alone.
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Benvenuti to the north of Italy, somewhere on the shore of Lake Como! It’s the early seventeenth century, the dastardly Spanish are oppressing, but nevertheless we’ve a reason to be cheerful for there’s a wedding to celebrate – Renzo and Lucia are getting hitched tomorrow! I’ll see you at the party, OK?
OK, back to the 21st century for the moment – this book is probably the most famous Italian novel and, given that it’s force-fed to every generation of Italian schoolchildren (including my own kids), it would seem an integral part of Italian culture, so worth getting to know. For readers, it’s also some sort of rite of passage – get through this, and you’ll likely get through anything Italian literature can throw at you.
N.b. This is a long book and I have a couple of heavy weeks coming up. As this will be the last ‘Book Club’ for a while (because we have a free summer series of reading/listening material over the summer months), I’ve decided to set myself an easy pace, so just ten pages a day, rather than the fifty or more I managed with ‘Zeno’. My copy (which was my wife’s when she was at middle school back in 1983 so carries her pencil annotations for the first chapter or two, then nothing…) is in two paperback volumes totalling over 800 pages. So at ten pages a day, I’ll be aiming to finish by mid-September.
This Book Club page will be open for a while then. Use it as a way to make friends with other club members, and of course to discuss the book and your progress with it.
Another n.b. So far I’ve just read the introduction, which begins with a chunk of text that was to me almost entirely illegible! But don’t panic, it’s supposed to be that way. In the next part the author explains something to the effect that he came across an old manuscript which seemed interesting but was written in such a horrible way (the first section being an example) that Manzoni was unsure whether to trashcan the thing. But in the end, because the manuscript told the story of normal people, whose voices are seldom heard in the history books, he changed his mind and had a go at rewriting it, for your reading pleasure.
That’s as far as I got. Chapter 1 awaits. I think of this one as a sort of early nineteenth-century Italian ‘Gone with the Wind’. Perfect beach reading, perhaps, and certainly a change from Zeno and his agonizing…
A presto, allora!
Lynne F says
Ciao Daniel and fellow book clubbers. I must admit I found the introduction a little heavy and I wondered if i could manage another 800 or so pages. However the descriptions of the landscape around Lake Como took me back to my visit there and i was surprised that I remembered some of the words from Il Nome della Rossa so I decided to continue .
I was intrigued by “I BRAVI” such severe penalties for helping them, maybe they are not what their name suggests.
Like you Daniel I will be doing so at a slower pace (phew no competition) as I think this will be a more challenging text than the last two.
Ciao Lynne F,
I think this will be a more challenging text than the last two
I think it’s a question of knowing which bits it’s OK to not fully understand without ‘losing the plot’ as they say, double meaning intended. For me the descriptions of Lake Como were absolutely meaningless, for example, as unlike you, I’ve never been there. I invariably skip descriptions of the scenery, whether it’s the Florida everglades, a Sicilian fishing village, or in this case, someplace more north Italy than it’s good for an honest Bolognese to venture.
With the other books we’ve read together, I’ve found that I speeded up a lot once I got into the story. I bet that’ll be true here, too. You wait and see. I’ll be fine if we’re still slogging away at the beginning of September, but if this was in English (say, Dickens or Hardy) I’d knock it off in much less time. It won’t surprise me if our brains adapt and we start to get through it at a Zeno-like pace, just because we want to see what happens next.
Ciao Daniel ! — While you and others were conscientiously working your way through Zeno, I decided to make a start on ‘I Promessi Sposi’. I have got through a quarter/a third of the book, and what you have said to Lynne is right — once you have got the hang of how Manzoni writes and once you have worked out which bits you can skim read, it is not too difficult to get through, in spite of its length. Like Eco the register changes from chapter to chapter: the narrative bits are straightforward, but there are some bits of historical in-fill and back story which are slightly heavier going (you can normally identify these in advance because on the page they appear as very long paragraphs without dialogue). But most of what I have read so far has been narrative, so it has been possible to get through it at a reasonable pace. It’s also very enjoyable, with constant action, some well-drawn characters and some striking comments from Manzoni himself. If it carries on like this, it should be a very good read indeed !
At the moment, though, while clearly well-written it seems to be largely a historical romance/adventure story, a bit like Walter Scott or some Dickens, e.g. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. So it will be interesting to see if we can work out what make the book so very important in Italian literature.
the narrative bits are straightforward, but there are some bits of historical in-fill and back story which are slightly heavier going (you can normally identify these in advance because on the page they appear as very long paragraphs without dialogue).
The dialogue is much easier, as you say. I find that’s often the case. Descriptions in general can be flowery and long, dialogue has it’s own natural pace (action scenes too!)
largely a historical romance/adventure story, a bit like Walter Scott or some Dickens, e.g. ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. So it will be interesting to see if we can work out what make the book so very important in Italian literature.
The fact that it is ‘Italian’ and about ‘Italians’ even though such a thing did not exist, not at the time of writing, nor several hundred years before when the story was set?
But as propaganda for the nineteeth-century nationalist/reunification movement, it must have been ideal, hence the wide adoption and dissemination.
