In the second half of June 2020 we’re reading we’re reading Italo Svevo’s ‘La coscienza di Zeno’. Share your progress / Join the discussion by scrolling down to the bottom of this page and leaving a comment on this page – comments will be pre-moderated – your email address will not be published or used for any other purpose.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.
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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Here we are again, Book-Clubbers! Another Monday morning, another new classic of Italian literature!
And this one is longer… I just finished ‘I Malavolgia’ in time, yesterday evening, so haven’t yet made a start, as I know some of you already have.
Conclusion? I’m going to have to up the pace if I want to get through Zeno’s life in just two weeks (before the publication of our final ‘literature’ easy reader ‘I promessi sposi’ at the end of the month).
For me, the key to getting through this type of reading (different from what I usually read, long, difficult in places) is to make it a habit and so do some every day, no excuses allowed. Mostly I’d been successful at doing this, but I missed an entire weekend with ‘I Malavoglia’, which set me back more than fifty pages.
OK, so a good resolution: today I’ll make a start, then keep at it each day until a sense of progress and familiarity with the writer’s style and content have helped build enough momentum to ensure I get the story done by the end of the month.
Of course, you guys, if you opt to read the original (rather than our much, much shorter ‘easy reader’ version), should take as much time as you wish. Go at your own pace.
As ever, I advise against the use of dictionaries, which slows you down and makes the whole task seem impossible. Guessing is much more efficient, in terms of time and effort, and doesn’t distract from the main goal: keep on turning the pages!
Buona lettura, allora!
Lynne F says
Ciao a tutti. Made a start this morning.. So far so good!. and not so many characters this time. So different from the Sicilian fishing village. Poor Zeno, such good intentions to quit smoking .Without giving too much away i found the room with a wall full of dates amusing. He obviously lacks will power.
Yes, me too, Lynne. And I got through the smoking chapter, which didn’t grab me that much, and on to the relationship with his dad, which is surprisingly good. I managed my target number of pages, which was pleasing (though I didn’t get much else done today, and nodded off at times…)
Apparently nicotine can be very addictive for some, from what I’ve heard. I smoked a bit in my college days, but never became addicted and eventually stopped. But for some it can be quite an uphill battle! I love the part when Zeno gets sick and his doctor tells him no more cigarettes, so he is trying to stop, but his father keeps showing up with a cigar in his mouth to offer moral support! I’m reading the original, too, and I had a funny moment when I read this:
“Quando il dottore mi lasciò, mio padre con tanto di sigaro in bocca, restò ancora per qualche tempo a farmi compagnia.“ For a moment I pictured Zeno’s father with a mouthful of cigars, then I noticed the “o” on the end of sigaro and realized that wording referred to only one cigar! Lol
catherine denton-clark says
As requested, a Ciao from me “ to boost your moral ‘ and to let you know that there is indeed a silent majority reading your welcomed letters!
I do not have this book (I might try to find the long version…. even though I have yet to start my most recent purchase of Anselmo! ). Thank you for being there!
Thanks for joining us, and for the feedback.
Let us know what you think of Anselmo when you’re done with it. I liked it, but there have been very few reviews.
Sorry I think I’ve missed something. What is Anselmo?
Who is Anselmo, would be more accurate, Steph. He’s our medieval detective! The first volume is the trilogy is here:
Julia B says
I just thought I would drop by and say ciao – just received Daniel’s onlineitalianclub email where he was encouraging us to engage. Well I’m not at the B1 level yet, only just purchased Pinocchio with a view to embarking on my Italian literature reading journey.
I must say you two (Lynne F & Daniel) haven’t put up a tempting review as yet of this one. Although I do like the sound of being in a Sicilian fishing village right now whiling away a few hours. Not so sure about the smoking. Enjoy the book, I’ll get there eventually, back to the little wooden boy for now.
No, this one is quite fun, and easier than I Malavoglia, though I enjoyed that one as I am enjoying this one. ‘Uno, nessuno e centomila’ was a gloomfest, though. Albeit thought-provoking. Pinocchio I liked least of all actually, though our easy reader version got good reviews. At least it was short!
Lynne F says
Ciao Daniel and anybody else out there ,
At first I found the style of this book difficult probably because so different from I Malavoglia but having read 2 chapters I feel more at ease now.
Zeno certainly had a difficult relationship with his dad who seemed very disappointed and frustrated with Zeno. The next chapter about his marriage should be revealing judging by the length.of it.
It is interesting that the autobiography is written in topics, and not in chronological order.
I thought the chapter about his father was quite positive, Lynne. While he claims to have been a terrible son, to me it seemed just a lot of talk (as he later describes his general approach to interacting with people, in the marriage chapter…) The grief and regret, on both sides, seemed rather normal.
You’re right about the fact that it’s in topics, sort of analysis-style free association, but as I progress through the book it’s more apparent that there is a strong narrative thread, so really, it is quite chronological, we’re following Zeno as he grows up, basically.
