“Le Colibri” (Il colibri), by Sandro Veronesi, translated from Italian by Dominique Vittoz, Grasset, 384 p., € 22, digital € 16.
Confessions of a blind ophthalmologist. Sandro Veronesi’s new novel could have been called that. Beyond the eyeballs, corneas, retinas, apart from irises and crystalline lenses, Marco Carrera, the protagonist, sees nothing. Looks like he has “The eyelids sewn with wire”, so much he misses everything. Marriage, child, family relations, even his extramarital affair, which he naively believes “Pure because platonic” : around him, everything crumbles, degenerates into a fiasco or ends in drama. Despite these disasters, man is exhausted in holding on. Like the hummingbird that gives the novel its title, it flaps its wings very hard to stay in the same place. He does what, he thinks, everyone expects him to do, and puts Beckett’s words into practice: ” I can not continue. I will continue. “ Until he realizes that life is elsewhere.
Thick layers of respectability
After XY (2013), A phone call from heaven (2014) or According to Saint Mark (2017) – all from Grasset, beautifully translated by Dominique Vittoz -, The Hummingbird is the eighth novel by Sandro Veronesi. The faithful of the Tuscan writer will find in this Marco Carrera a family resemblance with other Veronesian characters. Especially with the best known, Pietro Paladini, the hero of Calm chaos (Grasset, 2008 Femina Prize), played on screen by Nanni Moretti. Like him, Carrera has also seduced the jurors of the Strega Prize, the Italian Goncourt: thanks to this Humming-bird, acclaimed when it was published on the other side of the Alps, Veronesi is one of the rare writers to have twice won this prestigious distinction (after Calm chaos, precisely, in 2006).
But back to Carrera. This brilliant man, this good father of a family, conscientiously buried his faults under thick layers of respectability. But suddenly the earth trembles. His wife’s psychoanalyst, breaking the rules of ethics, comes to find him to warn him that he is in serious danger. What could she say to him? Carrera was not aware of anything, but he discovered on this occasion: 1. the pathological mythomania of his wife; 2. the consummate failure of her marriage (she is pregnant by another and is about to leave him); 3. the extent of his own blindness. “She had always lied to him. (…) But he had done her worse: he had believed her. “
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