Erri De luca – The Upper Left

There are twelve stories in this collection by De Luca, all so engaging that it is easy to find yourself on the last page without realizing it. One happens to experience the pleasure of turning the page and gazing up to the left, where the stories continue. Even when one comes to an end, it is equally pleasant to turn the page quickly to find out about the next one and start again. A title – therefore – that is a tribute to the beauty of books and the pleasure of reading, but not only this; because “the upper left”, if we give our backs to the north, is also the point where the sun rises.

Some of these stories are autobiographical, and tell us, for instance, the story of a high school in Naples in the mid-sixties, where a professor also becomes a life coach; or a story of a building site in France and a ditch that resembles a grave, ready to bury a young man full of rage; even the story of a love lived in a hurry, in passing, that lasts for a year. Other stories, however, even though they narrated in the first person, are imaginary.

De Luca is a craftsman of words who carefully weighs every sign to make it part of a harmonious design, where nothing is left to chance; precisely because of this, reading him requires attention and dedication. His prose is not fluent, on the contrary, he demands commitment though the sincerity, the lyricism and the intensity it is soaked in, are marks of a moving way of writing that drags you into the pages. This is what we expect from him: he strikes us deeply with sentences that are dry and short, full of life, capable of arousing the true pleasure of reading, which is never superficial and hasty. And, as ever, we are never tired of savoring the pure and melancholic taste of his words, a flavor that condenses everything there, where we have learned: top left.

Translation by Silvia Accorrà (edited by Sabrina Macchi)