The one thing that strikes me as very similar to ‘Uno, nessuno e centomila’ is the first person point of view, the constant self-talk commentary on evolving events. We’re intimate with Zeno, as we were with Moscarda, but were not with any of the characters in ‘I Malavoglia’. I wonder what would have happened if the three authors had swapped novels half-way through??
David Chadwick says
At the 4th attempt I have managed to buy La Coscienza di Zeno. It was either me or PayPal playing up. Thanks to everyone for the supply of books and readers. Glad to see you are all keeping well..
Lynne F says
Daniel normally read Italian early morning but this afternoon while it is thundering I am taking the opportunity to read more of chapter 3 and i am enjoying it.
I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE THREE AUTHORS HAD SWAPPED NOVELS HALF WAY THROUGH ? that really mede me laugh, well things would have been very different for sure. So many characters in i Malavoglia trying to get intimate with them all would have driven us all as crazy as Moscarda 🙂
That was the funniest but most insightful observation! Thanks for the good laugh!
Ciao a tutti!
I liked Daniel’s comment from today’s email: “And the author’s Italian isn’t as obscure as the Sicilian-flavored text of I Malavoglia.” For me that’s a big “Thank goodness!” This Italian seems more like regular Italian, so as I’m working my way through the original, it’s not nearly as difficult for me as I Malavoglia. Of course I bought the Easy Reader last night to help me along! And I’m pretty sure I’m going to need more than two weeks to finish this one! I’m only on page 23, and the book started at page 9! If only I could read all day long and not have to do other necessary things!
It’s been interesting to see which books were favorite and not so favorite among the Book Clubbers! As for me, I loved the first 12 (I think it was twelve) chapters of Pinocchio before the hanging incident. And for Uno, I couldn’t wait to see what “crazy” thing the narrator would do next!
As for the Anselmo mystery, I bought it but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet as I’m trying to keep up on the books we’re doing for the club! As soon as I read it, I will be sure to leave a review.
Ciao ciao. Silenzio? Daniel, thank you for the prompt. Sono qui ma, purtroppo, I’m back to work with little extra time. The B.Club is incredibly helpful – and interesting and enjoyable! – so I want to keep in contact with all of you. My plan is to focus on the Easy Readers, as they are short and include audio, and to read bits of the full novel if time allows. I’m sad to not be able to read the full novel but thanks to the E.R. I will be able to follow B.C. discussions. Afterall, alcuni è meglio di niente!
Jane Buyers says
I really enjoyed reading this book years ago in english, and I looked forward to rereading it now in Italian. I am now working my way through “il fumo” . I remember finding this first section about trying to quit smoking as being absolutely hilarious . At that time most of friends, most of our parents, all smoked and were always at some time or another trying to quit. Now that I haven’t smoked for years and know almost no one who still does, it comes across to me very different.y. Rather than hilarious it seems frightening. But Svevo does continue to captivate for the quality of his writing.
Lynne F says
The more I read this book the more i enjoy it, just finished Chapter 3 . Poor Zeno he is so indecisive, troubled by guilt , lacking self confidence and such a hypochondriac, no wonder his attempts to achieve things go wrong As a play or a film it would certainly be classed as a farce
Reading is for pleasure but i have to remind myself that my other objective for joining this book club was to improve my Italian and it certainly is. My reading is flowing so much better and COMBINED PRONOUNS are not the stumbling block they used be.
Certainly worth getting up early each morning to read the next instalment.
I hope others are enjoying it as much as i am and learning too.
I’m wondering whether it’s just you and me, Lynne? So far I don’t think anyone else has admitted to having the time and energy for Zeno in the original. In which case, well done to us!
I’m past the half-way point and still on target to finish by the end of next week. Zeno is now agonising about his first extra-marital affair, which is entertaining, I wouldn’t say farcial though. The actual events mostly seem sane and predictable (he chooses a wife, later takes a lover) – it’s his reasoning and self-talk that are contradictory, often absurdly so, and very entertaining!
As Zeno writes the story of his life, much insight and wisdom shine through. I wonder if the author is hinting to the reader that we are all, in our own way, contradictory and at times foolish? That that, in fact, is the nature of things?
Lynne and Daniel, I’m still onboard with the two of you! I just finished Chapter 4, La morte di mio padre. That was a sad chapter. One forgets how archaic medicine was back in those days, although those who look back on our medical practices from 100 years in the future will most surely say the same about us! While reading the chapter, I felt like I was right there in anguish with Zeno during the whole process.
I did find Il fumo very entertaining, especially how Zeno managed to exit the casa di salute on the same evening in which he entered it, once he began to entertain the suspicion that his wife wanted some time away from him for ulterior motives!
For me, Spanish and Italian are starting to blend together, and it’s becoming much easier to read in Italian, which is very motivating, as I just started to learn Italian such a short time ago! At my age it’s exciting to learn that my brain is still functional. I had started to doubt it! Lol
As for reflections, right now I’m still reeling from the anguish at the end of Chapter 4, but I’m glad to hear that things seem to get a bit lighter when Zeno marries and then takes a lover. I’m looking forward to the next chapter!
Ciao Laura! Good to hear you’re still with us!