Italians often say (to each other, if not to outsiders) that the only thing that really unites them is ‘gli azzuri’ (Google it if you don’t know who they are…) Back at Manzoni’s time, and in the decades after, there would have been a real need for narratives and symbols to justify the struggle for a unified state, and (just guessing here) for an eventual republic – government by the people for the people, etc. And A.M. says in his introduction that his story is about just that – people – rather than the more macro content that is typical of historical narratives – kings and queens, etc.
That’s my preliminary take on it, anyway. Justified, I’d say, by the behaviour of the modern Italian education system, which insists on everyone (notionally) studying a set of totems that serve to prop up the national identity, from the Romans through Dante, then Manzoni and crew. Education about history conveniently ‘runs out of time’ before teachers reach fascism, though they usually squeeze in something on partisans, the republic and the constitution, before ‘running out of time’ again and so skipping the less that completely glorious second-half of the twentieth century.
Some would call me a cynic…
Lynne F says
SIMEON thanks for the encouragement. I have managed almost a chapter per day .since Saturday just finished chapter 3 and yes some parts are definitely easier than others. i feel i am getting to know the characters and life in general in The hints of humour are now coming through,, particularly in your comments Daniel. 🙂 You a cynic ???? I think we all become more cynical as we get older. Thanks for the insight into the Italian education system. and yes as you probably would expect I know about ‘gli azzurri’
Siamo in tre, allora? Io, Lynne F. e Simeon?
Lynne F says
Laura says there’s also her and Minou, so five!!
I just googled gli azzurri! Daniel, that was funny what you said about it being the only thing that unites all Italians! I’m assuming you weren’t joking! Lol
I’m starting I promessi today, and I believe Minou said she had already started it, she’s probably just busy with work and hasn’t had time to post yet.
Not joking, no… People in my region fall out over the thickness of their flatbread. Those in the next town are as foreign as they come.
Laura: ricordo quando hai detto che hai avuto difficoltà a leggere e scrivere commenti in italiano — ed adesso, guardati! Ora io sono sfidato dalla tua conoscenza dell’italiano!
You’ve mentioned how your Spanish gets involved with your Italian — I haven’t used French in 40+ years and it’s leaping out daily! Divertimento!
Happy reading, m
So funny that you mention my language confusion! I just had a dream last night that I was in Italy trying to speak Italian, successfully part of the time, and then the rest of the time lapsing into Spanish! Funny that it’s happening to you with French now! It’s probably because French and Spanish (and even Portuguese) are so similar to Italian! With good reason, too, as these areas were so intertwined culturally. I even read in a reference to I promessi that the story is set in a time of Spanish control over certain regions of Italy!
L: a friend of mine was 100% successful when he went all through Italy including Sicily using spanish! so i think you’re ready to go!!!
When i first started learning italian i had a terrible time w/ intrusions of similar sounding french words (e.g., Fr. Qui and Que). I still often have to pause with che vs Fr. que which sound alike. Or besoin vs bisogno…. And for longest time i could not keep purtroppo in mind, but it always came out malheureusement! I look at it as a 2 4 1 deal: learning 2 languages with 1 investment! (I had no idea i remembered so much french!)
E sì, the languages you referred to are all Romance languages with Latin as common ancestor. Plus due to Spanish conquests of Italy, italian language/culture was much influenced by spanish/spain, as far as i understand. On that note i went looking for more info (tho you won’t have to start washing eggs as a result); here’s some hx fr. QUORA. Julio Cesar Pino, Ph.D from University of California, Los Angeles, wrote: “The Spanish language is really Vulgate Latin, spoken . . . in Rome as far back as the days of Cicero and Julius Caesar. . . . Italian is Latin adapted to the numerous regional languages of Italy. . . . As to the influence of Spanish on Italian a Quora friend writes: ‘Spanish influenced certain areas and dialects of Italy during their occupation of Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and Milan before of the 16th century. Still . . . you can hear Spanish language influence in some dialects.’ The head of the Camorra in Naples, for example, is still called El Guapo.” (I think Sp was there later than the 16th C.E. but anyway….). E credo che impareremo sulle rivolte italiane contro lo spagnolo in questo libro! Eccitante!
Good to know that my Spanish will be helpful when I finally get to visit Italy! And grazie mille for the results of the interesting research you did!
Lynne F says
Ciao a tutti! Sì, sono qui, ma sono tornato al lavoro — che intrusione nel mio tempo italiano! Having B.Clubbers’ ongoing comments makes a ginormous contribution to my “staying the course.” With my limited time now, looking forward to checking in here keeps me on track and motivated.
I’m deliriously happy to be reading Promessi. It reminds me of A. Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. And yes, Simeon, Walter Scott too. Books of my youth! Whoopee. And we are guaranteed a happy ending — not insignificant ‘in the time of covid.’ I had started Promessi but felt obliged to finish Zeno; that was a mistake (I remember Daniel’s coaching about ‘enjoying’ vs studying). Daniel, I like your rate of 10 pages/day; I shall aim for that amount at least 4 days/week but never less than five pages/day. If anyone is searching for AUDIO version, Audiolibro has free unabridged version. I’m starting capitolo IV — everyone’s about to scarper.
Lynne F says
Ciao a tutti,
Having just read todays article by Daniel I think i need to adjust my reading targets for “I Promessi Spossi’ .As the chapters looked relatively short I planned a chapter a day, I have now managed 4 chapters in 5 days but it’s more difficult than the last 2 books. As we are all reading at different rates I promise no spoilers just general comments.
