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July 14 , 2010

Zeno's Conscience


Long hailed as a seminal work of modernism in the tradition of Joyce and Kafka, and now available in a supple new English translation, Italo Svevo’s charming and splendidly idiosyncratic novel conducts readers deep into one hilariously hyperactive and endlessly self-deluding mind. The mind in question belongs to Zeno Cosini, a neurotic Italian businessman who is writing his confessions at the behest of his psychiatrist. Here are Zeno’s interminable attempts to quit smoking, his courtship of the beautiful yet unresponsive Ada, his unexpected–and unexpectedly happy–marriage to Ada’s homely sister Augusta, and his affair with a shrill-voiced aspiring singer. Relating these misadventures with wry wit and a perspicacity at once unblinking and compassionate, Zeno’s Conscience is a miracle of psychological realism.

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