Buongiorno Lynne e Daniel, and anyone else tuning in. I was wondering about the time-frame and there is Daniel’s comment re: expects to finish by end of next week. So that is what i’ll aim for. As i said earlier, ‘cuz of time constraints, I’m just reading the E.R. version of Zeno. i ‘ve now finished ch.3: read, re-read, audio (w/ text as needed), audio – a la Daniel’s recommendation. No notes, ecc. The first time through I’m always, “this is too hard. . . I don’t understand a thing.” and then by the final time I’m “I can’t believe I know all this text/understand all this audio!”
Reading just the E.R. riassunto limits my apprehension of the book, but so far Zeno does seem a bit of an “Everyman” of the privileged? He has the possibility to grow (develop) psychologically in the book. Right now he seems feckless and prone to bad decisions. A little tragic w/ his repeated failures. Vediamo!
My rough target is 50 pages (of large font text) a day, and the free download full version I found has 500 pages, so 10-12 days. The habit of reading each day has become more ingrained since I’ve been doing these book clubs. Often I’ll find a few minutes to squeeze in five or ten pages towards the daily target between other events, like waiting for the water to boil before throwing the pasta in!
For people doing the easy reader version, a chapter a day should be a reasonable goal. Minou’s experience of the way the understanding grows with repetition is typical, and of course desirable. Repeating each chapter a couple of times with a different focus (on the audio for example) is effective with this type of study material. Obviously it wouldn’t be appropriate for those of us struggling with the original text, though this one is less hard than previous books we have done.
Back again! Am finding “Zeno” an easier read than our other classics (with the exception of Pinocchio). Used the same system as before… read the Easy Reader as fast as I could and am now on chapter 5 of the long version. I have just got to the bit about why the daughters’ names all begin with the letter A, a real sense of satisfaction already knowing the reason!
I found the description of Zeno’s father’s death quite harrowing. I also thought the tone of that section was a clear criticism of doctors and their practices.
I liked the idea of Zeno giving up smoking by repeatedly smoking another last cigarette, but as that section seemed to go on for such a long time it felt like my own room was becoming enveloped in a smoke filled fog.
What if the authors had swapped around…OMG…Ntoni gazing at himself in the mirror…Zeno wrestling a storm at sea…Moscarda having concerns for his father rather than himself…!
What if the authors had swapped around…OMG…Ntoni gazing at himself in the mirror…Zeno wrestling a storm at sea…Moscarda having concerns for his father rather than himself…!
Yes, that’s exactly what I had in mind!!
I found that chapter harrowing, too. Even so, I couldn’t stop reading, and by the time I finished the chapter, I felt emotionally drained! I had also forgotten about leeches. Goodness, that was a descriptive passage, to say the least.
Yes, first we were enveloped by smoke, and then by the pure grief of losing a loved one over a period of time. The author really draws us into each chapter, as if we were living it with Zeno. I once read a book by Daphne du Maurier called The House on the Strand. In the book, the two main characters discover a drug that can transport them back in time to observe (only observe) significant events of the past that occurred in their current location. That’s just how I feel reading Zeno. Like I’ve been sucked into Zeno’s past! By the way, The House on the Strand is an excellent book with a very surprise ending. I highly recommend it!
Also, I love your comments about the authors swapping stories midway! Your description made me laugh!
Patricia Lenz says
Hello, MiniBookClubbers. I haven’t participated in the discussion of La coscienza di Zeno, so I feel a little like an appreciative eavesdropper reading the interpretations and thoughts you have all expressed, As for La coscienza di Zeno; think the ER riassunto and reading to the end of LA MORTE DI MIO PADRE gave me an opportunity to read understandable prose. It was interesting, and fun, in a way, to follow a predictable stream of angst in another language from the time of Freud. So, goodbye for now, Zeno. Ready for I promessi sposi!
It’s summer; and while I will begin reading the I promessi original (have finished the ER riassunto), I feel compelled to reread some timely (BlackLivesMatter) Toni Morrison. (Phenomenal American writer!) In English. I’ll see what happens as I mix those two up in my head. It might give me additional appreciation of the Manzoni Italian as well as the Morrison English.
Lynne F says
Ciao a tutti,
Back on track with my reading after the distraction of the football Premier League restarting.
Zeno is troubled by indecision, guilt, self doubt, dreams and hypochondria who would have thought with such content this book would be so humorous.
Good luck has played a part in Zeno’s life.. I am now reading about his his business partnership with Guido i fear he will need it as he starts to play the stock market, fingers crossed for him.
I think we’re keeping pace with each other, Lynne, as I’m also at the chapter on business. It was a relief to finish the previous section (though not for poor Zeno…)
Just checking in! I’ve been busy the past few days with a visit from my daughter. But I have managed to read through Chapter 5, La storia del mio matrimonio. I didn’t see that ending coming in terms of who Zeno ends up marrying! On a side note, it was interesting to read about unrequited love from a male perspective.
