A Private Venus

A Private Venus

Book - 2012
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Duca Lamberti's a doctor who's just been released from prison, where he's spent the last three years for having practiced euthanasia. Unable to work in medicine, he takes a job helping Davide, a young and depressed alcoholic, whose past seems to involve prostitution, pornography, and murder.
Publisher: Oxfordshire [England] : Hersilia Press, 2012
Description: 281 p. ; 20 cm
ISBN: 9780956379641
Branch Call Number: Scer


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Aug 19, 2015

Originally published in 60s and only recently translated, reading it is like watching an old classic cartoon in the age of Pixar animations that had their origins in the former. The book cover audaciously describes the author as "the godfather of Italian noir" and this is not just publisher hyperbole.

This is not to say it is only of historical interest or is crudely written. On the contrary, the author's mixed background (born of Ukrainian/Italian parents in Kiev, moving to Italy after losing his father to the Russian revolution, etc) has definitely lent a unique quality to the genre and the characters he created who are all very interesting and still seem fresh. Characters that are above-average intellectually ( e.g., women that can discuss chess moves or Kantian philosophy while engaging in street-walking), doctors, engineers and teachers held in high esteem while prone to hard drinking, police characters that are helpful and not cast as corrupt fascist pigs as fashionable with the typically far left leaning writers of southern Europe...

Its main contribution is of much more significance. It is a fine example of noir as a genre that lifts open the dark underbelly of the society (especially one that tries to mask it) where things aren't just black and white, where good people do not always win or come out unscathed and where characters show their strengths and weaknesses forcefully/colorfully.

It is perfectly set in Milan, a city much like San Francisco or Boston that has always masked/denied the dark and ugly sides with consumption veneers of the moneyed class. Written for a domestic audience, people familiar with Milan or its characteristics will get more from this novel than those who don't know it or only know it by the Duomo, La Scala or the shops on Via Montenapoleone.

If only a Scerbanenco would emerge to draw rich material from present day San Francisco, focusing not on the rich techies or the real estate tycoons but on the thriving darker underbelly that only exists to cater to every conceivable consumptive vice of the former while surviving being exploited by the unscrupulous in the daily lives.

Highly recommended for Noir genre fans. The novel can be easily read in one or just a few sittings.

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