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Excerpts

A River of Oranges

A River of Oranges

Fiume has a unique place in the history of Europe, and Italy in particular. The official language of Fiume was Italian until it was ceded to Yugoslavia in 1947; but the majority of the population has Slavic roots, predominantly Croatian and Slovenian. Before I began this book, I thought of myself as Italian but through my research I discovered that…

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Claudia

Claudia

Honour met no other cars on the narrow mountain road, and the few isolated houses she passed looked deserted. Had she gone too far, or not far enough? She should have asked for the exact distance to the turn off. There were no signposts, no addresses. She drove up the mount, across a seemingly uninhabited ridge, and down the other…

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Beached

Beached

Panic never leaves her. It only recedes for intervals, like the tide in Bahía de Navidad. For days, the ocean can lap in benign ripples on the sand, then suddenly rise in swirling breakers that smash to shore, shaking the hotel in its foundation. Monica lies in the penthouse bedroom facing the ocean, trying to make herself get up. It’s a…

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The Invisible Italian-American Prize Fighters

The Invisible Italian-American Prize Fighters

To the untrained eye, it seemed that prior to the 1920s there were few noteworthy American boxers of Italian origin – and a limited presence in the decades that followed. But behind many Irish boxing names, there frequently stood an olive-skinned, dark-haired fighter with a hidden identity. More than one thousand Italian professional boxers went by Irish pseudonyms. Italian immigrants entered boxing…

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The Hog Slaughter: February 1862

The Hog Slaughter: February 1862

The hog is limp, having shuddered its last breath after a single blow to the head with a mallet. Gabriella and some of the neighbourhood women watch her father Lorenzo and his friends urging each other on with cries of “Pull,pull!” as they hoist the hog with a crude rope and pulley system. The thick ropes have been drawn through…

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Return

Return

I used to stand at railway tracks, my toes against the ties, while trains approached. I held my breath as they lumbered past, tuned to the whine of metal on metal, their weight a tornado in my chest, their speed reverberating in my heart. “You are crazy,” my brother told me years later. “Don’t you realize how lucky you are…

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Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons

Record Sessions In the spring. You could only do it in the spring. I reach over and press “Record.” Surreptitiously. In stealth mode. There’s but a slight whirr as the tape winds and passes the recording head. Ancient technology by now, I know. For troglodytes and Luddites perhaps. But trying to manipulate a CD/DVD-read-write-recorder on the kitchen table without anyone noticing…

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At Capo di Sorrento

At Capo di Sorrento

At Capo di Sorrento, I leap from the orange Circumvesuviana bus and dash through olive groves down the cobbled path to the sea. Old Adamo is waiting. I can see him waving from the sea-spattered rocks below. I carefully negotiate the wooden staircase that leads to our cove and greet him with the obligatory three kisses: left cheek, right cheek,…

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John Florio – The Anglified Italian Who Invented William Shakespeare

John Florio – The Anglified Italian Who Invented William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is – let us put it this way – the least English of English writers. The typical quality of the English is understatement, saying a little less than what you see. In contrast, Shakespeare tended toward the hyperbolic metaphor, and it would come to us as no surprise to learn that Shakespeare had been Italian, or Jewish, for instance.…

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