Chapter 4 was an interesting diversion from the main story and i feel I know a lot more about Father Cristoforo /Lodovico. I noticed that we are not told where he comes from always da*** . I wonder why, maybe I missed the reason . Any thoughts from anyone.?
Last night I was watching the final episode (series 2) of Elena Ferrante’s “L’Amica Geniale” . I have read the 4 novels in English. Near the end it mentioned Manzoni and ‘I Promessi Sposi” and I thought “I am reading that” a moment of pride!
Ciao Daniel — thanks for your response on why Manzoni seems to matter so much. I take your point about about the notional importance of Unification and the idea of Italian nationalism. We were in Marsala last May, and saw lots of groups of school children in brightly coloured baseball hats being shown where Garibaldi landed in 1860, where he came into the City, where he stayed while he was there and so on. (It would be interesting to know if they are also told about the British involvement without which the landing would not have been possible …) But ‘I Promessi Sposi’ is, from page 1 onwards, very much a novel of the North, with a very specific and quite narrow geography: so would it have the same symbolic resonance in, say, Calabria or Sicily ? Or does this bear out what di Lampedusa seems to be saying in places in ‘The Leopard’ to the effect that Unification was imposed by the North of Italy on the rest ?
does this bear out what di Lampedusa seems to be saying in places in ‘The Leopard’ to the effect that Unification was imposed by the North of Italy on the rest ?
I haven’t read that book but comments to that effect are close to being taboo in Italy, even if objectively true. It’s fine to think it, but saying it is not usually a good idea – there’s a lot of money involved, for example, not to mention the need to maintain the unity of the state.
That said, like many taboos, there’s a certain power to be gained from flirting with them or breaking them outright. Witness the Lega, which now aims for national power so has turned it’s fire on immigrants, but formerly was the ‘we could be doing a lot better without the south’ party.
Patricia A. Lenz says
Ciao, a tutti.
Like Lynne F, I bravi caught my attention in the ER. Then because of their activities “bravi” seemed incongruous.
In the first chapter of the complete I promessi sposi, there is a description I liked. I decided to make an effort to describe how I saw those bad boys in Italian!
Penso che book clubbers si apprezzeranno la colorata descrizione di Manzoni de’ ‘i bravi” e il loro funzionamento nelle prime pagine del capitolo uno . Sembra che siano puzzolenti, sicuramento, e poiché non sono pagati, si sopravvivono facendo cose cattive su comando. E così, secondo me, ci sono un gruppo dei cattivi ragazzi.
chi eseguono gli ordini di un uomo prominente cattivo, Don Rodrigo, e sfruttare dove possono.
Complete stinkers, I think.
I am about to begin Chapter 4 in a version downloaded to Kindle. So far, after the introduction, and the ER, progress! I like the image of “un lungo ciuffo”…is it being advised to be grown for a disguise for Renzo, or does it describe being able to blend in with a certain class of person who wore longish hair?
September, eh? That’s quite a few pages per week!! Onward.
I am looking at an excellent antique map of the area. Place sets the mood for me!
Colleen Gilbert says
I am beginning today! I have always been curious about this story. Ten pages or so a day looks very possible! Thank you for encouraging us, Daniel!
About the ‘bravi’.
I guess I must have skimmed the descriptions that some of you were more interested in, thinking that these characters were peripheral.
And yet, no. They’re here again in Chapter 4, Father Christopher’s back-story. So I should pay more attention, maybe?
But arguably, that confirms my reading strategy (feel free to disagree!). If something is mentioned once, don’t worry too much about it… But when it comes back again? That’s when you know it could be important. And again? Time to pay attention.
Good writers do this, introducing elements while not expecting their readers to understand every nuance, every detail, every fact. But the stuff that matters comes back, until you can’t HELP but notice it.
Bravi = lawlessness. By chapter 4, we’ve got the message, I think.
Lynne F says
Definitely time to pay attention Daniel you might miss something. 🙂 Just finished Chapter 5 and I don’t think Don Rodrigo is quite the character we were first led to believe.
it is clear that chivalry is a very important aspect of life in the mid 1600’s leading to all sorts of trouble.
Towards the end of the chapter, like Fra Cristoforo, I had my own flashback to 1973-5, A-level European Political History in the 1600’s all the kings and battles.
Like the majority of book clubbers I think about 10 pages per day is a good pace ,there is so much more going on as well as the main plot.
Well, my intention was to start the original novel on the 1st, but life got in the way! However I did read the first chapter of the Easy Reader on the 1st, so I’ve made a little progress! Today I start reading the original, trying for about 20 pages a day to catch up! By the way, I’ve read that the statement “Questo matrimonio non si deve fare né domani né mai!“ is a famous quote in Italy. Do you know if anyone has ever stood up to say this during a wedding ceremony in Italy?!! You know, right after the part where the priest asks if there is any objection to the union…
Ho deciso di leggere la versione originale e hai ragione….un dizionario è usato con parsimonia o mai come ‘Google traduttore’. Era solo quando stavo leggendo un libro classico quando ho capito il suo consiglio. Qualche volte dobbiamo scopire queste verità noi stessi.
You could spend your life studying this one book (or any classic), were you to want to ‘understand everything’, right Mark? Somewhere there has to be a line drawn. My personal approach is to save the dictionary for situations in which understanding matters, i.e. contractual disputes, drawing up contracts, and so on. While treating reading novels and the like as a more collaborative process, between author and reader, so focusing on the narrative thread and the general experience of reading the story, rather than worrying about being able to translate (or even understand at all) each unknown term.