Now I’m headed into Chapter 6, La moglie e l’amante and I have a burning question. Zeno is happy at the beginning of Chapter 6, but I’m assuming he’s going to somehow mess it all up when he takes a lover. Maybe not, who knows?!! But there has always been such a double standard about the social acceptability of men taking lovers, but for women it continues to be almost as much of a stigma as back in Zeno’s day. Why?!!!! Maybe because women were considered property back then? For me, I think what’s fair for one sex should be fair for the other. I also have the feeling that there may still be some unresolved business between Zeno and one of the sisters….
Well, good day to all! I’ll be back with more observations tomorrow when I have more time!
I’ll be back with more observations tomorrow
Can’t wait, Laura!
I said I’d post some observations today, and I did, only at such a late time that those of you in the Italian time zone are already headed to bed! Lol
I’m splitting up my comments into two posts so as not to be so burdensome. I managed to research some really interesting background information on the book and the author, which I just sent to be posted, but I do have some observations and question that I’m going to post next!
I was doing a little research today, and found that there were several similarities between the fictional Zeno and the author, Italo Svevo (real name Aron Ettore Schmitz). One similarity was their love of smoking. I read an account of Svevo’s death on the Wikipedia website:
“Like his most famous character Zeno, Svevo smoked for all of his life. After being involved in a serious car accident, he was brought into the hospital at Motta di Livenza, where his health rapidly failed. As death approached he asked one of his visitors for a cigarette. It was refused. Svevo replied: ‘That would have been my last.’ He died that afternoon.“ 😢
One thing I didn’t quite catch in the smoking chapter was that “each time (Zeno) had given up smoking, with the iron resolve that this would be the ‘ultima sigaretta!!‘ he experienced the exhilarating feeling that he was now beginning life over without the burden of his old habits and mistakes. That feeling, however, was so strong that he found smoking irresistible, if only so that he could stop smoking again in order to experience that thrill once more.” And I just thought Zeno was totally addicted to the habit, but according to this, he was also addicted to the rush he would get, thinking he was starting his life anew with each “last cigarette”! Lol
The Wikipedia website also mentions the term unreliable narrator: “Zeno Cosini, the book’s hero and unreliable narrator, mirrored Svevo himself, being a businessman fascinated by Freudian theory…” I wasn’t familiar with this term “unreliable narrator” and so I looked it up, I found the description very interesting, as it speaks to the fact that there may be some twist at the end of the story!
To quote Wikipedia: “An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility is compromised. They can be found in fiction and film, and range from children to mature characters. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction. While unreliable narrators are almost by definition first-person narrators, arguments have been made for the existence of unreliable second- and third-person narrators, especially within the context of film and television, although sometimes also in literature. Sometimes the narrator’s unreliability is made immediately evident. For instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to the character’s unreliability. A more dramatic use of the device delays the revelation until near the story’s end. In some cases, the reader discovers that in the foregoing narrative, the narrator had concealed or greatly misrepresented vital pieces of information. Such a twist ending forces readers to reconsider their point of view and experience of the story. In some cases the narrator’s unreliability is never fully revealed but only hinted at, leaving readers to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted.“ Very interesting!
Another notable fact is that Italo Svevo didn’t became renowned for his writing until much later in his life, after he had formed a friendship with James Joyce, who loved Svevo’s books and began to promote them. So at first his books were largely ignored in Italy, and La coscienza di Zeno wasn’t a bestseller until many years after the initial publication.
So I found out a lot of interesting things today, and I’m really looking forward to how Zeno’s unreliability as a narrator works out at the end of the story!
I think Zeno’s character is unreliable in his claim to be an unreliable narrator, Laura. To me, the whole story is about his very human self-deceipt in relations with others and with himself, and his belated recognition, many years later and as a result of writing it all down, that as he has aged he has become more certain of who he is and consequently a better person in the eyes of those around him.
Not sure, but I think the pain he suffers from is a metaphor. The character doesn’t act like a person experiencing physical pain, it doesn’t stop him doing things and he doesn’t seem to spend much time with doctors in the actual story, though early on he does describe his endless quests for a cure, of which the pyschotherapy is the final attempt. Maybe he’s searching for a cure for the uncertainties of life? Zeno describes Ada’s sickness objectively and is clearly well-informed about medical issues. Like you, he does his research! But arguably, his own ailments are either a metaphor for the pyschological agony of life, or just pyschosomatic. What do other people think??
“But arguably, his own ailments are either a metaphor for the pyschological agony of life, or just pyschosomatic.”
I like your question, Daniel, because it made me realize exactly what I was trying to get at in my previous post! Psychological agony can lead to psychosomatic pain, and though the pain is psychosomatic in nature, it still feels like real pain! So I believe Zeno when he says that the pain from his fall, exacerbated by his disastrous evening at Giovanni’s, never left him. It probably wasn’t bad enough to limit his activities, but instead the pain nagged at him from time to time. I think he said that he even went to one doctor who made everything worse, causing the pain to extend to another area of his body! But looking back, as he’s writing his memoir, he finally realizes that his pain is psychosomatic in nature, therefore implying that the psychological agony of life can be a source of mental AND physical pain for other people as well.
