La Vita Agra : It's a Hard Life by Luciano Bianciardi
New York : Viking Press, 1965. First American Edition. Hardcover. 191 pages ; 21 cm. $3.95 dust jacket. A few rips and tears to jacket's but it is complete. Browning to front and rear endpaper. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
La Vita Agra is one of those brilliant and unsettling books around which the feeling of an entire time and place crystallizes. Published In Italy In 1962, In the wake of the extraordinary furor over Fellini's La Dolce Vita, the novel became, almost overnight, the rallying point for a whole segment of Italian city-dwellers for whom "the sweet life" pictured In the film was either unattainable or unacceptable.
The novel tells the story of one such man, an Intellectual from the provinces who comes to the city on a revolutionary mission, to put his Ideals of social justice Into action—and stays to see them buried In the daily grind of making a living for himself and his girl. Though the method of the book Is satire, It conveys with great power the quality of "real life" (the literal meaning of Agra Is "sour" or "bitter") for this new-style underground man: he loses one job, finds another, dreams richly, Is bored; he Is happy and forgetful (in bed with his girl), anxious and weary (out of It), lives, In short, from day to day.
It is not surprising that La Vita Agra has been made Into a successful movie, for Its techniques are often cinematic; It suggests, In the graininess and poignance of Its detail, one of the early postwar Italian quasi-documentaries such as Shoeshine, and its exuberance and inventive daring foreshadow such later Alms as 8)4. In this memorable, and mordant, study of modern urban existence, everything, life Itself most of all, comes hard.
Translated from the Italian by Eric Mosbacher
1922. He has a degree In philosophy from the University of Pisa, and served in the Italian army In World War ll and later as an Interpreter with the Allied Eighth Army. He has been a teacher and a librarian, as well as a Journalist in Milan, to which he moved In 1954. He has published Ave novels; La Vita Agra—which, he says, "had a success that I totally failed to expect"—Is the first of them to be translated Into English. Bianciardi Is himself the translator Into Italian of more than a hundred books, among them works by Faulkner, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, and J. P. Donleavy. He is married and now divides his time between Milan and Rapallo, on the Italian Riviera.
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