Sometimes whole sections pass me by, even though I’m trying. I remember lots of (English language) books like that at university more than thirty years back – I read them, but got nothing from them, even though I ploughed through every line. At other times, though, I can read, engrossed and entertained, for pages or chapters, as if I was reading in English. And the more I read, the more often that happens!
We’re on our sixth novel here at the book club. I read the first five cover-to-cover using the above approach, and must say, I have surprised myself – not only that I would try at all, but that I (more or less) got what the authors were trying to say, and most importantly, that it wasn’t, in the end, something I regretted spending time on. I’m now settling in for the long-haul of ‘I promessi sposi’ no longer thinking of it as ‘work’, which is pleasing.
Anyway, benvenuti! Hope you enjoy the book.
I have exciting news to share! Apparently working through reading La coscienza di Zeno, my Italian has improved dramatically, especially comprehension! Maybe because I inadvertently learned a a lot of verb tenses and new words while reading! Whatever the reason, it feels quite magical! Today for the first time I listened to Easy Italian News (from this past Thursday) WHILE reading through it for the first time! (Usually I would read it through a time or two trying to understand it before listening.) Today I was shocked that my comprehension was so good the first time around!
Sono molto felice! Apparentemente una specie di apprendimento ha accaduto e solidificato nel mio cervello durante il leggere di La coscienza! Grazie infinite, Daniel, per l’aiuto e l’incoraggiamento che tu ci offri nel nostro club della letteratura! Un’altra volta ti dico che questo aiuto è impagabile!
Ora il mio piano per oggi è passare il giorno leggendo I promessi sposi — la dolce far niente!
By the way, my husband loves the series The Sopranos, about the Italian mob in New York and New Jersey. He’s been rewatching the series over the last few weeks, and today one of the characters who has come from Southern Italy to work for Tony Soprano, Fiori, made reference to the feelings those in Southern Italy have for the Northern Italians, stating that the Northerners think the Southerners are a bunch of peasants!
And the southerners think those in the north are stuck up and don’t know how to live well…
I like The Sopranos, too, Laura, tell your husband. And at one point was hoping to rewatch the whole thing, maybe in Swedish or one of the other languages I’d like to practice. But sadly my DVDs only have English… What a shame! TV series, though, are great for language-learning. IF you can get the languages option you need.
Well done with your listening comp. by the way!
Lynne F says
Well done Laura ! That sense of pride when you achieve something. Each time we go to Italy i hope for that feeling! I had not been with my daughter for 2 years and in December we had a short trip to Bologna. On hearing me speak Italian and telling her what others were saying she said ‘ WOW mum not heard you in action with real Italian for some time I am impressed” All the effort has been worth it..
The comments made by you and Daniel about conflicting attitudes between northern and southern Italians made me laugh . it is the same here in England but the feelings are reversed with northerners thinking southerns are stuck up and the peasants live up north. For the record I am a northerner 🙂
Back to the book “I promessi sposi ‘ I feel more relaxed with it now. All the background information is helping me put the characters in a time and place and I feel I am getting to know them better. Reading it is still a challenge but one that is getting easier.
Thanks for the encouragement and support, Lynne! ❤️
I’m starting on Chapter 3 of I promessi now, and it’s so amazing! I’m actually starting to learn some words in Italian just by reading them. I remember when I was 10 or 11 the same thing happened to me in English; I somehow intuited what the big, complicated words meant due to the context. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so lovely to know my brain is still alive and well! And of course we owe a big thanks to Daniel for encouraging us to use our brains for what they were designed for, and not be running to the dictionary constantly!
Thank you, Daniel! 😊
By the way, the character I was talking about on the Sopranos is Furio, not Fiori 💐! Lol
Ciao Daniel, ciao tutti. I am now halfway through, and what I said earlier still stands: apart from a couple of chapters that were slightly heavier going, it has been a reasonably straightforward read. I have been reading about 12 to 15 pages a day. The story line is constantly interesting, which helps greatly. I find also that, although much of the colour comes from the characters and events around them, I am actively interested in the fates of Renzo and Lucia themselves (mostly Renzo so far, though I think the story line is about to switch back to Lucia). They seem to me more human than, say, the rather characterless heroes of the novels by Dickens.
In contrast, I had a busy weekend (and am having an even busier week) so my reading has had to take second place… Haven’t given up yet, though!
I just finished Chapter 2, and it’s nice to know that in the 1600’s corruption was alive and well — very heavy sarcasm intended! Sometimes I tend to think of corruption as a modern day problem, especially when I think of our government in the United States! Lol (Although thank goodness there’s still freedom of speech here, so I shouldn’t be thrown in jail for that statement!) I guess to me, all the corruption that happens nowadays is even more appalling, as we’ve had more time as a species to become enlightened. But even now, the love of money and power seems to corrupt completely, as it did in the time period of I promessi sposi. Purtroppo, il fattore di rischio principale per il nostro mondo è, neanche a dirlo, l’uomo.