Here’s a quote from Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology. (Wow! That’s a lot of big words!) Since the early 1980’s she has studied and researched the Mind-Brain connection:
“75% to 95% of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life. What we think about affects us physically and emotionally. It’s an epidemic of toxic emotions. The average person has over 30,000 thoughts a day. Through an uncontrolled thought life, we create the conditions for illness; we make ourselves sick! Research shows that fear, all on its own, triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses and activates more than 30 different hormones. There are intellectual and medical reasons to forgive! Toxic waste generated by toxic thoughts causes the following illnesses: diabetes, cancer, asthma, skin problems and allergies to name just a few.”
I really need to frame that quote and put it up somewhere where I can see it every day, because as I’m typing the quote, I realize the reason that I’ve been feeling physically worse than before the lockdown is probably because of my negative thoughts during all of this — from fear of the virus that is being pumped into us every moment by the news media to resentment of the dramatic lifestyle changes we’ve all been forced to make! With that realization I feel better already! Probably turning off the news would help, too! I’m not one to listen to news all day long, but my husband, now working from home, likes to have it on, leading me to more toxic thinking about the total corruption of our political system here in the US, especially apparent with an upcoming election! Focusing on the thought of our elected officials filling their pockets with money from lobbyists and corporations doesn’t exactly evoke calming chemicals in the brain!
I actually think I’ve given myself some psychotherapy today with this post! Forza, Laura! Onward to positive thoughts! Lol
First, here’s a question I need help with…
I’ve been wondering what is wrong with Augusta’s eyes?!! When Zeno first meets her he talks about her squinting, in another passage, it sounds like her eyes are not the same size or that one is a little lower than the other, and even in Chapter 6 she refers to herself as “brutta”. Maybe someone could help me out with this?!!
As for observations, In Chapter 5, I found Zeno’s comments about the origin of physical pain very interesting. I believe he mentions that his pain started when he had an unexpected fall, but then the pain gets really bad at Giovanni’s house, after his failure (psychological) to obtain the hand/love of the sister that he wanted for his wife. Zeno says, “Quel dolore non m’abbandonò più.” I think Svevo was ahead of his time when he wrote this. Of course we all know that lingering physical pain can result from injuries, but nowadays we’re also finding out that physical pain can result from (and linger on) due to psychological trauma. Sometimes events can affect us so profoundly that the energy flowing through our bodies gets blocked and pain or other symptoms are a result. In fact, that’s the whole concept of acupuncture, which seeks to remove blocks in one’s Chi, or life force energy. So maybe all Zeno really needed was a good acupuncturist!
I also like Zeno’s description of the bathroom before his wife switches things up! “La stanza da bagno, che a memoria d’uomo era stata sempre in fondo a un corridoio a mezzo chilometro dalla stanza da letto….” Thinking back on the bathrooms of my parents and grandparents, that was definitely the case, although they didn’t live in large houses like Zeno and his contemporaries! But the master bathroom is definitely a more recent concept!
As for my Italian, I tried to skim through Chapter 6 to get to around page 300 in order to be on track with everyone, but it didn’t work! I’m just around page 260 and somehow I’m going to have to read the passages over a few times to get the whole gist of things. I just managed the capture the most salient details but I’m still confused about exactly what is happening and why! For example, I’m not sure of the exact machinations involved that lead to Zeno’s first encounter with Carla. So I’m still unsure if I will manage to finish with the rest of you! My brain is getting tired and it might be time for the Easy Reader to come to the rescue! So far I’ve read the first five Chapters without it, but very slowly. And speaking of a tired brain, I had the opportunity to speak Spanish yesterday, and found that some Italian words were inadvertently coming out of my mouth and I was forgetting the Spanish equivalents. HELP!!! Is this normal when you’re learning a third language?!! Especially one so similar to your second language? Any suggestions?
I understood Augusta’s condition as ‘strabismus’ – one eye pointing in a different direction from the other. She also has thin hair and a generally mild manner that didn’t appear to attract Zeno at all, compared to sister Ada. Yet, they end up having a family…
Don’t give up on Zeno though, Laura. I’ve found the book just gets better as you go through it. The chapter on business was very good, to the extent that I found myself reading more than my daily target and at times when I wouldn’t otherwise have read. I’ve now got just the final section, on psychoanalysis to read, then I’m finished!
I had the opportunity to speak Spanish yesterday, and found that some Italian words were inadvertently coming out of my mouth and I was forgetting the Spanish equivalents. HELP!!! Is this normal when you’re learning a third language?!! Especially one so similar to your second language? Any suggestions?
Yes, it’s normal, don’t worry. It happens to me all the time, and especially when tired, as you observed. Someone asked me yesterday abou this and I suggested you think of the languages as two friends who you know well and hang out with at different times. You wouldn’t confuse Sharon and Sue, would you? You might occasionally forget which one was the source of a certain piece of gossip, but mostly you’d remember who was who, who hates her job, who has boyfriend issues, and so on. When talking to one, your brain accesses everything that’s relevant, most of the time at least.
Thank you for the encouragement and for the information about Augusta’s eye condition! I like the metaphor of the two friends.
