Reviews -- A Tent in This World

The William Weaver familiar to generations of readers as the translator, quick and sure, of the best of postwar Italian writing was once the aspiring (and rejected) novelist William Fense Weaver, who along the way created this wonderful short work, first published in Italy (in the journal Botteghe Oscure) in 1950, and now happily issued as a book. In the fictive form of a diary written on the spot, "A Tent in This World" chronicles six weeks in the autumn of 1947 when Bill, 24 years old, comes back to Naples, revisits the scenes that had most vividly impressed themselves on his young mind when he was a volunteer ambulance driver in the city three and a half years earlier, renews and strengthens his connections with the Fabbri family, particularly his friend and contemporary Luigi, and once more leaves the city, this time for Rome and new literary connections.... There is never really any doubt, however, about the outcome, for the diary itself is so attentive, so receptive, so free of nostalgia and sentimentality, that the readers feels instinctively supportive of its narrator. Bill has unlimited curiosity, he is stimulated throughout, and what his journal conveys is how it feels to be young and alive and alert. It is because of William Fense Weaver's tactfulness and skill that all this is achieved without pretension or self-dramatization, and in a way that gives extraordinary pleasure.
-- New York Times Book Review, 6/6/99
Renowned translator Weaver's long-ignored novella, first published in 1950 in the literary journal Botteghe Oscure, blends reminiscence with regret as it offers a closeup of a sensitive young man's growing pains during the years following WWII. Bill returns to Naples in 1947 to visit Luigi, a friend from his days as an ambulance driver in and around the city during the war. He meets several intriguing characters through Luigi: Rina, who flirts with Bill, with Luigi and with insanity; Cesare, Luigi's younger brother, living recklessly on the island of Capri; and the impetuous and irascible Signora Fabbri, Luigi's mother, who rules her household with an excess of concern. Several pleasant but unconnected events nostalgic sightseeing jaunts, a trip to Capri, a harmless dalliance with Rina amuse Bill, but ultimately it is the act of writing letters home that provokes in him the self-questioning necessary for personal change. Having outgrown his soldier's uniform, Bill no longer recognizes his identity or his life's purpose. He leaves Naples at the story's end altered both from within and from without a response to historical progress and to his inevitable abandonment of youthful aimlessness. Astute observations about the nature of language, tourism, alienation and culture lace the novel and offer a rough and early map of the approach taken by one of the great American translators of 20th-century Italian novelists. Charming and intelligent, Weaver's unrevised novella comes to our shores as a late but very welcome guest.
-- Publishers Weekly, 3/15/99
Now, with "A Tent in This World," a charming, disarming autobiographical novella, the Virginia-born author [famous for his translations] shows he has a way with words of his own.... For the actual or armchair voyager and especially for those acquainted with the irresistible lure of Italy, "A Tent in This World," has much to recommend it -- including reason to hope Weaver will write more books -- in his own words.
The Virginian-Pilot, 6/6/99

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