Ciao, ciao! So interesting to read all the comments and see everyone’s progress! I am back at work now and it sounds like many of you are too. I miss the hours per day that i could devote to italian(!) and so am doubly grateful to have found this online club. I am at the end of chapter 9. I thought I was far behind everyone so have been using Daniel’s “skim between the dialog bits” strategy. But looking at today’s check-ins I see that — except for Simeon in the far distance — I am not far behind. I’m happy to do less skimming. I appreciate the author’s repetition: it helps me to eventually figure out what he has written. Mi piace molto questo libro. È pieno di dramma, avventura e storia. What’s not to like!
Buona lettura a tutti —
I, however, AM way behind. The Summer Sale broke my reading habit so I’m totally stalled. You kids keep reading – I’ll catch up with you from next week on.
Laura: (Sospiro) it’s enough to make one think evolution stopped when it spit us out.
But here’s an important question which i’ve not been able to solve: how do you get the emojiis into your comments here? (Decided needed to move away from imponderables! Hope it got a laugh, but also I would like to know) – thanx
When I post on our site, I’m using my iPhone, which has emoji options! Hope that helps! 😊
My computer doesn’t, but you can always type the emoji, like this 😉
Lynne F says
Ciao book clubbers, good to see how everybody is progressing At first this was difficult but it is getting easier. I think I could now up the pace but get a little side tracked by all the interesting topics that crop up like ‘i bravi’, the Capuchins, the towns mentioned etc, after my reading time i then check up on these on the internet, so interesting and certainly gives more depth to my reading. Like minou just finished chapter 9. Look forward to reading all your comments they really are encouraging
Patricia Lenz says
Like Lynne and Minou, I have finished chapter 9. Along with Lynne, I like finding information which gives more depth to my reading. For instance, I wanted to know more about the auspicious name, Gertrude, chosen for the child. So: Santa Gertrude, 6 gennaio 1256 – c. 1302) era una suora benedettina tedesca, mistica e teologa. Santa patrona dei gatti, e la sua festa è il 17 marzo. I like to know that along with other information I find online. I think its helpful because it keeps me from simply reading words.
There is an illustration of child Gertrude playing with her dolls….who were all dressed as nuns…in a book, “La storia de I promessi sposi” raccontata da Umberto Eco, illustrated by Marco Lorenzetti. I bought this book at a bookstore in Bologna some years ago. Now, more than when I was an earlier student of Italian, I find Eco’s version really helpful in “fleshing out” the story….of course, that is alongside the ER!
At this point, I promessi sposi is interesting enough to keep me going until September!
Buongiorno a tutti!
Today i read through all the Club notes on I promessi sposi. Daniel, arent’ we doing well? Much less grumbling and the like – thanks to your guidance!
Lynne, I found your July 1 Q about why no place names were specified. I had meant to answer sooner, but lost track of the Q. You probably have the answer by now but in case you missed it, there’s a good explanation in ch. 9, paragraph 2.
Simeon, you’ve brought Lampadusa’s The Leopard into your interesting comments multiple times. Thank you — it’s now on my to-read list.
Patricia — thanx for the mention of U. Eco’s treatment of I promessi sposi. The illustrations sound delightful. Il libro è troppo costoso qui (U.S.). I found some YouTube presentations for further follow up. His treatment of I promessi sposi is part of the ‘save the classics’ series i gather. E Gertrude, Santa Patrona dei gatti! Meraviglioso da sapere.
Ah, bene, è bello chiacchierare con tutti voi. Buona lettura!
Lynne F says
Ciao A tutti, Thank you minou and Patricia for pointing me in the directions you did. I found some of the illustrations you mentioned along with others on the internet. Brilliant!
I have now read chapters 9 and 10. Gertrude’s flashback provides an interesting insight into religion and honour at the time. Although it doesn’t move the story on the it does provide such depth to my reading.
Buongiorno. Sono ancora qui! Penso che tutti sono occupati come me. I’m now relying more on the E.R. and have increased my skimming of the original text. With less time to devote to l’italiano, I’m considering doing online lessons sooner than I had planned….
I’m looking forward to Roman history starting on Monday!
It’s started, Minou!
Now, I really must get back to ‘I promessi sposi’…
Just found this while tidying my notes for this project:
RAI audio (abridged, presumably): http://www.raiplayradio.it/playlist/2017/12/I-promessi-sposi-2d8d9f0f-7e74-4661-83dc-ace81168138f.html
Zsuzsanna Snarey says
Thank you for this link. The reading is beautiful. I love listening to the voice even though I don’t understand every word, but having read the condensed easy reading version I know what it is about.
Lynne F says
Quite heavy going but i have reached the end of Chapter 13. I admit to not knowing every detail, some parts are quite easy and others very difficult. However from today i think my pace will slowdown because I have jus t discovered
This was brilliant Daniel ! I read the transcript while listening to the audio, The links support it well. How am I going to find time to do anything else?
La storia di Roma ,Monday,Wednesday and Friday, Easy Italian News Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. A couple Skype calls with my italian friends and reading ‘I promessi sposi’ .( I do not have the distraction of going to work😀) If my Italian has not moved on by the Autumn it never will.
It’s good to stay busy, Lynne!
“How am I going to find time to do anything else?
La storia di Roma Monday,Wednesday and Friday, Easy Italian News Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.“
I feel your pain, Lynne! La Storia di Roma along with Easy Italian News might definitely slow down my reading of I promessi! By the way, I’m not working either, as my part-time job went away due to Covid. Our club really helps me have some positive activity to focus on!