Buona sera! (sono le 1746 ore qui)
Ancora una volta, grazie a Daniel for 24 giugno ‘pep talk.’ Your Swedish-learning stories give guidance (and help me know i’m normal!). And together with your reminder that kids learn by sticking through the ‘not understanding’ phases made a light bulb go off in my head! So, my new mantra is ‘Not Understanding is the way to Understanding’ — with the idea that the ‘Not Understanding’ will motivate me, inspire me, rather than upset/worry me. You also answered some Qs i’ve been wondering about. e.g., is it worth listening to Italian even if i only pick up a fraction of the meaning — e.g., while cooking: if I can do that versus nothing at all, do it! Etc,etc. Ancora, grazie.
OK. Plowing thru Zeno. In the E.R., Carla has just left Zeno. To me, Zeno’s a little superficial but still qualifies as ‘tragic’. He can see what he is missing, but he not able to achieve a satisfying change. And thus far, none of his life choices/relationships have provided a way through…. I don’t anticipate transcendence, but who knows. There may be hope through the wife.?
I’ve started I promessi sposi on the side: after all the classic angst readings, I’m ready to enjoy the drama and happy ending!!!!
Buona salute a tutti!
is it worth listening to Italian even if i only pick up a fraction of the meaning — e.g., while cooking
Listening ‘mindlessly’ probably not. But listening with interest, hoping to come across something that you would, perhaps in future, want to make a habit of listening to, then yes.
What has worked well for me has been listening to a radio channel for long enough so I can recognise what’s on (news, music, features) and decide whether it interests me and/or suits my current mood. If not I switch to another channel/program which from experience I know I’d prefer. I also do this between languages, so I might intend to listen to the news in Swedish but for whatever reason end up following a pop music program in Turkish, just the way people do when they zap through what’s available on their TV.
The point, though, is that you need to be familiar with the options (so have listened to them long enough to recognise them, and to have preferences.) From then on, knowing what your favorite genres are, and when you can hear suitable programs, you will in increasing your chances of understanding what you hear as you wash the dishes.
An example: I know that I am interested in a Swedish documentary radio program, the title of which I will loosely translate as ‘Your Wallet’ – it’s a consumer affairs show, so deals with money and consumer issues. That’s right up my street. Sometimes though, I’ll listen to the whole program without understanding much more than the general topics covered. Other times, I’ll be able to follow some sections with interest and with greater understanding. But the more often I hear the program, the more familiar (and so easier) it all becomes.
You have to map out what’s out there, which is pretty hit or miss and won’t involve detailed understanding, in order to be able to identify what you would be interested in learning to understand, and begin on the journey of doing so.
Hope that helps?
I love your new mantra! I plan to think of it every time I get to a difficult passage!
Laura! Si! “Non capire è la strada per capire.” (Hope that’s an adequate translation of “not understanding is the road to understanding” –but even if not, i like it’s cadence). Abbiamo i commenti di Daniel del 24 giugno per ringraziare per questo inspirazione [?nspiration]. Ciao –
What interesting comments! I think Zeno’s “unreliability” makes him seem only too human. I find quite a contrast between his character and that of Moscardi. My view is that Zeno tries to adapt and find his place in society rather than rejecting convention in the quest for a “true self” , so there will be changes of direction and no clear, logical path as he progresses through life.
I really enjoyed chapter 5, especially the account of Guido and the seance…on to chapter 6….
Lynne F says
Just about to start the final part Psico-Analisi. and yes Daniel I agree it just keeps getting better and better i have no idea how this book is going to end..
I was just about to reply to LAURA about Augusta’s eye condition but you beat me to it. I am not a doctor but i concur.
And to MINOU i would say., like all people when hearing a language we don’t know we don’t understand it , everybody talks too fast is what we say., After some time with very simple listening activities i decided it was time to challenge myself. Being a crazy football fan I tuned into Italian football coverage on the radio and little by little i began to understand a few word. The joy when i told my husband some breaking news before it broke here in England. After a while i changed channels and felt like i had gone a few steps backward (a little bit like Easy Italian News today when i didn’t hear the familiar voice of Tom). I am nowhere near understanding everything but i take heart that each time i go to Italy i am able to understand and take part in more conversation and even listen into the conversation of others while in the restaurant or on the train, with some understanding, much to the amusement of my family or friends when i can only tell them half a tale:) Stick with in Manou I am glad i did.
“Fu un breve istante pieno di buoni propositi…”
I love this statement that Zeno makes as he recalls himself standing at Carla’s door with a book to help her with her singing! I did go back and reread pages 300 to 360 slowly, and now have complete understanding of how he ended up meeting Carla. My reading in Italian is slower than I’d like, but thinking about it, I’m really happy with myself for persevering! Three months ago I would have looked at this novel and understood maybe 5%! Once again, a big thank you to Daniel. You really were right about reading being a way to fast track your language learning!
But on a side note, how long is it going to take for Zeno to consummate this relationship with Carla?!! I just looked at the table of contents, and it appears I have another 100 pages or so to go to see how this relationship develops! I notice that Zeno is not worrying about his cigarette addiction in this chapter, nor in the previous chapter! To me, he seems to be addicted to whatever is occupying his mind at the moment, from cigarettes, to Ada, to Carla! I assume in the next chapter he will be constantly fretting about his business! Is there a name for a person with this type of personality?!! Maybe it would have been good for him to switch places with Moscarda in Uno, who finally finds peace in meditation! Zeno and Moscarda both seem prone to obsession, only that Moscarda is self-obsessed, while Zeno is obsessed with others as well as with his seemingly total lack of willpower!
The author’s a bit coy with the pornographic details, Laura, but I think you can assume that our boy’s a pretty fast worker. He does say, earlier on, that he’s had practice with that sort of thing while spending many years as a university student.
In the business chapter, as you will see when you have dragged yourself through the endless infidelities, Zeno’s focus is much more on his brother-in-law’s problems. The tone changes somewhat.
Finished!! (Beat you, Lynne F.)
I got it done a couple of days earlier than I’d scheduled because my interest picked up a lot in the final two chapters.
All the relationship and health agonising didn’t do much for me, I admit, but I liked the business part and the final chapter on pyschoanalysis which, while starting very slowly, was quiet exciting and of historic interest.
I enjoyed this as much as ‘I Malavoglia’ and ‘Il nome della rosa’, but rather more so than ‘Uno, nessuno e centomila’ and ‘Le avventure di Pinocchio’, which were worth reading but not exactly fun. Guess I like a good yarn, ideally with romantic interest and a sprinkling of violent death.
I’ll be interested to hear other people’s views, in due course…
Wow, a sprinkling of violent death? Is that something coming up in La coscienza di Zeno? Or were you referring to Il nome, with all the murders and the sex scene?!! If there is a violent death coming up in Coscienza, now I’m even more intrigued! Lol
Lynne F says
Well done Daniel, I would have finished last night but was celebrating my team winning the Premier League 🙂 About 20 pages to go so will finish today and then make my comments
Lynne F says
Thanks Daniel, i’m still buzzing just a pity we can’t have the victory parade yet,The atmosphere last year was just brilliant.
An interesting book, initially i didn’t think I was going to like it but it certainly grew on me.This complex man struggling to make up his mind and stick with his decisions, full of guilt and feelings of being inadequate, no wonder he is ill. The last chapter was not what I expected but certainly interesting. Such serious issues but the humour of the book made them bearable.
I liked that it was written in themes rather than in chronological order, his problems reoccurring through each of them.
My favourite book so far ‘I Malavoglia’ but this one comes a close second.
I’m now on page 323, where Zeno discovers that Carla actually has talent. The. description made me laugh: “Non c’era paura di sentirsi leso il timpano…”
But then, if I’m reading my Italian correctly, I discover that Carla is only 16 and Zeno has taken her as a lover at that age. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) I guess things were so different back then, but now he’d be going to jail for having relations with a minor! Things must have been so hard for women of that time period, especially in the case of women like Carla and her mother, who were not well off to begin with, then lost their sole source of financial support and were forced to fend for themselves in any way they could.
As for that dinner for Ada and Guido, where Zeno gets drunk — that seemed to go on forever! Two questions — I’m trying to figure out why Giovanni seems to hold Zeno in such contempt now. Is it because he’s getting a bit grumpy having to deal with his deteriorating health, or have I missed something? Also, I can’t figure out whether the wedding between Ada and Guido has taken place yet, or is still to come in Chapter 6? Lol I didn’t seem to catch any mention of a wedding taking place before that dinner, but I think when Zeno mentions he’s alone with Ada for a moment that she’s dressed in white. Any help is much appreciated!
Also, congrats to Lynne! Wow! You have made some progress over the last two months! 💖
No the wedding hadn’t yet taken place. Perhaps it was customary for the bride-to-be to wear her wedding outfit for the celebrations happening in the lead-up?
I didn’t read that Carla was just sixteen, in fact I don’t remember that Zeno mentions people’s ages at any point in the book. But I suppose it wouldn’t have been surprising if she was.
Regarding Giovanni holding Zeno in contempt, this was narrated by Zeno, remember? Who was drunk, and in any case has a tendency to hold himself in contempt. After Zeno marries Augusta, Giovanni seems to become less relevant and in fact the pre-wedding dinner party is his only major scene. As you’ll see in the next chapter, Zeno hangs out with Guido from that point on.
It’s possible that I’m mistaken about Carla’s age due to an error in comprehension. On page 321, for the first time Carla sings in her normal voice for Zeno, and not in the shouting style imposed on her by her former teacher, and Zeno is amazed by her talent and not afraid his eardrums will be damaged. He writes this:
“”Sedetti accanto a lei ed essa allora raccontò la canzonetta proprio a me, socchiudendo gli occhi per dirmi con la nota più lieve e più pura che quei sedici anni volevano la libertà e l’amore.”
To me this implied that Carla was 16 at the time she was singing the song for Zeno, but the song, written in Triestino dialect, does refer to 16 years:
“Fazzo l’amor xe vero Cossa ghe xe de mal Volè che a sedes’ani Stio là come un cocal…”
So maybe she was sixteen when she started to write the song? Zeno does mention that each time Carla composed a new song, that she would edit it over a period of time.