By the way, you’re already a pro at Italian! ❤️
Colleen Gilbert says
I made it through Capitolo 4. Tonight I will begin Capitolo 5. I am enjoying this very much. I am surprised at how much I understand. I hope I can get through the whole book by September! I also enjoyed the first episode of La Storia di Roma! Grazie! My reading skills are definitely improving-no dictionary!-just enjoying as much of the story as I can.
You’re chasing me (I think I’m on chapter 7), which will motivate me to read more!!
Ciao Daniel, ciao tutti. I’m still plugging away, and have reached chapter 31. In terms of readability, I don’t think I would change my earlier view. There are one or two passages which are heavier going than the rest — the story of Gertrude in chapters 9 and 10, which Lynne F, mentions, is one of them, and I have come across two more heavier/harder chapters along the way. But these can be skimmed if you want. In fact, at the start of one of them, in introducing a New and Important Character, Manzoni himself writes: “chi non si curasse di sentirle, e avesse voglia d’andare avanti nella storia, salti addirittura al capitolo seguente” — it is almost as if, rather spookily, he has been reading the e-mails Daniel has been sending us about how to get through books of this kind ! But generally the text is manageable and even sometimes straightforward And the story-line itself is constantly enjoyable and rewarding; it nevers goes off the boil
Although Manzoni tells us a bit about his historical sources, I would be interested to find out about his literary influences. The story of Gertrude, for example, which as Lynne says is semi-detached from the rest of the novel, reminds me of the ‘story within a story’ which feature in some of the Gothic novels of the period. But there is a lot of psychological insight into the characters which seems to me striking for a novel first published in 1827 …
Well, I’m stalled in the middle of capitolo VII… Life getting in the way again! An outdoor bridal shower for my future daughter-in-law this past weekend (although the wedding has been delayed until August 2021 due to the Covid situation 😢). Then the possibility that a friend from church came down with Covid. She texted last week that she had a fever with chills and vomiting. She went for the Covid test, but because she was already sick, they didn’t give her the test but instead told her to go straight to Emergency Services; however she decided to stay in her apartment alone and weather it out. On Monday we couldn’t get in touch with her until late in the evening, and we were ready to send a deacon over to check on her, but she finally answered the phone. Since then we organized a grocery trip for her, with groceries delivered on the doorstep — no direct contact — and multiple checks by phone each day. I think she’s on the mend because she doesn’t have aches or fever now, just a horrible cough. This pandemic is so stressful. I’ve only been watching church online since mid-March and I hardly go anywhere. I’m just thankful to have this book club, my Italian, and my husband working from home until mid-September to help with my sanity!
I hope all Book Clubbers are well! ❤️
Lynne F says
I have certainly been kept busy this week Daniel with all these wonderful resources. It is worth rising early to read “I Promessi Sposi” Not a good time for Renzo to arrive in MIlan! .
With ‘Easy Italian News’ and La Storia di Roma I decided to finally throw away my “safety net” of first reading while listening . I just listened and surprised my self how much I understood. Then I listened again while reading ,and then a third time.
This book club experience is certainly moving me beyond my comfort zone not only with reading but also with listening and understanding.
I hope everybody else is enjoying this book
ciao a tutti! a quick check-in to say i’m still with y’all. So contento to read comments from everyone. Grazie a tutti.
Lynne F says
I am beginning to realise just how widely read and famous this book is to Italians. Over the weekend It was talked about in an Italian tv drama, Trying to read a random article on the internet it was mentioned and on Sunday while trying to explain (in Italian) to my Italian friend that my son’s wedding had had to be postponed because of Covid restrictions ( you are not alone Laura) he quoted to me from I Promessi Sposi
“QUESTO MATRIMONIO NON S’HA DA FARE .
This morning I read the whole of 16 I couldn’t put the book down. It really is getting easier.
I TOLD YOU! It’s THE novel, a rite of passage.
I started off reading the paperback that my wife had from school, and kept. And that all three of my kids had to read, whether they liked it or not.
I’ll wind up every Italian by saying this, but actually there isn’t that much Italian literature, in terms of classics, I mean. Writers in English and French seem to have been much more productive in the eighteenth, nineteenth and even twentieth centuries.
No criticism is meant by that – it may have simply been a question of economics, the size of the market for publishing/reading, for example, the fact that educated people read other languages, and so on.
But there just aren’t that many classics. So that ones that do exist (we’ve covered many of them) are celebrated whether or not they particularly merit it (the dreadful Pinocchio, for example.) And this is the granddaddy of them all!!
Patricia A. Lenz says
I agree with readers (like Simon) that there are parts that seem to be heavier going, but in general it is readable. I continue to find ways to enhance my mental images….for example, confused by exactly what “Gli alabarderi” were about, I found this image of this painting on Wikipedia: Pallade e il centauro è un dipinto a tempera su tela (207×148 cm) di Sandro Botticelli.
From I promessi sposi: “Gli alabardieri, e alcuni della casa stettero lì rannicchiati ne’ cantucci; altri, uscendo per gli abbaini, andavano su pe’ tetti, come i gatti.”
That’s quite the weapon to be brandished on rooftops!
Also, da Umberto Eco: “Questo Innominato…,ma fate conto che fosse come uno che oggi ‘e legato alla mafia e alla camorra, fa il contrabbando di droga e dirige l’anonima sequestri.” This provided some insight into what those guys were about!