It was my understanding (and you know I read rapidly without dwelling to much on things that aren’t immediately clear) that Carla is singing traditional local songs, not writing them, and she constantly reworks how she performs them, getting better and better at it in a way that impresses Zeno (and presumably her new teacher…)
So the girl in the song might be 16, but Carla probably isn’t. As I mentioned, nowhere in the book does Zeno give anyone else’s age, though Augusta’s two younger sisters are described as ‘in the final year of school, considering university’ (Alberta) and ‘an irritating brat’ or words to that effect (Anna). And while Zeno proposes marriage to teenage Alberta, at no point does he appear to lust after her, from which I deduce that, broadly speaking, he’s happy chasing women approximately his own age (though as an older man in the final chapter he does try to induce a teenager farm girl into inappropriate behaviour…)
Ah, the difference one letter makes in a foreign language! I went back to see why I thought Carla was composing her own songs, and here’s what I found! Zeno says:
“Sedetti ac- canto a lei ed essa allora raccontò la canzonetta proprio a me…”
La canzonetta PROPRIO! I read it as la canzonetta PROPRIA!
Also, when Zeno says “Quella canzonetta le era co- stata uno studio lunghissimo. L’aveva detta e ridetta cor- reggendo l’intonazione di ogni parola, di ogni nota…”
I read ridetta as redacted (edited)!
I’m sure if I were to read the English translation of this novel, there would be so many little things like this that I missed, but I will try to be kind to myself because I’m just starting to learn this language! So thank you for the clarification, Daniel! I feel much better about Zeno now! Lol
I just finished Chapter 7, and am about to start the last chapter. I must admit I skimmed through the end of Chapter 7, because I wanted to be able to fully devote myself to Chapter 8 and finish today with the rest of you, in order to start I promessi, (during the reading of which I will be sure to pace myself in a much better manner). However I did thoroughly enjoy the first half of Chapter 7 so much that I read every single word! I’m still so sad about what happened with Guido. What is it about these sons of rich business
men, that they are so often inept in business affairs? Don’t their fathers try to teach them the family business?
I’m looking forward to what the psychiatrist has to say about the root of Zeno’s “malattia”…
I now understand why Daniel was glad to finish Chapter 6! Zeno was an absolute mess at the end of this chapter! I find myself rejoicing that Carla found happiness with her music teacher! Though I wonder what would have happened if Zeno had met Carla before proposing to Augusta?!! Then he probably would have been married to Carla and having an affair with someone else! I’m must say I’m glad to be moving on to the next chapter, too!
I’m now at page 388, and this chapter is giving me some really good laughs, from the dog in the office, to Carmen being hired as a secretary and having to search out each letter on the typewriter! I’m beginning to think this house of commerce is doomed! Indeed, Zeno is already hinting at the fact!
I was wondering what other club members thought of the last chapter of La coscienza di Zeno. Especially the last 3 pages! It definitely wasn’t an ending I expected. I had also forgotten aboout the heavy emphasis early psychoanalysis put on the Oedipus Complex!
The very last part seemed quite prophetic, I thought, Laura.
And (SPOILER) a few pages before there was a nice quote, something along the lines of that the character finally realised that suffering the pain of love and of live generally didn’t mean you were actually sick. Which just about sums it up, I thought. I still felt sorry for Guido, though.
“Dolore e amore, poi, la vita insomma, non può essere considerata quale una malattia perché duole.”
I think that’s the quote you referred to. I also liked this one:
La vita somiglia un poco alla malattia come procede per crisi e lisi ed ha i giornalieri miglioramenti e peggioramenti. A differenza delle altre malattie la vita è sempre mortale. Non sopporta cure.”
Now that I’m done with the book, I miss Zeno and his musings! And Guido, too! For me, that first half of the business chapter was the most enjoyable of the whole book! Addio Trieste…
Yes, that was the quote.
Wasn’t that odd how the business section was interesting? I think it was a combination of the character ‘growing up’ and the writer getting more into the stride.
And with [SPOILER] Guido’s death, there was buckets of pathos in the way Zeno describes his corpse… What a shame. It’s seldom that the death of a fictional character, especially an idiot like Guido, has affected me!
I have one final question…
When I read Chapter 8, Zeno mentions his brother again. So much time had elapsed between his first mention of his brother in Chapter 3, that I had forgotten he even had a brother! So I glanced back at Chapter 3, to see if there was any reference to what had happened to Zeno’s brother, and only found this:
“…mio fratello, di un anno di me più giovine e morto tanti anni or sono…”
I’m wondering if perhaps I missed something. Did Zeno ever mention exactly when and how his brother died? I immagine it must have happened before his courtship of Ada, which makes his subsequent attachment to Guido even more understandable. Guido was such lovable idiot! I think we learned to love him through Zeno’s eyes, which therefore made his loss even more poignant!
The mention of the brother surprised me, too, Laura. So I don’t think you missed anything significant. In those days it was common to have siblings die.
Thanks for the confirmation! Per la seconda volta, Addio Trieste…