I have reached the halfway point! Some parts are a slog and definitely need a fresh mind to get through, but I may make it by the end of August!
Note on Daniel’s Italian classics observation: It seems to me that the impressive contribution of Italian creatives, particularly at the time of Manzoni, was visual. Renaissance artists are the very definition of classics! In my opinion, visual arts dominated the Italian sensibility for a long time.
And,,,thanks, Daniel, for this wonderful companion piece to all of my Italian studies: https://onlineitalianclub.com/la-storia-di-roma.
You are WAY ahead of me, Pat. How did that happen? You should be proud, and I ashamed…
Don’t worry, Daniel! I’m way behind, too! Apparently I’m not as diligent without a set reading schedule! I haven’t read any more of the story for about a week! Will try to rectify that this weekend! However, I have been enjoying the history of Rome series and Easy Italian News every day!
patricia lenz says
New lockdown; & husband with shoulder replacement surgery=no sailing on Lake Superior this season, and a good gardening! I can think about I promessi as I pull big weeds, harvest garlic, make basil pesto to freeze for…..WINTER! in the northcountry.
Poor husband, but pesto, yum!
Oh, no! A new lockdown? From your comment about Lake Superior I’m assuming you’re somewhere in North America! It seems like the United States, where I am, is just exploding with new cases. The upside of it all is that while I’m home most of the time, I’m making quite a bit of progress in Italian. The downside is that when I open my mouth to speak Spanish, I’m getting SO confused! Spanish listening and reading skills are still intact, though! Lol
Patricia Lenz says
I am in North America, and we are not doing brilliantly in our efforts to survive corona-19. Lockdown is largely voluntary as our normally sparsely populated area has swelled with incoming tourists and summer people. It feels like a good time to read about centuries old understanding/attitudes/denial about pandemic. Our situation, while at a distance from that time, helped me through some of the dense and horrible descriptions of the plague.
Definitely good reading, outside of the slow parts..
L’ho finito. Ho voluto trovare i destini dei personaggi dopo leggendo i primi trecento pagine. Grazie mille per il suo consiglio Daniel.
Lynne F says
Well done Mark. I have just finished Chapter 20.
Daniel, your observations on Italian classics🤣
In agreement with Patricia Italians have certainly topped the classics league with their art contribution.
Like you Patricia the garlic is harvested and braided, the smaller ones frozen into garlic paste. I also have a stock of basil pesto and with a glut of parsley made some parsley pesto too, different but equally delicious.
Patricia Lenz says
Salvation of the “stay-at-homes” in the time of this pandemic is gardening & its yields! So, Lynne, you live in a less “settentrionale” zone; you can do the romantic garlic braid. Me, up north–it’s only stiff neck type; dried, tops cut off…Delicious brain food nevertheless.
Just finished I promessi sposi; now, will go back to glean interesting words, and think about what Umberto Eco thought of the book..
This wasn’t the normal summer read; I really enjoyed what I understood of it!
Ciao Daniel, ciao tutti. Greetings from London, where today we are having our summer (37 degrees). I finished the book earlier this week, with a sense of both achievement and relief. I agree with Mark: the personalities are constantly interesting; even the sposi themselves are much more than cardboard cut out heroes. And I also like the sense of the small person caught up in the sweep of great historical events (like ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Tale of Two Cities’ or even the film ‘Casablanca’ — “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”). This next bit isn’t meant as a spoiler, ore as an incentive: the writing from about chapter 31 onwards is magnificent, with an amazing amount of bearing on what is happening in this crazy world right now ….
Daniel — thank you for the incentive to read this and the other books over this summer. I am certain that without it I would have continued to shy away from both the Eco and the Manzoni. Grazie tanto.
I agree with your comments about Italian classics as far as prose is concerned. There are a lot of good novels, but none of them, other than ‘I promessi sposi’, achieve the status of canonical in terms of e.g. World Great Literature courses (up there with not only English and French classics but also Russian). But it may be a bit different with poetry: in addition to the influence of Dante, the epics of Ariosto and Tasso were critical in shaping Renaissance literature and art.
Patricia Lenz says
Hello, Book Clubbers! Thanks, Daniel. The Book Club idea did keep me moving forward in my reading; we are all in this together! Probably I will go back and re-read sections for the effect of the writing. Definitely, do not understand all of it.
So, Simeon, I particularly like the ‘Casablanca”. reference which is useful in reading ‘I promessi sposi ‘ and looking at our crazy world today….being able to read this together is one of the very fine things made possible by our living in this crazy world.
Having finished the book with the guidance of Easy Readers & Umberto Eco’s raccontata, I am ready to dive back in check the nuances I missed!
Eco asks: “…qual ‘e il sugo di questa storia?”
I hope the mini-club conversation continues….
Lynne F. says
Ho finito and what a sense of achievement!
The plot could so easily have been condensed into a a holiday paperback, but this was so much more. The wonderful descriptions of the landscapes transported me back to Italy. The historic content both political and social aspects of famine, plague religion and honour, together with the separate short stories within the book developed the story so well.
The whole experience of this Book Club has been amazing. I have never been part of a book club, let alone an online one reading Italian books. It has been interesting and encouraging to read the comments of others. My least favourite book was Pinocchio, my favourite well there are two, I Malavoglia and I Promessi Sposi. What about everybody else i would be interested to know your opinions.
To you Daniel a huge THANK YOU for coming up with the idea in the first place and for all your hard work and support. I was keen to give this a try then when i saw the first title I thought ‘This Man is Crazy” when you suggested no dictionaries my thoughts were confirmed😀 Now several months on and this venture has been a huge success Yes I can read Italian books, but more than that my Italian has improved so much, vocabulary increased, understanding of grammar and sentence structure increased, my ability to listen with understanding has improved and recently my Italian friend commented on how my conversation has improved. My confidence is sky high at the moment. So maybe you are not as crazy as i thought!
Over the next few weeks i will continue to read as much Italian as I can , including the holiday novel i purchased from a bookstore in Bologna a couple of years ago but never dared attempt to read.I look forward to us reading together in the Autumn
Brava, Lynne F!!
And by the way, there’s another Lynne F. in the club. She wrote to me saying, “I’m not the famous Lynne F. but…”
So you see, you’re a star, an example to the others.
And shamefully, I have to admit that I am still stalled at p.120 or so, way back when in ‘I promessi sposi’ terms. It’s the ‘end of lockdown’ effect, I think. Plus I’m TRYING to read in Spanish and French each day, which means making choices.
I too thought Pinocchio was a disappointment, and I also liked I Malavoglia, though I hadn’t expected to. But my absolute favourite was ‘La coscienza di Zeno’, I couldn’t say why. Perhaps because his struggles were so human.
Frankly, I’d never have thought of reading Italian literature (I’m a ‘culture denier’) if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to recoup the money I’d spent for the easy readers, but hey… actually it was a really worthwhile experience. I’m glad you felt the same way.
Lynne F says
Hi Daniel , wow fame at last. My husband is a bit concerned he reckons one Lynne F is enough for the world to cope with.😀Hello to the other Lynne F. I hope you find time Daniel to finish the book. I also hope that this book club does continue The group of regulars may be all at different levels but I think we all agree we are all getting something out of it.
I’m at the beginning of Chapter 8! Apparently I do better with a set reading schedule where I feel I need to keep up with everyone else! Because we had so much time with this one, I didn’t read for a day, and then another day, and then another… I do plan to finish I promessi at some point, maybe just not by the beginning of September!
I, too, hope we will continue the Book Club in the fall!
Congratulations, Lynne F!!!
I’m still on Chapter 8! I have plans to finish at some point! Apparently I do better with set reading schedules! It makes me feel I need to keep up with everyone!
To quote you…
“To you Daniel a huge THANK YOU for coming up with the idea in the first place and for all your hard work and support. I was keen to give this a try then when i saw the first title I thought ‘This Man is Crazy” when you suggested no dictionaries my thoughts were confirmed😀 Now several months on and this venture has been a huge success.”
I feel exactly the same! I basically started out knowing nothing in Italian and I’m very pleased with my progress, which I feel is due to my participation in our Book Club and utilizing Daniel’s seemingly radical, but very effective, advice!
As for my favorites, I enjoyed them all! I especially loved Il nome della rossa! That was the first story I ever read in Italian, and it had such a great plot! I love mysteries! I only read the Easy Reader for this one, but it was so well written that it felt like reading a real novel!
Pinocchio the original was so different from the movie that I was caught up in it, eager to find out how it ended.
Uno was a very difficult read in the original, like reading an existentialist text, but this one kept me flipping the pages because I was so eager to find out what crazy thing the main character would do next!
I Malavoglia was difficult for me due to dialect issues, but I really enjoyed the Easy Reader. It was a good, though very sad, story.
My other favorite was La coscienza di Zeno. I can’t really explain it, but I got so caught up in the lives of all the characters.
So, once again… Congratulations on your phenomenal progress!
We must be twins, Laura, as I too liked Zeno best, and also got stuck with ‘I promessi sposi’ ages ago (and have been too busy or distracted to start again with it.) The end-of-lockdown effect, I tell myself, charitably.
Also I’m busy working on my French right now. And actually working, of course.
Lynne F says
Hi Laura, thanks for the congratulations.. Many years ago at high school i was told by my language teacher I had no aptitude for languages, I believed him and gave up there and then. Many years later with the motivation of wanting to learn Italian for my reasons not to pass an exam here I am reading Italian literature, ( and a lot more besides ) chatting weekly to Italians who share a desire to learn a language and have become my friends , and I can communicate when i go to Italy. I wont say study but i “do something in Italian everyday reading, listening, speaking and yes sometimes some grammar. I make mistakes, plenty of them. but try to learn from them. So WELL DONE to you, keep going. It is good to try to establish the habit of doing a little everyday but if life gets in the way don’t beat yourself up,just get back to it when you can . Good luck and let me know what you think about i Promessi Sposi when you finish.
Patricia Barber says
How do I access Gutenberg Project books from this site? I downloaded Pinocchio and have never been able to get back into the site. Grazie
The link to the free .pdfs for the entire text of I promessi sposi on THIS page work just fine.
However, it does appear that the Project Gutenberg is being blocked for users in Italy, which is dumb and scary. There’s an article about it here: https://thesubmarine.it/2020/05/25/procura-roma-bloccato-accesso-project-gutenberg/
Nevertheless, it’s almost always possible to obtain out of copyright texts just by Googling “title + .pdf”.